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Phoenix police recommend assault charge for Bundgaard

Sen. Scott Bundgaard speaks with the press on Tuesday, minutes after being voted out of his position of majority leader. Bundgaard said he is happy to have more time to himself. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen. Scott Bundgaard (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

State Sen. Scott Bundgaard should be charged with assaulting an ex-girlfriend whose accounts of an alleged case of domestic violence matches up with those of witnesses, Phoenix police said Thursday.

Authorities have completed their investigation and submitted reports to city prosecutors with a recommendation that the Peoria Republican be charged with assault, according to a statement released by a police spokesman.

Prosecutors were reviewing the case and likely will not decide what action to take before next week, said City Prosecutor Aaron Carreon-Ainsa. “We know that’s important to do sooner than later, but it’s a voluminous report with a number of different aspects and witnesses.”

Bundgaard, 43, and Aubry Ballard, 34, have said they argued while driving home from a Feb. 25 charity dance fundraiser, but their public accounts differed on what left bruises and cuts on each of them on the median of State Route 51 in north Phoenix.

(Click here to listen to one of the 9-1-1  calls made to Phoenix police on Feb. 25. Click here for the police report.)

Police investigators concluded that four witness accounts of passers-by match with Ballard’s accounts of her being physically pushed by Bundgaard. Ballard’s injuries were consistent with those of someone who was struck, grabbed by the arm and thrown to the ground, according to the police report.

A fifth witness’s account stated seeing both parties standing outside the vehicle and seeing a man yelling and waving his hands as a woman backed away.

“Ballard’s statements closely resemble the witness statements while Bundgaard’s statements do no match up as closely, and in some cases do not match up at all,” police said in the conclusion of one of the reports released Thursday.

Ballard was arrested and jailed overnight, but an assault charge against her was dismissed.

Bundgaard declined immediate comment Thursday, saying he hasn’t seen the reports, which were released to reporters under previously filed public records requests.

Ballard released a statement saying her account was supported by the police reports and witness accounts. “My hope remains the same: That this awful night and this assault can become a part of my past,” she said.

Bundgaard was not taken into custody because of a state constitutional privilege that generally prohibits arresting lawmakers during legislative sessions, the police statement said.

Bundgaard has denied invoked the legislative privilege at the scene, but one of the reports said the lawmaker did.

“I demand you take these handcuffs off. I’m State Sen. Scott Bundgaard and according to Article 4 of the Constitution you cannot detain me. I’m immune from arrest when the Legislature is in session in which it currently is,” the report quoted Bundgaard as saying.

Days after the arrest, Bundgaard told Senate colleagues that Ballard tried to grab his handgun that was in the car’s console.

But a police report said neither Bundgaard nor Ballard during interviews with officers that night mentioned either of them handling the gun. Officers took possession of the gun for a time but put it back in Bundgaard’s vehicle before he left the scene, the report said.

Ballard denied ever trying to use the gun, but a police report said she told police during a follow-up interview that she came across it in the car while looking for her cell phone during the altercation.

Bundgaard has denied drinking that night but one of the reports said officers smelled alcohol on his breath. Also, Ballard told police that Bundgaard had sent her a text message before the event that he would need to drink alcohol to be able to dance because he was nervous.

Bundgaard declined to take a sobriety test which the report said an officer offered to make sure Bundgaard was fit to drive. Bundgaard was driven home by a parent.

Bundgaard’s attorney provided police investigators with results of an independent polygraph test which the lawyer said “showed no deception to a degree of 99 percent” of his client’s account.

A police report said the test results were not considered for the purpose of their investigation because Bundgaard paid for the test.

Republican senators reacted to the domestic violence report by removing Bundgaard as Senate majority leader.

Democratic Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor of Phoenix said Thursday she will file an amended ethics complaint against Bundgaard based on information in the newly released police reports.

Landrum Taylor’s initial complaint was dismissed by the Senate Ethics Committee last week on a party line vote. The panel’s Republican chairman said he didn’t want anything his committee did to taint a possible criminal case against Bundgaard and that Senate ethics proceedings could start anew later.

“This police report directly contradicts many of the statements that Senator Bundgaard has made describing the domestic violence incident,” Landrum Taylor said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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