A Donald Trump supporter who punched a protestor at a rally earlier this year apologized Wednesday to the man he had hit in the face, pleading no contest to disorderly conduct and assault.
John Franklin McGraw told Rakeem Jones in court during the hearing that he was “extremely sorry this happened,” according to the Washington Post. “I hate it worse than anything in the world.”
McGraw was filmed punching Jones in the face with his elbow as Jones was being led out of a Fayetteville, N.C., rally in March for the now-president-elect. Jones, who had disrupted the rally before being escorted out, was walking up the stairs when McGraw hit Jones in the face.
McGraw was initially unrepentant about hitting Jones, saying the 27-year-old black man had “deserved it.”
“The next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” the 79-year-old McGraw, who is white, said in a video posted by Inside Edition at the time. “We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”
But on Wednesday, McGraw said he would have acted differently in another settting.
“If I met you in the street and the same thing occurred, I would have said, 'Go on home. One of us will get hurt,'” McGraw added, according to WRAL. “That's what I would have said. But we are caught up in a political mess today, and you and me, we got to heal our country.”
McGraw then shook hands with Jones, and the two hugged.
“It just felt good being able to shake his hand…and face him,” Jones said later, according to WNCN.
Cumberland County sheriff’s investigators had also debated charging Trump with inciting a riot in connection with McGraw’s attack, but decided against it. Trump had, a month before McGraw’s attack, said that he wanted to punch a protester at a different rally “in the face.”
McGraw was sentenced to a 30-day jail sentence that was suspended and 12 months probation, according to CNN.