A woman calls police after she sees a man attacking another woman on the side of a freeway in Phoenix, Arizona. Police say that man turned out to be powerful state Senator Scott Bundgaard.
They found his girlfriend, Aubry Ballard, scraped and bruised. He was injured, too. This is the 911 call from that incident along with photos police released.
Bundgaard was let go that night after police determined lawmakers are immune from arrest during the legislative session. Ballard was arrested and charged with assault. The charges against her were later dropped. Police have since asked city prosecutors to charge the senator with domestic violence assault.
A state senator escaped arrest for an alleged domestic violence dispute because of an obscure piece of law granting him 'legislative immunity', police revealed today.
Scott Bundgaard, 43, says his 34-year-old girlfriend Aubry Ballard flew into a jealous rage at the side of an Arizona highway on Friday night, punching him in the face and throwing his clothes out of a moving car.
But when police arrived and tried to arrest the two, Mr Bundgaard allegedly cited 'legislative immunity' - which allows senators to avoid arrest for certain crimes while the state legislative body is in session.
The immunity only includes actual arrest and does not exempt state legislators from prosecution at a later stage. Miss Ballard was arrested for domestic violence assault, police said.
According to Mr Bundgaard, he and Miss Ballard, 34, were at a charity 'Dancing with the Stars' event in aid of the AZ Kidney Foundation. Speaking to Fox News, he said Miss Ballard had become jealous after a rumba dance at the event, but did not go into any more detail.
Mr Bundgaard said that after the event, as the couple drove home Miss Ballard threw his things out of the car, punched him and tried to get into the driver’s seat when he stopped at the side of the highway. When Phoenix police arrived on the scene, the Arizona senator was reportedly pulling his girlfriend out of the car.
Reports indicate both Mr Bundgaard and Miss Ballard had marks on their bodies showing they had been in a physical altercation, said Police Department spokesman Sargent Tommy Thompson.
Both were detained, but Mr Bundgaard told officers that under Arizona law he is immune from arrest while the legislature is in session, police said.
Police found Mr Bundgaard could correctly claim immunity, but the case was submitted to prosecutors for review.
It is understood that Mr Bundgaard was a contestant at Friday's function, dancing the rumba with a Miss Rebecca Jowers to raise money for kidney treatments. Mr Bundgaard released a statement saying he was innocent of wrongdoing.
What is 'legislative immunity'?
In the U.S., the Speech or Debate Clause of Article One of the Constitution means members of Congress are immune from arrest in going to and departing from sessions and while Congress is in session. The only exceptions are for cases of 'Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace.'
Legislative immunity derives from the common law theory that began to evolve around 500 years ago from issues arising between the English King and Parliament.
When the U.S. was founded, the Constitution included a provision to create legislative immunity for members of Congress.
Most states of the U.S. have extended this privilege to members of their legislatures based on the above principle.
He said: '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.' He added, ' I waive any and all 'legislative immunity.' If I did something wrong, charge me. I did not.'
Mr Bundgaard is the co-sponsor of controversial Arizona state legislation seeking to challenge the right to U.S. citizenship for children born in the state whose parents are illegal immigrants or other non-citizens.
Speaking to Fox News, attorney Monica Lindstrom said: 'These people are not immune from the charges or the punishment, they're only immune from the actual arrest.
'The arrest is where the officer puts on the matching bracelets - the handcuffs, take you down to the station, take your mugshots, book you into jail and they usually let you go.'
In a statement issued shortly after the alleged incident, Miss Ballard said: 'Last night was the absolute worst night of my life ... 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.'