TEA Party Republican, Dark Money Group Leader Charged with Felony Assault on 4-year-old Daughter

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.



22 Comments on "TEA Party Republican, Dark Money Group Leader Charged with Felony Assault on 4-year-old Daughter"

  1. “he would f@#$-ing do it again”

    Is this a direct quote from the official document?

  2. Your use of “dark money” as a negative would be taken seriously if you couldn’t easily search the phrase “Hunters & Anglers” and find numerous past examples of you promoting dark money advertisements against Rehberg during the ’12 cycle here on the blog.

  3. I know a couple of guys that would just love to toss this piss poor excuse of a man around for awhile. I do hope that he does get to Deer Lodge and is greeted on his opening day by Bubba and his buddies.

  4. Timmy, your laughable attempt at redirecting the focus of the article is one of the oldest ruses in the book. The man is accused of felonious assault on a four year old child AND assaulting a woman. Why don’t you defend that action as well? As for the Dark Money connection – this is the kind of leadership the Koch brothers have purchased for Montana. How’s that working out for you?

  5. Tim…are you may chance Tim Ravndal? Sounds like it- spending hundreds of thousands in out-of-state billionnaire Koch brothers funding to block health care for the working poor is despicable.

  6. TYPO- By chance not “May chance”

  7. Priest should READ the Bible, ‘reap what ye sow’…………what a parasite
    who was principle actor who helped KILL medicaid expansion and now
    we see his true colors.

  8. Priest is also responsible for savaging Beth Best, candidate for the MT Supreme Court, thanks to the ‘Dark Priest’s’ dark money and vile actions.

  9. So why bring all this stuff up? The DV incident is all that’s needed to spike his political career dead, just like Will Hammerquist immolated himself. Oh, that’s right, we are trying to create negative associations just like Celinda Lake tells us to.
    No sympathy for Priest, however. There are certain lines not crossed. Now it’s up to a judge and jury, not necessarily trial-by-Gazette, to render whether or not he’s guilty —

  10. Montana Growth Network AKA Montana Growth Foundation and like groups are the demise of this country you yank offs. Priest should be be tried for his own criminal actions but putting that aside, he’s the face of new politics in Montana. He basically pointed the way to personally electing a MT Federal Judge – he and his VP and leaders at MGN. Oh, yah, and those countless secret dollars from in and out of state donors who would like to really remain hidden now. He and his buddies were rich with abusive greedy power and fueled Preist – hope they got their needs met behind closed voting doors. High price. Where is Essman and the county that elected him – resignation request now.

  11. Seems the morally bankrupt leadership team of Priest, Wittich, Essman, Walker and Moore that had the 10 year plan to purge the Republican party of all they disliked has had a setup in the Dark Money department. To quote Wittich “Wonder what will rise from these ashes?” Who will poor Essman goto now for direction on what to think?

  12. March 10th is the filing date. He hasn’t done so and I don’t think he will. He’s finished in Montana politics.

  13. Thanks for posting. I am very concerned, about his WIFE!

  14. If Priest is guilty, as we must always say because the courts will bring out the truth, then he will soon be serving in the penitentiary rather than the legislature. He needs to resign yesterday, but the Republican party doesn’t seem in any rush to make him do so.

    If they don’t, it is a reflection on them. I mean, if Priest doesn’t have to resign for this, just what is it that you have to do in order for for the GOP to ask you to resign.

    Here’s a party passing rules that you must resign if you donate to a democrat – but if you’re jailed and charged with felony assault on a minor, no biggie!

  15. Assaulting women and children? Resisting arrest? Maybe he’s just pandering for Tea Party votes.

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