Student sues GOP senator for allegedly snatching phone

Student sues GOP senator for allegedly snatching phone
© Keren Carrion

A Georgia Tech University student filed a lawsuit against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Monday for allegedly snatching a cellphone out of the student’s hands in an incident that was caught on video.

Nate Knauf filed a the civil battery complaint against Perdue in the Fulton County State Court, according to a statement from Atlanta-based law firm Dreyer Sterling, LLC.

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The complaint follows a Oct. 13 incident at the university’s campus when Knauf attempted to ask Perdue about his endorsement of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp (R).

Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state who oversees elections, has been accused of seeking to suppress minority voter registration and is being sued by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP

A Perdue spokeswoman told The Hill on Monday that the lawsuit was an example of Georgia Democrats taking their “extreme tactics too far.”

Knauf’s lawyers, David Dreyer and Michael Sterling, are both active in Democratic politics.

Dreyer is a Georgia state representative who has supported Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s Democratic opponent for Georgia governor.

 Sterling is a former city official who ran as a Democrat for Atlanta mayor in 2017. He suspended his mayoral bid just weeks before the election. 

“This complaint is complete nonsense and lacks any merit whatsoever. All you have to do is look at the political hacks who are trying to spin something out of nothing,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “This is being orchestrated by a former Obama operative and current Democrat state representative who spends most of his time campaigning for Stacey Abrams.” 

“Georgians will see this for what it is – a manufactured setup to embarrass the senator and attack his credibility two weeks before the midterm elections,” the statement continued. “Instead, Democrats are embarrassing themselves with a frivolous case that will only waste the court’s time.” 

During the contested interaction, Knauf, who was previously unidentified, approached the Republican senator and recorded the interaction.

“Hey, so, uh, how can you endorse a candidate—" the student can be heard saying, before the video begins to shake and Perdue says, “I’m not doing that.”

“You stole my property,” the student tells Perdue. “You stole my property.”

“Alright, you wanted a picture?” the senator replies.

“Give me my phone back, senator,” the student says.

Perdue appears to ignore the student’s request and repeats, “You wanted a picture?”

The student again asks for his phone back and the video corrects itself.

Perdue is then seen walking away through a crowd.

A spokeswoman for Perdue told The Hill at the time that Perdue is well-known for taking selfies with his constituents and thought the student was asking for a photo.

"When he realized they didn’t actually want to take a picture, he gave the phone back," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

The student later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he had requested to take a picture of Perdue with his friend and used the opportunity to ask his question.

Knauf, a junior computer science major, said in the statement Monday that he wants his voice as a Georgia voter to be heard.

“I was polite and respectful as I started to ask a question that is important to me and is, in fact, important to the health of our democracy,” Knauf said. “Instead of answering in a civil and respectful way, Sen. Perdue ripped the phone out of my hands.”

Dreyer said in a statement that his client looked forward to an apology and an answer to Knauf’s original question about Perdue supporting Kemp.

“The law is as clear in this case as any I’ve seen,” Dreyer said. “The cell phone is an extension of the hand and Sen. Perdue committed battery when he touched the student’s hand and pulled the cell phone away from the student.”

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial, attorneys fees and an unspecified amount in damages.

-Updated 3:21 p.m.