Irate Ex-Lawmaker Sues Sheriff in Arizona

TUCSON (CN) - A former state lawmaker sued top Tucson and Pima County officials, claiming they violated his legislative immunity by serving him with two orders of protection and charging him with four misdemeanors after he fought with his girlfriend.
     Daniel Patterson resigned last year from the Arizona State House amid publicity from the incident, and after an ethics investigation recommended that he be expelled.
     Now Patterson has sued the Pima County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the City of Tucson and Tucson City Attorney Michael Rankin, in Federal Court.
     He claims they violated his civil rights and deprived him of his right to legislative immunity guaranteed by the Arizona Constitution.
     Patterson claims the negative press coverage of the incident and his subsequent legal troubles have left him in financial ruin and "unable to find employment in the area of politics or public policy."
     Patterson, a Democrat from Tucson, allegedly had an altercation with live-in girlfriend Georgette Escobar in February 2012 that came to the attention of police when a neighbor reported that Patterson had hit Escobar and knocked her to the ground.
     Police did not make an arrest at the time, but Pima County Sheriff's Department deputies later served him with an order of protection taken out by Escobar, and a second order taken out by his ex-wife.
     The Tucson City Attorney then charged Patterson with misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct, unlawful imprisonment and harassment.
     Patterson claims he should not have been served or charged, because the Legislature was still in session.
     "Article 4 Part 2 Section 6 of the Arizona Constitution states that members of the Legislature shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the Legislature," Patterson says in his lawsuit.
     Patterson claims that deputies ignored his claims for legislative immunity and served him anyway, and even "used their vehicles to block plaintiff's vehicle and in order to prevent him from backing out of his driveway."
     He claims that the misdemeanor charges, of which he was later acquitted, also violated his right to legislative immunity.
     Patterson claims that Escobar recanted her allegations of domestic abuse, but that the illegal prosecution continued and forced him to resign.
     "In light of the unfavorable publicity caused by this unfounded prosecution, plaintiff was forced to resign his elected position in the Arizona House of Representatives," he says in the complaint.
     However, according to the 33-page investigative report submitted to the Arizona House of Representatives Ethics Committee March 30, 2012, Patterson's relationship and legal troubles were only the latest in a series of incidents involving his allegedly explosive temper and "dishonesty."
     The report, completed by the law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker after a two-week investigation, recommended that Patterson be kicked out of the Legislature.
     "Our investigation has confirmed that Rep. Patterson has a long history of being excessively rude, disrespectful, unprofessional, and at times physically confrontational, toward his colleagues both within and outside the House chambers," the report states.
     The report includes a long list of allegations against Patterson, including that he frequently used marijuana and tried to trade a vote for sex with a lobbyist.
     "Rep. Patterson has engaged in a pattern of dishonesty and untruthfulness beyond tolerable political puffery and more personally sinister than typical political discourse among devoted and head-strong politicians advocating for their positions and for their constituents," the report states.
     Tucson and the Pima County Sheriff's Department did not immediately return requests for comments over the weekend.
     Patterson seeks punitive damages for alleged constitutional violations.
     He is represented by Paul Gattone in Tucson.