STATEN ISLAND, New York City (WABC) -- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke out on Monday after he was slapped on the back while grocery shopping over the weekend, in an incident that was caught on surveillance video.
A ShopRite employee, 39-year-old Daniel Gill, was arrested and initially charged with second-degree assault, a felony, although those charges were later downgraded.
Gill appeared in court Monday, wearing his ShopRite uniform, to face misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault, third-degree menacing, and second-degree harassment. He was released on his own recognizance by Judge Gerianne Abriano.
Police say Gill slapped Giuliani on the back while he was campaigning for his son, Andrew Giuliani, in the state's gubernatorial race, handing out flyers at the store on Staten Island.
"I got hit as if a boulder hit me," Giuliani said during his virtual press conference. "It knocked me forward a step or two. It didn't knock me down, but it hurt tremendously."
The former mayor said he really didn't know what had hit him at the time, and he was shocked as he had campaigned there for himself, his son, and other colleagues some 500 times, maybe as many as 1,000, he estimated.
"All of a sudden I heard someone yell at me something I can't repeat about what what I am," Giuliani said. "Curse words, dirty curse words, and then some more dirty curse words."
After the slap, Giuliani says the man kept swearing and ranting to him about "killing women," and when he wouldn't stop, he decided to call the police and have the man arrested.
"This has to stop," he said. "It could have been much worse of course."
According to prosecutors, Gill said, "What's up scumbag?" after smacking Giuliani on his back.
The smack caused Giuliani "to stumble forward" and caused "redness, swelling and substantial pain to the back and left side of his body," according to the complaint.
The defense said Gill has worked at the store for four years and had no intention of causing the former mayor any physical injury.
"The video is clear," his attorney, Susan Platis, said. "The video is clear that this was just a tap on the back."
Giuliani, 78, was not seriously injured and refused medical treatment.
"This idea that you attack people because in my case I'm pro life," Giuliani said. "I've always been personally pro life."
Giuliani, though, campaigned as an abortion rights supporter when he ran for mayor and then for Senate in 2000 and also during his 2008 presidential run.
This year, he came out in support of overturning Roe v Wade.
"Innocent people are attacked in today's New York all of the time," Andrew Giuliani said in a statement. "This particular incident hit very close to home. The assault on my father, America's Mayor, was over politics. We will not be intimidated by left-wing attacks. As governor, I will stand up for law and order so that New Yorkers feel safe again. This message has resonated with voters throughout my campaign, leading up to Tuesday's primary."
Andrew Giuliani plans to hold a 7:30 p.m. rally on Tuesday at the store where his father got slapped.
Wakefern, which runs the ShopRite, issued a statement saying, "Store security observed the incident, reacted swiftly and the police were notified. We have zero tolerance for aggression toward anyone."
Gill, who did not talk to reporters other than to say, "Have a good day, everyone," is due back in court on August 17.
The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Gill, issued the following statement:
"The charges facing Daniel Gill, who has no previous contact with the criminal legal system, are inconsistent with existing law. Our client merely patted Mr. Giuliani, who sustained nothing remotely resembling physical injuries, without malice to simply get his attention, as the video footage clearly showed. Mr. Gill was then followed and threatened by one of Mr. Giuliani's associates who allegedly poked Mr. Gill in the chest and told him that he was going to be 'locked up'. He was then needlessly held by the NYPD in custody for over 24 hours. Given Mr. Giuliani's obsession with seeing his name in the press and his demonstrated propensity to distort the truth, we are happy to correct the record on exactly what occurred over the weekend on Staten Island."