Trump supporter pleads guilty to assaulting WCCO-TV photojournalist in Duluth

DULUTH, Minn. — A Donald Trump supporter who was seen on video striking a Twin Cities photojournalist before the then-president’s Duluth rally last fall has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

Duane Waldriff, 71, of Lamberton, Minn., entered the plea to a count of disorderly conduct at a virtual hearing Friday in St. Louis County District Court in Duluth.

WCCO-TV photojournalist Dymanh Chhoun was recording as Waldriff confronted a group of protesters ahead of Trump’s visit to the Duluth International Airport on Sept. 30. Footage recorded by another person showed Waldriff turning toward Chhoun and knocking a phone out of his hand.

“You guys want to be peaceful? Be peaceful! You want to be violent? Come to me and I’ll …,” Waldriff could be heard saying just before throwing the punch.

The video ended with Chhoun picking up the phone and another Trump supporter approaching him, yelling, while holding a Trump-Pence campaign sign to block his face. The group then backed off, WCCO reported at the time.

Waldriff’s truck was one of several that drove back and forth along Airport Road, where supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden staged a counter-rally ahead of Trump’s 8 p.m. airport visit. A protester had been seen running alongside the truck and holding up a sign just prior to the incident.

Aside from hand gestures and some expletives exchanged among the groups, there did not appear to be any other serious physical altercations at the scene.

Chhoun, who had identified himself as a member of the media and was recording the video in a public space, was not injured in the incident.

Duluth police reported that Waldriff had left the scene before officers arrived. He was identified by the suspect after the TV station and police circulated video and still images.

Waldriff, who had no apparent criminal history, was charged on Oct. 9 with two misdemeanors, with City Attorney Rebecca St. George stating: “We take all criminal matters very seriously and will prosecute this case accordingly.”

The second count, fifth-degree assault, was dismissed as Waldriff entered into a plea agreement Friday, court records indicate. Judge Theresa Neo stayed a 60-day jail sentence in favor of one year of unsupervised probation.

Waldriff also was ordered to pay a $400 fine, which will be forgiven if he writes a letter of apology to Chhoun.

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