As KTVQ Billings reports, court documents “filed in Carbon County District Court by Assistant Attorney General Mary E. Cochenour, show Priest is accused of grabbing his 4-year-old daughter and throwing her to the ground, causing an injury to her scalp.”
UPDATE: The Carbon County News has the most detailed account of this incident as reported in court documents so far. For example, I’m not sure what to make of this statement “The court documents noted that Priest was wearing only socks even though there was snow on the ground and approximately 10 degrees.”
Priest now faces four charges, including alleged felony assault on a minor. The Montana Republican party has not asked Priest to resign from his seat in the Montana legislature. Senate President Jeff Essmann has only asked that Priest “step back” from his legislative duties.
As the Billings Gazette reports, Priest became upset when his youngest daughter said she wanted to be with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend instead of him.
Court documents show that all three of Priest’s children and his wife say he threw the youngest daughter to the ground, injuring her scalp. Priest denies this, but not “forcibly removing” his wife and her boyfriend (resulting in the man’s broken rib). Court documents say that Priest said “he would f@#$-ing do it again” and that “when your wife is acting like white trash in front of your children, it’s not easy to always maintain your composure.”
Priest is an important figure because he is the leader of dark money group working against the Medicaid expansion in Montana. He’s also the rebel leader in the civil war within the Republican Party. He runs a dark money group called Montana Growth Network, which tries to defeat moderates and take over the Montana Supreme Court, and attack legislators he thought might support health coverage for the working poor.
In classic wingnut style, he served as Chair of the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee and as vice-Chair of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services during the 2013 legislature and is said to be seeking a leadership position in the 2015 session. Priest told the Stillwater County News before his arrest that he plans to run in Senate District 29.
He also has a history of bigoted comments about LGBT people. Priest is the lawmaker who was forced to apologize for anti-gay remarks he made on his Facebook page, the Billings Gazette reported. Priest used his “hateful, homophobic talk” to argue his dislike for paying taxes.
Then there was the time during his 2010 campaign for the state legislature when Priest spoke to group of Tea Party followers, apparently unaware of a running camera. Priest said,
“I live in Red Lodge where I’m that guy that nobody agrees with, and I don’t mind. I have to talk to them about things that are important to them in ways that aren’t offensive to them. That’s a good lesson to learn. I would rather tell them they’re insane… Is that camera on?”
Priest has also taken heat for using his dark money group to lead the charge against Medicaid coverage for the working poor. Some of his considerable wealth has come from auctioning off the medical debt of people who can’t afford health care.
An interesting letter to the editor was published in the Billings Gazette during the 2011 legislative session which asks about the potential conflict of interest incurred by state Senator Jason Priest. Priest sponsored a bill that could reap financial benefits for the medical debt collection industry he comes from and lead the effort to block tens of thousands of working poor Montanans from getting health coverage through Medicaid–even though the federal government would pick up most of the tab.
For years Sen. Priest was the CEO of a company that specialized in collecting unpaid medical debts owed to hospitals. The LTE reads:
State Sen. Jason Priest is the founder and president of Medipent, a New York company that relies on the huge mountain of personal debt generated by our broken health care system for its existence. Yet, as a representative of the people, he aligns himself in opposition to health care reform — a program that intends to eliminate the debt that sustains him and his company. How is his involvement not a conflict of interest?
Shortly after the Cowgirl blog reported that Priest was incarcerated, the Billings Gazette reported they had confirmed that Priest had been booked into the jail in the middle of the night.