Charges dropped against WV pol in racist sign outburst

Mike Caputo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia judge dropped charges Monday against a state lawmaker who became violent over a racist display at the Capitol.

Del. Mike Caputo had argued that an obscure law on “legislative immunity” shielded him from a misdemeanor battery charge for kicking a door into a statehouse staffer and pushing another politician with his elbow. It happened when Caputo became angry about a display outside the House of Delegates chamber on “WV GOP Day” last year that falsely linked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman sided with Caputo, ruling that the delegate’s actions fell within the legislative immunity law, news outlets reported.

A lawyer for Caputo declined to comment.

Caputo’s actions drew criticism at the time and he was later stripped of his committee assignments for the outburst. He has apologized and said he didn’t mean to hurt anyone but maintained he didn’t commit a crime.

ACT for America, the group whose name appeared on a sign next to the display, has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization issued a statement disavowing the images after they were circulated on social media. The state Republican party also condemned the display.

Caputo, who has served more than two decades in the House, is running for state Senate this year.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.