Sunday, February 27, 2011

Senator Immune From Arrest for Domestic Violence

Immunity prevents Arizona lawmaker's arrest after freeway fight

From Leslie Tripp, CNNFebruary 27, 2011 5:44 a.m. EST

Police say state Sen. Scott Bundgaard was involved in a domestic violence incident
Arizona's constitution gives him immunity from arrest

Bundgaard says the dispute started after a "Dancing with the Stars" fundraiser
His girlfriend, charged with misdemeanor assault, says it was the "worst night of my life"

(CNN) -- Police say they did not detain an Arizona state senator who was involved in a domestic violence incident over the weekend because state law gives him immunity from arrest while the legislature is in session.

Officers responding to the scene of a reported altercation on a Phoenix-area highway Friday night found state Sen. Scott Bundgaard and his girlfriend, Aubry Ballard.

Both had marks on them indicating they had been involved in a physical dispute -- constituting an act of domestic violence on the part of both individuals, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said.

Ballard was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault. Bundgaard was not, but could later face charges from the city attorney's office, Thompson said.

Bundgaard, a Republican and the state senate majority leader, said the dispute began on the way home from a charity "Dancing with the Stars" fundraiser, after Ballard accused him of "inappropriately touching" his dance partner.

"She proceeded to throw my clothes and other things out of my car on a freeway as I took her home," Bundgaard said in a statement.

The senator said he tried to stop his girlfriend from punching him, which resulted in marks on her knees.

"I have never inappropriately touched a woman and never would. There was no domestic violence," Bundgaard said.

Ballard described the incident as "the absolute worst night of my life" in a statement released Saturday, saying she was trying to decide her next steps.

"To go from putting on a beautiful dress for a great date to a fundraiser to ending up on the side of a freeway? I don't have another tear left to cry," she said. "I'm still trying to get my mind around a few things: Scott's actions, the 17 hours I spent in jail awaiting processing, my bruises, scrapes and soreness and his statements to the media."

Bundgaard said he pulled Ballard out of the car, but denied ever hitting or pushing her.

Arizona's constitution says legislators are immune from arrest "in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace" and allows them immunity from civil process while the legislator is in session.

Phoenix police said they will submit the case to the city attorney's office for review, Thompson said.

In his statement, Bundgaard said he will not hide behind his privilege.

"I waive any and all 'immunity.' If I did something wrong, charge me," he said.

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