The way Aubry Ballard described it, the Feb. 25 scuffle that’s at the core of Sen. Scott Bundgaard’s woes wasn’t the first time that the senator manhandled her.
It first occurred roughly two months before — at his home after a New Year’s Eve party.
Appearing before a panel of lawmakers for a trial over whether Bundgaard breached ethical rules, Ballard testified that Bundgaard, her boyfriend at the time, put his hand on her throat, pushed her against a wall, and then picked her up and “tossed” her outside of his West Valley home.
It happened after an argument over “dumb things,” she said.
Ballard said she was lifted off the ground and landed on her back and head.
“I was in a shock,” she said.
Ballard recounted the story under questioning by Michael Liburdi, one of the lawyers hired by the committee to investigate whether Bundgaard violated ethical rules stemming from the February scuffle.
It’s an obvious attempt by the Senate’s investigators to try and establish how Bundgaard can be volatile when angry and demonstrate that he has a history of abuse against women.
Prior to the argument, the two had gone partying for the New Year somewhere else, Ballard said, and both had been drinking.
After she was unable to reach her friends and a local taxi company told her that it would be more than four hours before a taxi could pick her up, Ballard re-entered Bundgaard’s home and slept in his bedroom, while he slept in another room. In the morning, she said Bundgaard was in tears and told her he would get counseling.
She said she believed him at that time and blamed what happened on alcohol.
Fast-forward to the night of Feb. 25: Ballard and Bundgaard were driving on State Route 51 in north Phoenix. They had just attended a charity event where Bundgaard danced for a non-profit group’s benefit.
Ballard said they began arguing.
She said it upset her that Bundgaard hadn’t told her he was going to continue with dance lessons when he should instead undergo the counseling he had promised to do.
Ballard said the argument got heated, and then Bundgaard hit her.
“He flipped out, and took his fist out and said the ‘F’ word and hit my chest twice,” she said. “I’ve never been hit by a man before.”
Ballard said she then swung back with her left hand, hitting him.
She said he threw her cell phone out the window, and she pleaded with him to retrieve it. She said he slammed on the brake, got out of the car, went to the passenger side, and then forcibly pulled her out of the car.
She also said he threw her down, and she remembered landing on her hands and knees.
But what scared her most was the oncoming traffic.
“I was in the HOV lane,” she said, adding she worried about dying on the freeway. “All I could think was, ‘We’re going to die out on this freeway.’”
In response to questioning, Ballard said she never tried to touch the steering wheel or tried to open the car’s door at any point while they were driving down the freeway.
She also said she never reached for his gun, which was located in the car’s center console, although she might have inadvertently touched it while she was looking for her cell phone.
During cross-examination, Shawn Aiken, one of Bundgaard’s lawyers, zeroed in on the allegation that the senator had previously physically assaulted her and asked if she had recalled telling a police detective about the Jan. 1 incident.
She said she mentioned it to police investigators, though not in the detail she did during today’s testimony.
Aiken also pressed her about her statements to the police that, prior to Feb. 25, she never been abused.
Ballard said she meant “prior to Scott.”
Later, Kory Langhofer, another attorney working for the Ethics Committee, asked a friend of Ballard’s, to corroborate her testimony about the Jan. 1 altercation.
Bundgaard’s lawyers objected to the testimony as hearsay. So did Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, who agreed with the defense’s arguments against hearing the testimony.
But Sen. Ron Gould, the ethics committee chairman, allowed it and the committee voted to allow Christi Bill to testify. She did so via telephone in order to protect her identity because she is an undercover detective for the Phoenix Police Department.
Shifting to the February 25 incident, Ballard said she thought Bundgaard was intoxicated that night, but when pressed, she said it’s merely based on her assumption.
Also under cross-examination, Ballard admitted she didn’t tell the full story to include details of Bundgaard’s assault to police that night because at the time she was worried about the senator’s image and how the fallout might “destroy him.”