Former state lawmaker Daniel Patterson claims in a federal lawsuit that his civil rights were violated when he was served with restraining orders and charged with domestic-violence crimes last year.
Patterson, a Democrat, claims the Pima County Sheriff's Office and the Tucson City Attorney ignored his legislative immunity, which he claims should have prevented him from being arrested, or served with restraining orders, in spats with both his then-girlfriend and ex-wife.
The immunity provision outlined in the Arizona Constitution is as follows:
6. Privilege from arrest; civil process
Section 6. 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.
Prosecutors argued at the time that Patterson wasn't actually arrested, and that it was indeed a "breach of the peace."
Patterson was acquitted of the charges anyway, after his then-girlfriend retracted her claims.
"As a result of the criminal prosecution, and the negative publicity generated by the prosecution, Plaintiff's employment prospects were negatively impacted and Plaintiff has suffered severe financial hardship," the lawsuit alleges. "Since this prosecution and the negative publicity surrounding this prosecution, Plaintiff has been unable to find employment in the area of politics or public policy."
The lawsuit also states that Patterson was forced to resign from the House of Representatives "[i]n light of the unfavorable publicity caused by this unfounded prosecution . . ."
However, the domestic-violence allegations didn't lead directly to Patterson's resignation.
The ensuing ethics investigation revealed allegations that Patterson was "excessively rude, disrespectful, unprofessional, and at times physically confrontational" toward people who worked at the capitol. This apparently got so bad that some of his colleagues "have taken actions such as securing a weapon and requesting additional security measures at the Capitol," according to the report.
According to the report, there was a "special House policy" that says no legislative staff members are allowed to meet alone with Patterson. Sometimes he'd start "freaking out" and slam the door to his office to begin "ranting and raving."
One lobbyist claimed Patterson "indicated he would trade his vote on a bill for sex."
The ethics investigators claimed that Patterson had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the ethics complaint, and didn't get that it wasn't all about the domestic-violence claims. Patterson resigned rather than face expulsion, which was recommended by the ethics panel.
Nonetheless, Patterson still claims his legislative immunity was ignored, which led to him being out of a job.
Patterson, claiming civil-rights violations, is seeking damages to be determined at trial.
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