An independent gubernatorial candidate in Rhode Island admitted Wednesday that he had been charged with assault in the 1970s for “unintentionally” punching a teenager who is now the speaker of the state House of Representatives.

Candidate Joe Trillo described the incident as stopping the harassment of a young girl.

“One day while I was outside working on my house, I heard a young girl who was left home alone in another neighboring home, screaming,” Trillo said in a statement. “When I looked to see what was happening, I saw a group of young boys pounding on the front door.”

Trillo said the girl was "terrified" that the boys, which included a teenage Nicholas Mattiello who is now House speaker, would get into her home.

“I immediately dropped everything I was doing and ran over to the house, and started waving my arms around furiously to disband the group of boys doing everything they could to get in that house. That’s when one of my arms unintentionally struck young Nicholas Mattiello,” he said.

Trillo defended his actions, arguing anyone in his position would have tried to help a neighbor in need.

“When I reflect on that day, while I wish I hadn’t accidentally came in contact with Nicholas Mattiello, I know I did the right thing, trying to protect the frightened young girl,” he said.

Mattiello’s parents pressed charges against Trillo.

Trillo told Providence radio station WPRO on Wednesday that he pleaded no contest to the charge, and it was later removed from his record for good behavior.

“It wasn’t really a big deal,” he said.