Friday, March 9, 2012
The Tucson Weekly confirmed this morning that State Rep. Daniel Patterson's attorney, Joe St. Louis, claimed legislative immunity yesterday to prevent his client from facing domestic-violence charges until the end of the current legislative season.
According to Tucson City Prosecutor Baird Greene, who confirmed that Patterson was in Tucson City Court yesterday to face four misdemeanor counts involving domestic violence, another hearing has been set next week for St. Louis' legislative immunity argument. However, Greene was not able to confirm the next hearing date.
Patterson pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic-violence assault, domestic-violence disorderly conduct, domestic-violence imprisonment and domestic-violence harassment. The charges stem from a Tucson Police Department investigation on an incident that took place Friday, Feb. 24 at Patterson's home near Santa Rita Park, as well as from additional incidents that took place going into early March.
On Wednesday, March 7, the Tucson Weekly confirmed that Georgette Escobar, Patterson's ex-girlfriend and former campaign manager who accused Patterson of domestic violence on Feb. 24, was arrested on drug charges. She currently waits for arraignment in the La Paz County Jail. La Paz County officials recently confirmed that Escobar faces two felony drug counts, one involving possession of a dangerous drug, and the other possession of drug paraphernalia.
Over the past two weeks, Patterson and St. Louis have attempted to discredit Escobar through the release of tweets and an investigation on Escobar's previous criminal charges. The investigation commissioned by St. Louis included the release of Escobar's real name, which she told the Tucson Weekly was legally changed in order to protect her identity from an estranged husband who she claims brutally abused her.
Greene said he couldn't comment on Escobar's current charges, but he said she still has rights to be protected by the system, and that the charges brought up against Patterson and the TPD investigation is an attempt to honor her rights.
Regarding legislative immunity, Greene said his office is prepared to argue against that based on how it is defined in the state Constitution: "Members of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, and they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement of each session. (Article IV, part 2, section 6.)."
Domestic violence could fall under the "breach of peace" category. Greene said that during the hearing St. Louis never explained why domestic violence is an exception.