Former Paul volunteer pleads not guilty in scuffle

A former volunteer with Rand Paul's Senate campaign pleaded not guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor assault charge arising from a videotaped scuffle in which a liberal female activist was stepped on the head after being pulled to the ground.

The widely disseminated videotape marked a flashpoint in the conservative Republican's winning campaign against Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky.

An attorney for former volunteer Tim Profitt said Profitt was just trying to protect the tea party favorite during a scuffle outside a TV studio where Paul and Conway debated Oct. 25.

"I'm sure he was doing at the time what he thought was necessary," defense attorney Michael Dean said after Thursday's court hearing.

Profitt, 53, was silent when his lawyer entered the not guilty plea to a charge of fourth-degree assault in a court in Lexington. Profitt declined comment afterward.

Democrats vilified Profitt and Paul's campaign dropped him as a county coordinator after the tape showed Lauren Valle, a 23-year-old activist with the group, being pulled down, her faced pinned to the concrete and then being stepped on. Valle said afterward that her face was swollen and her neck and shoulder were sore.

Dean told reporters Thursday it was premature to say whether Profitt's case, which is up for another scheduled hearing in December, would go to trial.

The scuffle overshadowed the final days of the Kentucky campaign as Paul's opponents tried to link the Republican to the scuffle by airing a 60-second TV ad called "The Rand Paul Stomp," complete with video footage.