By Alan Framm
WASHINGTON— An independent advisory office has recommended that the House Ethics Committee investigate charges that a New York congressman threatened to harm a television reporter, but the bipartisan House panel has deferred action, according to documents released Wednesday.
The incident in question involved Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. Grimm, a second-term lawmaker who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, was indicted in April on separate federal tax evasion charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.
After President Barack Obama finished delivering his State of the Union address in January, Grimm was captured on camera threatening to throw the reporter off a balcony after an interview in which the journalist had asked Grimm about an FBI probe into his campaign finances. The reporter, Michael Scotto, worked for NY1, a New York City cable news channel.
"There is substantial reason to believe that Representative Grimm threatened a reporter with bodily harm and engaged in a threatening or menacing act that created a fear of immediate injury, in violation of the D.C. code and House rules," said a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The D.C. code was a reference to laws in the District of Columbia.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is an independent agency that makes recommendations to Congress' ethics committees.
Its board — which does not include members of Congress — voted 6-0 on March 28 to recommend that the House Ethics Committee investigate the incident further, according to the report released Wednesday.
In a separate statement, the 10-member House Ethics Committee said it had voted unanimously on June 18 to defer action on the incident after the Justice Department asked for a delay.
The statement did not say why the Justice Department made that request.
A spokesman for Grimm did not immediately return requests for comment left by telephone and email.
After walking away from his January interview with Scotto, Grimm returned and told the reporter, "Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this (expletive) balcony."
When Scotto said he had asked a valid question, Grimm said, "You're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."
In a statement after the confrontation, Grimm said Scotto had been disrespectful and unprofessional. He later apologized to the reporter in a telephone call.
Last month, the House Ethics panel said its members had voted unanimously to defer a separate investigation of federal tax charges against Grimm, which flowed from an ongoing investigation of his campaign fundraising. The ethics panel said the Justice Department had requested the delay.
The committee frequently delays investigations when it is asked so that federal probes can be conducted.
Grimm, 44, a former FBI agent and Marine, has remained in Congress but has left the House Financial Services Committee, saying he will return after his legal problems are over. He is running for re-election and says he is the target of a political witch hunt.