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Legislative Immunity' Spares AZ State Senator in Bizarre Girlfriend 'Assault' Case

"...I was accused of inappropriately touching my dancing partner..."

Perhaps the most bizarre story of the weekend came from Arizona where state Sen. Scott Bundgaard avoided spending a night in jail after a roadside fight with his girlfriend, thanks to something called "legislative immunity" provided to elected officials while they are "in session."

For those not familiar with this privilege, here are details from the Arizona Constitution:

Members of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, and they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement of each session. (Article IV, part 2, section 6.)

A roadside fight is not treason, but if the police are required to calm down a situation, it seems that the peace may have been breached.  The story gained traction on the internet with postings on CNN as well as TMZ.

Republican Sen. Scott Bundgaard and his girlfriend, Aubry Ballard, were driving home from a charity event and like many couples, got into an argument. A statement from Mr. Bundgaard claims:

Upon leaving the event I was accused of inappropriately touching my dancing partner, in front of my parents and family mind you, and she proceeded to throw my clothes and other things out of my car on a freeway as I took her home. I stopped on the freeway to retrieve these items. As I was doing so my girlfriend yelled that she was going to take my car and moved into the driver’s seat. I immediately returned to the car and asked her to get out. She refused. I had no choice but to pull her from the driver’s seat which resulted in marks on her knees. I had also had no choice but to stop her from punching me and risking highway safety, all of which resulted in a black eye for me and a busted lip (photos available upon request). The authorities arrived as I tried to retrieve my belongings from the highway.

The police did arrive on the scene and saw marks on both parties, evidence of a physical confrontation.  Mr. Bundgaard was sent home because, as police claim,  he invoked his "legislative immunity."  Ballard, however, spent the night in jail, charged with suspicion of misdemeanor assault and had time to put together a statement of her own:

"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.".

Senator Bundgaard wanted to get in front of the story so he reached out to local media:

Late yesterday, both Ballard and Bundgaard issued a statement together:

"We want to jointly apologize for allowing a private matter to interrupt the public -- and especially for taking up the valuable time of law enforcement. The police officers who responded deserve thanks for their sensitivity and compassion."

I wonder if Ms. Ballard considers her 17 hours behind bars as a compassionate response?  And regarding "taking up the valuable time of law enforcement" -- Senator Bundgaard should consider how many women are relieved when police arrive to protect them from a physically abusive spouse as a "private matter" spills out into the public space.

After invoking his Legislative Immunity (according to the police), Bundgaard has included the following in his statement:

I waive any and all ‘legislative immunity.’ If I did something wrong, charge me.

We will follow this story and update as needed.

One last thing…
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