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Alaska Dispatch News reporter slapped by Wasilla lawmaker

An Alaska Dispatch News reporter told Juneau police he was slapped Tuesday inside the Alaska Capitol by a state senator during an encounter regarding a recent story.

ADN political reporter Nathaniel Herz said the exchange between him and freshman Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, occurred Tuesday afternoon in the main stairwell of the Capitol.

The ADN published a story by Herz Sunday regarding Wilson's Senate Bill 90, which would end a state program that distributes grants to Mat-Su social-service groups.

The story mentioned Wilson's employer prior to his election, Palmer-based nonprofit Alaska Family Services, wouldn't be among those potentially hurt by the cuts.

Wilson declined to give an explanation for proposing the bill, saying that one would come up in a hearing and "the bill should stand for itself."

Herz said on Tuesday afternoon, he was traveling between lawmakers' offices, carrying his smartphone, which was set to record his conversations.

Herz was walking down a flight of stairs toward the Capitol's ground floor when he saw Wilson also descending, and caught up with him to ask about Sunday's story.

"Hey, what'd you think – was that reasonable?" Herz asks in the recording.

"Reasonable?" Wilson repeats.

"Fair?" Herz clarifies the question.

"Fair?" Wilson again repeats.

After an exhaled breath, there is what sounds like an impact, followed by Wilson saying, "There we go," and footsteps.

After a moment, Herz says, "Was that serious, or playful, or like …?," before trailing off. Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, comes up just seconds later.

"He, uh, slapped me," Herz tells her. "That was interesting."

Asked Wednesday about the incident, Herz said he was not injured by the slap, but "it was not a love tap."

Herz filed a report with the Juneau Police Department.

"I was not enthusiastic about taking this to the police," Herz said. "But I also felt like I couldn't accept this kind of behavior from a public official."

Dispatch News Editor David Hulen said, "We support our reporter. It's not OK for a legislator to strike anyone."

Juneau police spokesperson Erann Kalwara said the case was reported at 5:33 p.m. as a call from "a man who was reporting that he had been slapped across the face."

"An officer spoke with the person and an investigation is continuing," Kalwara said.

No charges have been filed in the case. Kalwara declined to say whether police had identified a suspect, due to the ongoing investigation.

"The Senate expects professional conduct and decorum from all members. Until the full facts surrounding the situation described are available, we have no further comment," said a statement sent by Senate majority spokesperson Daniel McDonald Wednesday afternoon.

Wilson hasn't spoken with Herz about the encounter since, the reporter said.

Multiple messages left with Wilson weren't immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

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