Phoenix prosecutor charges Bundgaard over freeway incident

Jeremy Duda//June 10, 2011

Phoenix prosecutor charges Bundgaard over freeway incident

Jeremy Duda//June 10, 2011

Senate Republicans have chosen to keep Sen. Scott Bundgaard as majority leader, despite calls from some for him to step down. Bundgaard, who was involved in a domestic violence incident on Feb., 25 with then-girlfriend Aubrey Ballard, has said his name will be cleared as the "issue works through the process." (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)
Sen. Scott Bundgaard answers questions in the weeks following his Feb. 25 roadside altercation. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Four months after police detained him in a late-night altercation with his girlfriend on the side of the freeway, Phoenix city prosecutors filed misdemeanor domestic violence charges against Sen. Scott Bundgaard.

Prosecutors charged the ousted Senate majority leader with reckless endangerment, a Class 1 misdemeanor, and reckless assault, a Class 2 misdemeanor. Both were designated as domestic violence offenses.

Reckless endangerment carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail, three years of probation and $4,620 in fines. Reckless assault carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail, two years of probation and $1,400 in fines.

Prosecutors issued a summons to Bundgaard, R-Peoria, on Friday for a June 28 court appearance in Phoenix Municipal Court.

Bundgaard’s attorney, Mark Goldman, accused prosecutors of pursuing a weak case against the senator and said he will be exonerated.

“Charging Scott with two misdemeanors makes it obvious they have no case and are merely trying to justify whatever time they spent during this extraordinarily prolonged investigation. ‘Reckless’ is a way to describe these charges and this investigation. Scott has maintained his innocence from the outset, even taking a successful lie detector test to reinforce this truth,” Goldman said in a written statement.

Aubry Ballard, Bundgaard’s then-girlfriend, said in a written statement that she supports the decision to file charges, “wholeheartedly.”

“The night of February 25 remains painful for me. Not only the assault I suffered at the hands of a man I once loved, but Scott’s insistence on blaming others and his failure to take responsibility for his illegal, abusive behavior,” Ballard said. “Fortunately, the justice system has decided to hold Scott accountable.”

The charges stem from a Feb. 25 incident in which police responded to a reported fight along State Route 51. Bundgaard and Ballard were both bruised and gave officers different stories of the altercation. But Phoenix police later recommended charges against Bundgaard after five witnesses reported they saw him assaulting Ballard.

Police arrested and detained Bundgaard at the scene, but released him after he invoked a provision in the Constitution that grants lawmakers immunity from arrest or prosecution during the legislative session, except in cases of “treason, felony, or breach of the peace.” The 2011 regular session ended April 20.

The Senate Republican caucus initially declined to remove Bundgaard as majority leader after he told his colleagues that Ballard reached for his gun during the incident. But after police released reports showing that Bundgaard never made the same allegations to police, they voted to oust him from his leadership position.

The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against Bundgaard in March. Sen. Ron Gould, the committee chairman, said he didn’t want to interfere with the criminal investigation.