Let’s say Person A calls the police and says “My partner hit me.” The police come to the house and the caller is there with a black eye and a puffy, bloody lip. The partner refuses to say anything to police. That constitutes probable cause to arrest and charge the partner. Why? Because they have the allegation of violence by Person A, corroboration of that allegation (the black eye and split lip) and the opportunity on the part of the partner to commit the offense. But that’s not what happened in the Scott Bundgaard case in Arizona, about which I’ve written once before. Here’s the latest (Arizona Central, 6/11/11). It seems that back last February, Bundgaard and his girlfriend, Aubrey Ballard, went to a gala to raise funds for kidney research. Bundgaard is a state senator and doubtless his name lent a certain something to the proceedings. I imagine he thought it would be a good vote-getter too.
But according to Bundgaard, Ballard got drunk and jealous of his dancing with another woman. On the way home, he says, she attacked him in a jealous rage, resulting in a black eye and a split lip. Moreover, she attacked him while he was driving his car on the highway. He said he stopped the car, fended off her blows, got out of the car and dragged her out with him. A number of motorists witnessed that part of the incident and called the police who arrived on the scene and arrested Ballard. Because he’s a state senator and the legislature was in session, Bundgaard was immune from arrest. The coverage by the Arizona Republic has been one-sided from the start. It’s hard to read the many articles about the case and not see the workings of political opportunism. The newspaper is not exactly Bundgaard’s closest political ally in the state which may explain its uniformly pro-Ballard coverage of the incident. And then there’s the local NOW affiliate that leapt immediately to call for Bundgaard’s resignation or ouster by the Arizona Senate. Hey, what are naked allegations for if not to run a political opponent out of office? Fortunately all and sundry have ignored the fevered mutterings of the guilty-until-proven-innocent crowd. What the Arizona Republic blog piece tells us is that Bundgaard, but not Ballard, has been criminally charged in the incident. He’s charged with two misdemeanors, one for assault and one for endangerment. That brings me back to my opening paragraph describing probable cause. Put simply, the police and prosecutors have enough to charge Ballard, but have refused to do so. A state senator has told them Ballard initiated the incident and he had the injuries to prove it. He also has photographs of his face taken shortly afterwards. And of course Ballard was in the car with him at the time. So why no charges of domestic violence against her? Phoenix city prosecutors are reticent on the subject.
[City prosecutor Aaron] Carreón-Aínsa wouldn’t explain why Bundgaard’s injuries — a black eye, several cuts and a swollen lip — didn’t warrant charges against Ballard.
“We make a decision just on the evidence, what can we prove,’ he said.
Apparently not. After all, he’s got a very provable case. A slam dunk? No. Ballard could easily claim self-defense and be found not guilty, but every case the possibility of defeat. So the decision not to prosecute Ballard has a distinctive odor about it. Meanwhile, Bundgaard isn’t talking, but a friend called the charges against him “beyond absurd.” My guess is that Bundgaard will probably be convicted. This isn’t a he-said/she-said case. Prosecutors have five witnesses against him. The fact that what seems to have happened is that he pulled a drunk, violent woman from the car who then fell on her knees would suggest a case that sensible prosecutors would ignore. But the charges here are domestic violence and the accuser is a woman so, if the past be prologue, he’s the one charged. ‘Twas ever thus. Somehow police and prosecutors just can’t seem to wrap their brains around the concept that women commit domestic violence. The fact that Ballard almost certainly did in this case would urge charges on more sensible lawyers, but not these. And while I’m at it, I may as well point out that this is not just your run-of-the-mill DV case. Those generally happen inside a dwelling; this one happened in a moving automobile, rendering Ballard’s aggression far more dangerous than most. She endangered not only Bundgaard and herself, but nearby motorists as well. That too seems to have escaped the notice of the Phoenix city attorney’s office.