Crime Watch

Feb 3, 2014 3:30 PM by Q2 News

State senator denies assault, resisting arrest charges

BILLINGS - State Sen. Jason Priest pleaded not guilty Monday in Red Lodge City Court to misdemeanor charges following his arrest over the weekend.

Priest, 45, appeared in court by video from the Yellowstone County jail on charges of partner or family member assault and resisting arrest.

Judge Steve Muth set bond at $1,500.

According to court records, Priest was arrested Saturday at about 8 p.m. when an officer was sent to his residence. Citations issued in the case allege Priest "used physical force to push wife away" and then fought with an officer who was trying to arrest him.

The officer identified himself several times and asked Priest to stop resisting, according to the citation.

Red Lodge City Attorney Hope Freeman said she asked the judge to remove language from the assault citation that stated Priest also pushed his daughter down to the floor. The judge granted that request, Freeman said. The prosecutor said she will review the case further when she receives the police reports.

Freeman said that during his video court appearance, Priest indicated he would be represented in the case by Billings attorney Vern Woodward.

Priest was released from the jail later Monday afternoon.

Priest is a Republican who represents Senate District 30 in Red Lodge. He was elected to a four-year term in 2010 and is the chairman of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

Senate President Jeff Essmann said he hasn't spoken with Priest but will ask him to "step back from his legislative duties and discuss his continued participation in the business of the Montana Senate from the perspective of what is in the best interests of his family, himself and his constituents."

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