Rhode Island police officer pleads not guilty to assaulting political opponent at pro-choice rally

The Rhode Island police officer has since ended his campaign for the state senate seat

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A police officer in Providence, Rhode Island pleaded not guilty Friday to assaulting a woman at a pro-choice rally in June while off-duty.

Jennifer Rourke, who is running for the Democratic nomination for a state senate seat said that Providence Police Department patrolman Jeann Lugo, 35, punched her in the face at least twice on June 24. Lugo was running for the Republican nomination for the same senate seat that Rourke is competing for.

Lugo was off duty on the day of the alleged attack and was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.

After the alleged assault, Lugo said in a Twitter announcement that he was ending his campaign and deactivated his account.

RHODE ISLAND POLICE OFFICER ON LEAVE AFTER ALLEGEDLY ASSAULTING POLITICAL OPPONENT AT ABORTION RALLY

PROVIDENCE, RI - APRIL 25: The Rhode Island State House in Providence, RI is pictured on April 25, 2019. 

PROVIDENCE, RI - APRIL 25: The Rhode Island State House in Providence, RI is pictured on April 25, 2019.  (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The protest was being held at the Rhode Island Statehouse in Providence following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. An internal investigation by the Providence Police Department states that Lugo struck Rourke twice, violating department rules. 

The Providence Police Department Chief Hugh Clements Jr. recommended that Lugo should be terminated. Lugo is on paid suspension.

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Lugo's lawyer, Daniel Griffin, said in July that Lugo "remains confident that the facts of this situation will be brought to light and show that he is innocent of any wrongdoing."

At the time of the incident on June 24, the Providence Police Department said it was "criminally investigating" Lugo's behavior.

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"The PPD is criminally investigating the behavior of an off duty officer last evening during a protest where a female was assaulted," the police department tweeted. "The officer has served for 3 yrs and placed on administrative leave w/pay this morning, pending a criminal investigation and administrative review."

The Associated Press and Fox News' Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.