GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A Montana sheriff charged with assaulting his girlfriend will take a personal leave from his job, and his attorney asked the public to keep an open mind and respect his privacy while the case is pending.

The statement emailed Monday by attorney Nathan Hoines is the first message from Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards since Edwards was cited for the misdemeanor on Thursday after being accused of pushing his girlfriend into a television stand in a hotel room.

The statement said Edwards is still the sheriff, has served in the office for 25 years, and plans to return to his duties. Undersheriff John Stevens will be taking over while Edwards is on leave.

“Sheriff Edwards would ask everyone to keep an open mind, respect his privacy and let this case progress through the legal system,” Hoines’ statement said.

Cascade County Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Carey Ann Haight confirmed to the Great Falls Tribune ( that Edwards will be paid during his leave.

“He’s an elected official,” she said. “Unlike other employees that earn vacation time, sick time, compensatory time, he’s paid as an elected official. As long as he’s in office he’s paid salary.”

The altercation happened in Helena, where Edwards was attending a Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association convention.

Helena Municipal Judge Robert Wood arraigned Edwards in an after-hours court appearance the night of the altercation. Edwards pleaded not guilty.

Edwards’ next hearing is set for July 19.

Information from: Great Falls Tribune,