NEW YORK >> A heckler who clapped former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the back at a campaign event was arrested, jailed for more than 24 hours and now faces an assault charge.
The episode Sunday at a Staten Island supermarket produced dueling accounts, with Giuliani likening the touch to being hit by a bullet, saying it could have killed him, while the man’s lawyers described it as a tap, meant to get the mayor’s attention.
Security camera video obtained by the New York Post captured the encounter, which happened as Giuliani was campaigning for his son, Andrew, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in Tuesday’s primary.
Giuliani was standing with a group of people when a man walking past reached out, touched the Republican’s back with an open palm, and then said something as he walked away.
Police said the man said, “What’s up scumbag?” Giuliani said the man accused him of being “a woman killer,” which he took to be a reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
In the video, Giuliani barely reacts when his back was touched, but in interviews afterward he said it knocked him forward and nearly caused him to fall.
Speaking to fellow Republican radio host Curtis Sliwa on WABC, he said it felt “Like somebody shot me.” Later, in a news conference on Facebook, he said it was “as if a boulder hit me.”
“I might have ordinarily ignored it,” Giuliani told Sliwa, but he said he decided to call the police because “these Democrats get away with everything.”
“I called the 1-2-3 precinct … and I told the people there, ‘I want this guy held and I want him arrested,’” he said.
The Legal Aid Society, which is representing the man, disputed Giuliani’s account.
“Our client merely patted Mr. Giuliani, who sustained nothing remotely resembling physical injuries, without malice to simply get his attention, as the video footage clearly showed,” the society said, adding that the man “was then needlessly held by the NYPD in custody for over 24 hours.”
“Given Mr. Giuliani’s obsession with seeing his name in the press and his demonstrated propensity to distort the truth, we are happy to correct the record on exactly what occurred over the weekend on Staten Island,” it said.
The heckler was arrested and was arraigned today on misdemeanor charges including third-degree assault, a spokesperson for the Staten Island district attorney said. He was released without bail and is due back in court on Aug. 17.