DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man who rushed the stage at a Donald Trump rally pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court to a charge of illegally entering a restricted area.
Fairborn resident Thomas DiMassimo, 22, is accused of jumping a barricade and charging at the Republican presidential candidate March 12 at a Dayton International Airport hangar.
His attorney, Jon Paul Rion, said the Wright State University student was trying only to ensure that his political views were heard and didn’t have ill intentions toward a particular person.
Video from the rally shows that DiMassimo touched the stage where Trump was speaking as Secret Service agents and other security converged.
DiMassimo was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor count, which carries a potential sentence of up to a year in prison, plus possible fines. He was ordered released Friday on certain conditions, including that he not have dangerous weapons and remain in the area, with an exception granted for out-of-state travel this weekend.
A top federal prosecutor for southern Ohio told the Dayton Daily News that DiMassimo’s case is important in the context of this presidential campaign season.
“Passions are high in this election,” said Benjamin Glassman, acting U.S. attorney for the region. Regardless of whether people attend political events to support a candidate or to protest, it’s important that everyone is safe, he said.
Clashes between supporters and protesters have occurred repeatedly at rallies for Trump, who has angered some with his fiery rhetoric over building a wall along the Mexican border and calling for a stop to all non-citizen Muslims entering the United States. The Dayton airport rally was Trump’s first after well-organized students succeeded in keeping him from taking the stage for an event in Chicago.