Two days after Rudy Giuliani claimed a worker had assaulted him at a Staten Island supermarket, the once-vaunted former mayor was spending Tuesday morning like many men his age: complaining about his aches and pains.
“My shoulder hurts like hell and I’ve got a big lump on the back,” he said, smiling incongruously as he spoke to an audience of reporters and supporters in a Facebook broadcast from an indeterminate location. “And I don’t complain.”
Despite the video that quickly emerged showing that the supermarket worker in question had merely tapped Mr. Giuliani on the back, and despite a Staten Island prosecutor’s decision to reduce the charges against the man from a felony to misdemeanors, Mr. Giuliani held fast to his narrative: He was attacked, the city has gone to seed, and only his son, a candidate for governor with scant relevant experience, could make New Yorkers safe again.
Little or none of this appeared to be true.
The strange political afterlife of Rudy Giuliani is one of the most told stories in American politics: The man who was once “America’s mayor,” leading the nation’s biggest city through its worst terrorist attack, has since tried to overturn the results of a presidential election, gotten caught splayed on a bed and adjusting his pants in a satirical documentary, and on Sunday, gotten a supermarket worker jailed after claiming that he had been assaulted and almost knocked down.
“The question is how low can you go?” asked Ken Frydman, a public relations professional who worked as Mr. Giuliani’s spokesman during his 1993 campaign for mayor. “I don’t know if we’ve seen the bottom for Rudy.”
Mr. Giuliani’s allegation quickly proved problematic. Video footage first obtained by the New York Post showed the supermarket worker, Daniel Gill, patting Mr. Giuliani on the back, seriously undermining Mr. Giuliani’s claim that he had been almost knocked down, and weakening the credibility of his son, Andrew Giuliani, who had amplified his father’s accusation on the campaign trail.
Prosecutors downgraded the charges against Mr. Gill from second-degree assault, a felony, to third-degree assault, second-degree harassment and third-degree menacing. Mr. Gill spent more than 24 hours in police custody, according to his lawyers.
When reached at his mother’s number on Tuesday, Mr. Gill declined to comment, citing those lawyers’ advice. But he suggested he might have more to say soon.
In the meantime, he is not lacking for advocates.
“There’s no crime there,” said Hermann Walz, a former New York City prosecutor and current adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
For an altercation to qualify as assault in the third degree — the main charge ultimately filed by the district attorney of Staten Island — there must be an intent to cause injury to a person and an actual physical injury, Mr. Walz said.
“I could punch you in the face, and that wouldn’t be physical injury in New York, unless I broke your nose or something like that,” Mr. Walz said.
He added that Mr. Gill’s behavior could qualify as harassment, but that he found even that notion questionable.
“This is New York; being called a ‘scumbag,’ if that’s a crime, we’re all going to jail soon,” Mr. Walz said, alluding to the slur Mr. Gill allegedly hurled at Mr. Giuilani.
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In a text message from an aide, Mr. Giuliani continued to stand by his story on Tuesday.
“If the video was lateral, you may have seen the force,” he said. “I was moved a few steps forward. I now have swelling above my left scapula and my left arm hurts.”
The police department’s initial recommendation of felony assault charges was based on Mr. Giuliani’s complaint and the age difference between Mr. Gill, 39, and Mr. Giuliani, 78, city officials said.
On Tuesday, Eric Adams, the current mayor of New York City, said prosecutors should now turn their attention to Mr. Giuliani for falsely reporting a crime.
“I think the district attorney, he has the wrong person that he’s investigating,” Mr. Adams said during a media availability in Harlem. “To falsely report a crime is a crime. If that video wasn’t there, then this person would have been charged with punching the former mayor.”
Mr. Adams said he was speaking with the police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, about whether Mr. Giuliani’s actions were criminal. A spokesman for Michael McMahon, the Staten Island district attorney, declined to comment.
It was a turn of events that put Mr. Adams on the same side as the Legal Aid Society, a public defenders group with which the mayor sometimes duels.
“We agree with Mayor Adams, a former police officer with over 20 years on the force, that this was simply just a pat on the back,” said Redmond Haskins, a spokesman for the group, which is representing Mr. Gill.
The incident was noteworthy for its setting — the supermarket in question sits in a conservative bastion on the South Shore of Staten Island.
Joseph Borelli, the local councilman, who served as an honorary state chairman for the Trump campaign, described the area as “a predominantly white, conservative neighborhood comprised of mostly city workers and small business owners.”
Notably, he declined to comment directly on Mr. Giuliani’s allegations.
“If a crime was committed, the district attorney will handle it,” Mr. Borelli said.
In the two days since Mr. Giuliani made his claims, the former mayor has broadcast several times on Facebook Live. During one of those appearances, on Tuesday morning, Mr. Giuliani denounced Mr. Adams as an “idiot.”
“What if we didn’t have the video?” Mr. Adams asked Tuesday. “This person would have been accused with a serious crime, when all he did was pat the guy on the back. You can’t do sensationalism to carry out your own agenda, and you can’t use the police to carry out your own agenda.”