Arizona Capitol

Arizona Lawmaker Denies Details of 2001 Domestic-Violence Report, Claims Political Hit

State Rep. Sonny Borrelli defended himself on Monday regarding scathing details in a recently published 2001 police report, including the allegation that he punched his wife in the face.

Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) was arrested in the incident and later convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct — facts he now calls "old news." He fumed that the report and a corresponding article published in the Arizona Capitol Times on Monday was a political hit driven by Ron Gould, his Republican opponent in the August 30 primary election.

Borrelli and Gould, a state senator, are engaged in a battle for the state senate seat in Legislative District Five.

Gould didn't immediately return a call requesting comment for this story. But in a brief statement he gave to the article's author, Ben Giles, Gould said, "The voters of Mohave and La Paz counties deserve better than a wife-beater as a senator."

When reached by New Times on Monday, Borelli said he was preparing for a political debate with Gould but agreed to address the allegations and the article.

"This is such fucking bullshit," said Borrelli, a retired U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who served from 1977 to 1999. "Ron Gould's supporters have been after me."

A seasoned politician who now chairs the House Military Affairs and Public Safety committee, Borrelli says the wife-beating story comes up every two years, like clockwork, right around election time.

Giles wrote that "[w]hile Borrelli addressed his guilty plea in a low-profile radio show in 2014, the 2001 incident has not otherwise been reported on, though according to Borrelli, it’s been spoken of on the campaign trail."

Borrelli resigned his seat from the Lake Havasu City Council in 2012 to run for the Legislature. Now in his second term as a lawmaker and running for the state senate, Borrelli says he's confident that voters will see the release of the report as little more than a pre-primary smear.

Yet the 2001 police report — published along with Giles' story and attached below — contains disturbing details that can't be fully explained away.

Borrelli and his ex-wife, who isn't named in the report, had gone out socializing the night of March 24, 2001, and had left the ex's 12-year-old son — whom Borrelli had been helping to raise since the boy was 6 — to babysit his younger brother, who was Borrelli's child from a different mother. The couple came home to Borrelli's Lake Havasu City home and soon began squabbling in their bedroom.

The older boy looked out of his own room and saw his stepfather punch his mom in the mouth and face three times with a closed fist, according to the report. She picked up a crutch and swung it at her husband, but he blocked her. She went into the kitchen and called 911, but Borrelli took the phone out of her hand, told the operator everything was fine, and hung up. The two resumed arguing. When the 911 operator called back, Borrelli and his stepson picked up the call on two different phones. Borrelli went to his son's room and removed the phone cord from the handset, the report says.

The boy said that his mother and stepfather continued fighting, and that he saw Borrelli push his mother, causing her to fall onto a video poker machine in the living room.

"His mom could not get up for a few moments and crawled across the floor," the report says.

She called to her son to call 911 again, and he did. That's when Borrelli allegedly came crashing through the boy's door, damaging the doorframe before ripping the phone out of the wall. He told the boy to wake up his younger brother, and that they were leaving. The boy found his brother awake and crying.

The police arrived as Borrelli walked into the garage to leave with the boys. One officer drew his firearm and ordered Borrelli to keep his hands where they could be seen. Borrelli didn't comply immediately but soon became cooperative.

Borrelli's ex-wife told police she didn't know why he'd gotten so angry. She admitted she was drunk.

"That totally looks horrible, on the surface," Borrelli admits of the police report.

As he recalls, nothing started a fight. His ex-wife was drunk and had a "meltdown" and a "tantrum" and was hitting herself, he says.

He says he never punched his ex-wife and that she probably coached his son to say he had. The boy is now a man in the Marine Corps and would likely back up his dad's version of events if he was here, Borrelli maintains.

"She swung a crutch at me," he says. "I disarmed her. She probably got an elbow — something like that."

Borrelli says he hung up the phone because "it looks bad already. Whoever calls 911 first wins. She's a lying bitch."

The doorframe, he insists, was broken prior to that night by his ex-wife.

Borrelli was booked on suspicion of assault. He later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a $300 fine. It was either that, he says, or spend thousands fighting the charge. He was also in a legal battle with another ex-wife at the time over a different child. He never lost custody of his third child, even after a judge reviewed the March 2001 arrest, he says.

He and his ex divorced in 2013.

"I took one for the team. I handled it like a man," he says of the way he resolved the matter. "How many times do I have to pay for a misdemeanor?"

The answer may depend on how many times he runs for office.

Read the 2001 police report here:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.