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Published: Friday, 3/26/2010

Demonstrator says he's sorry for actions at Columbus rally


COLUMBUS - A critic of President Obama's health-care overhaul tells a newspaper he's sorry for shouting and throwing dollar bills at a man with Parkinson's disease during a heated rally in Ohio, calling his actions "shameful."

Chris Reichert, 40, told the Columbus Dispatch that he "absolutely snapped" during last week's rally that drew people on both sides of the health-care issue outside the district office of Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy.

Mr. Reichert, a father of two, said he's worrying for his family. "I've been looking at the Web sites," he said. "People are hunting for me."

In a scene the newspaper captured on video March 16 and posted on the Web, Mr. Reichert is seen tossing two dollar bills into the lap of Robert Letcher, who has Parkinson's and supported the health-care bill that the President has signed. Mr. Reichert and others accused Mr. Letcher, 60, of looking for a handout to pay his medical expenses.

"He's got every right to do what he did and some may say I did too, but what I did was shameful," Mr. Reichert said. "I haven't slept since that day."

He said he has made a donation to a local Parkinson's disease group to start a "healing process."

Mr. Letcher said while he was touched by the gesture, "you can't just buy your way out of this." But Mr. Letcher said he is sympathetic to Mr. Reichert's fears.

He said he offered to join Mr. Reichert in a public service announcement making a plea for the Reichert family's safety.

"I feel the urgency of freeing him from the same sort of fear of physical violence that he and other … people attempted to induce in me," Mr. Letcher said.

He said, however, that he's skeptical of Mr. Reichert's change of heart and says the contention that he snapped is "totally lacking in merit and credibility."

Mr. Letcher is a former engineer and university lecturer who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2000.

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