ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Tech student is suing U.S. Sen. David Perdue, accusing the politician of snatching a cellphone from him during a campaign event in Atlanta.
Perdue’s staff has disputed the allegations, saying the senator thought he was being asked to take a picture so he grabbed the phone to take a selfie and then returned it when he realized the student didn’t want a photo.
The lawsuit against Perdue, a Republican, was filed Monday by Georgia lawyer David Dreyer, who’s a Democratic state representative. The encounter happened Oct. 13 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and involved Georgia Tech student Nathan Alan Knauf.
Perdue was on the campus campaigning for Republican Brian Kemp, who faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the hotly contested Nov. 6 election for Georgia governor.
Knauf “attempted to ask Senator Perdue about voter-suppression allegations against Brian Kemp, who Senator Perdue endorsed,” the lawsuit states.
Perdue “committed unlawful battery when he seized Mr. Knauf’s phone, touching Mr. Knauf in the process of seizing the phone, while angrily declaring: ‘No, I’m not doing that— I’m not doing that,'” the lawsuit states.
Knauf had been recording the encounter, and Perdue stopped the recording and returned the phone after the student repeatedly asked him to give it back, the lawsuit states.
“This complaint is complete nonsense and lacks any merit whatsoever,” Perdue’s spokeswoman said in a statement.
“It’s now abundantly clear that this is being politically orchestrated by Georgia Democrats,” it said. “The senator was simply asked to take a picture and went to take a selfie as he often does with hundreds of people.”
Young Democratic Socialists of America’s Georgia Tech chapter posted video from the phone on social media after the encounter.
One of the chapter’s leaders, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, acknowledged the student had asked for a picture with Perdue. However, he said the student clearly declined to hand over his phone and that Perdue grabbed it only after the student began questioning and recording.