TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida woman was arrested for battery on an elected official after allegedly throwing a drink at Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, who was at an event with family, according to an arrest report obtained by Nexstar’s WFLA.
In the report, authorities say 41-year-old Selena Chambers, of Tallahassee, was at the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival Saturday evening when she recognized Gaetz chatting with event attendants.
Gaetz, who recalled the incident to authorities, claimed he watched as Chambers and another woman walked past him and his family cursing at them. Shortly after, Chambers threw her drink at Gaetz before she “walked away yelling and flipping him off,” according to the report.
A defense attorney for Chambers, meanwhile, is claiming his own internal investigation has turned up evidence that Gaetz and his group were engaged in a verbal altercation with the women and that Gaetz was “both an aggressor and agitator,” according to an email obtained by the Associated Press.
“My client, Selena Chambers, maintains her innocence in this matter, and we intend to vigorously defend against the allegations of Rep. Gaetz,” said defense attorney Matthew A. Karp.
Gaetz was not physically injured during the incident.
While detained, Chambers reportedly told authorities she tripped and spilled her drink on Gaetz, but admitted she recognized the representative prior to the incident.
Chambers was arrested and sent to the Walton County Jail where she was released on a $1,000 bail.
Gaetz took to social media following the incident, thanking the Walton County Sheriff’s Office “for taking swift action.” He also pledged to press charges.
“I want folks to know why we press charges in circumstances like this,” Gaetz said. “It’s quite alright for folks to let their voice heard with an opinion or a comment. Folks can shout and scream all they want. This is America and people ought to be able to say what they believe, and what they desire — even offer criticisms or critiques of people in public life. But if we start allowing stuff to be thrown or hurled, if we allow people to be harmed, there is a severe risk of escalation and accident.”
Gaetz called the woman accused of throwing her drink a “left-wing author” adding, “her stuff is not exactly my type.”
“We’ll make sure that there are appropriate consequences through the legal system because that’s what the safety of our community demands,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz, in 2019, was also once struck in the back with a drink cup thrown by a protestor outside of a town hall meeting at a Pensacola restaurant. The woman accused of throwing that drink was sentenced to 15 days in federal custody.
Gaetz, first elected to Congress in 2016, is known for his strong support of former President Donald Trump and his membership in the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus in the House. Earlier this year, Gaetz announced that the Justice Department had decided not to file charges against him following a long-running sex-trafficking investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.