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Police charged Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign man­ager with sim­ple bat­tery Tues­day as a video­taped al­ter­ca­tion with a re­porter trans­formed what was an­other messy cam­paign sideshow into a crim­i­nal court sum­mons. Trump de­cried the charges.

Jupiter, Fla., police de­ter­mined that prob­a­ble cause ex­isted to charge Corey Le­wandowski, who has served as Trump’s most trusted po­lit­i­cal ad­viser for much of the past year. Police on Tues­day morn­ing is­sued Le­wandowski a no­tice to ap­pear be­fore a judge on May 4 for the mis­de­meanor charge, which car­ries up to a year in jail.

Speak­ing to re­porters on his air­plane in Wis­con­sin on Tues­day, Trump said Le­wandowski has been “very se­ri­ously ma­ligned,” vow­ing to stand by him.

“I can’t just stand by and watch a man’s life be de­stroyed,” Trump said. “I’m stick­ing up for a per­son be­cause I’m not go­ing to let a per­son’s life be de­stroyed. No jury, in my opinion, would con­vict a man and de­stroy a man’s life over what you wit­nessed.”

This in­jects a court bat­tle into an al­ready con­tentious Repub­li­can pri­mary sea­son just a week be­fore a high-pro­file elec­tion in Wis­con­sin.

The Trump cam­paign re­leased a state­ment declar­ing Le­wandowski “ab­so­lutely in­no­cent of this charge.”

“He will en­ter a plea of not guilty and looks for­ward to his day in court,” said the state­ment. “He is com­pletely con­fi­dent that he will be ex­on­er­ated.”

Police charged Le­wandowski af­ter re­view­ing a sur­veil­lance video of the in­ci­dent, ob­tained from se­cu­rity at the Trump-owned prop­erty where the in­ci­dent oc­curred. Police de­ter­mined that the video shows Le­wandowski grab­bing Michelle Fields, who worked for Bre­it­bart News at the time, as she tried to ask Trump a ques­tion dur­ing a March 8 cam­paign event.

Trump cast doubt on her claims, telling re­porters that he doubts her claims that she suf­fered bruises from Le­wandowski.

“How do you know those bruises weren’t there be­fore? She said she had a bruise on her arm. Take a look at her fa­cial ex­pres­sion, her fa­cial ex­pres­sion doesn’t even change,” he said. Ear­lier Tues­day, Trump re­leased a se­ries of tweets reversing a pre­vi­ous po­si­tion that the in­ci­dent never hap­pened, hint­ing in­stead that he feared for his safety.

“Why is this re­porter touch­ing me as I leave news con­fer­ence? What is in her hand??” Trump tweeted along with a pic­ture that ap­pears to show the re­porter hold­ing a pen.

“Why is she al­lowed to grab me and shout ques­tions? Can I press charges?” he wrote, call­ing Le­wandowski “a very de­cent man” and say­ing Fields “changed her tune.”

Fields shot back on Twit­ter: “My story never changed. Se­ri­ously, just stop ly­ing.”

The New York busi­ness­man’s ri­vals seized

Don­ald Trump, on the news, which comes a week be­fore a Wis­con­sin pri­mary con­test that could give Trump an in­sur­mount­able del­e­gate lead or give his op­po­nents new hope of a con­tested na­tional con­ven­tion.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the in­ci­dent is “the con­se­quence of the cul­ture of the Trump cam­paign—the abu­sive cul­ture when you have a cam­paign that is built on per­sonal in­sults, on at­tacks and now phys­i­cal vi­o­lence.”

“That has no place in a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, it has no place in our democ­racy,” Cruz told re­porters as he cam­paigned in Wis­con­sin, sug­gest­ing that “it helps clar­ify for the vot­ers what the Trump cam­paign is all about.”

Cruz asked his se­nior aide, Rick Tyler, to re­sign in Fe­bru­ary for spread­ing a story that falsely al­leged that for­mer ri­val Marco Ru­bio in­sulted the Bi­ble.

Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich said he “prob­a­bly would sus­pend some­body” de­pend­ing on the ev­i­dence avail­able.

“When we see things that we think are in­ap­pro­pri­ate, we take ac­tion, and that’s what I would do,” Ka­sich said while cam­paign­ing in Wis­con­sin.

Don­ald Trump cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wandowski GETTY IMAGES

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