Kenny Gladney verdict: Union members found not guilty

Here’s a blast from the past: Two union members accused of beating conservative activist Kenny Gladney outside an August 2009 town hall meeting in St. Louis were acquitted of all charges by a jury Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Elston McCowan, of St. Louis, and Perry Molens, of De Soto, had been charged with attacking a third man who was selling buttons outside the politically charged meeting, called by U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, at the height of debate over health care reform. Carnahan had wanted aging to be the subject, but many in the crowd wanted to argue over the president’s health care plan.

Kenneth Gladney said he was selling “Don’t Tread on Me” buttons and flags outside the forum when McCowan and Molens attacked him without provocation.

The two were charged with assaulting a person and interfering with police, both ordinance violations. The interfering with police charges were dropped and the trial was for assault charge, for which they could have each faced up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

A purported video of the altercation rapidly spread through the blogosphere and the story was pushed aggressively by conservative Web sites, including Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government. The incident came to symbolize the heated debate over the health-care overhaul that President Obama would eventually sign into law in March 2010.

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