AZ Sen. Pearce Accused Of Spousal Abuse, Fought Against Domestic Violence Protections For Women

June 23, 2010 9:52 am ET

SB 1070 author Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) is largely responsible for the current anti-immigrant law in Arizona.  His determination to target a specific population through legislation is not a new development, however. In 2002, Pearce worked to protect men accused of domestic violence from restraining orders, opposed stiffer penalties for men who assault pregnant women, and took strong stands against the safety of women in Arizona. These backward positions on domestic violence law reflect Pearce's own experience. According to police reports and court documents, Pearce broke down his first wife's door in front of witnesses and allegedly grabbed his second wife by the neck and threw her to the floor.

June 1974: Police Report Filed After Pearce Broke Down First Wife's Door

1974: Pearce Broke Down His Wife's Front Door. According to a 1974 police report, Russell Pearce went to his estranged wife's apartment and enlisted the help of building manager Angel Romero in gaining access to her:

"Pearce said that he has known for some time that his wife has been having an affair with and furnishing beer to Burden," reads the report, typed up by an Officer Myers. "He said that tonight he had caught her and he wanted charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor filed against her. He mentioned that this would aid him in getting custody of their children."

...Romero said that Pearce had identified himself as a deputy Sheriff, and claimed that he wanted to check on his wife's well being.

"Romero said he told Russell that he did not want to let him in," the report states, "but that Russell said he was Karen's legal husband and that he had a right to go in and check on her."

So Romero accompanied Pearce to the door of Karen's apartment. (They were living in separate residences at this time.) And that's when all hell broke loose. Romero told Mesa police that he unlocked the door, but there was a chain lock on it. Pearce then "hit the door pulling the chain lock screws from the jamb and barged into the apartment." He searched the place, but no one was present save for his wife.

"Romero said that there was no one else in the apartment and that it became clear to him that Russell's only purpose for entering the apartment was to attempt to catch Karen with someone else," wrote Officer Myers. "Romero was upset because Russell had broken the chain lock. Also, a hole had been knocked in the hollow core door and Romero believes Russell did that when he hit the door. Small broken pieces of the door were on the walk directly below the door."

Romero and Pearce argued about the door, with Romero claiming that Pearce busted it up, and Pearce countering that the door's damage was due to the door being "cheap." [...]

"Romero and his wife complained of Russell spending a great deal of time in the apartment building parking lot," Myers stated in the document. "They said that he comes around the apartments often in his patrol car and parks to try to catch Karen with someone."

[Police Report via Phoenix New Times blogs, 8/13/08; read the original report here]

February 1980: Pearce's Second Wife Filed For Divorce, Citing Abuse

AZ State Senator Russell Pearce Was Accused Of Domestic Violence. According to the Arizona Republic: "In a public document dated 1980 the state representative's [now state senator's] wife Luanne wants a divorce and goes on to claim Russell [Pearce] often beats her and shoves her. One incident in February details a clash at their former Mesa home where Luanne says Russell grabbed her by the throat and threw her down. Pearce did not comment on the document." [Arizona Republic, 7/23/08]

February 1980: Lu Anne Pearce Filed For Divorce Citing A Physical Attack By Russell Pearce, Before Case Was Dropped.  On February 5, 1980, Lu Anne Pearce filed for "dissolution of marriage" from Russell Pearce with the "Superior Court of the State of Arizona."  The document read, in part: "Further, the husband, RUSSELL KEITH PEARCE, is possessed of a violent temper, and has from time to time hit and shoved the wife, the last time being on February 3rd, when he grabbed the wife by the throat and threw her down." [Maricopa County, AZ Superior Court, Page 4, 2/5/80]

  • Pearce Divorce "Dismissed Without Prejudice For Lack Of Prosecution." The last page of the Pearce divorce document appears to be from the month of December and reads, in part: "It appearing that this case has been on the inactive calendar for a period of two months or more, IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that said case be dismissed without prejudice for lack of prosecution." [Maricopa County, AZ Superior Court, Page 8]

2002: Pearce Actively Worked Against Providing For The Safety Of Women

Sponsored A Bill To Make It More Difficult For Women To Obtain Restraining Orders

HB 2472 Would Have Made Obtaining An Order Of Protection Harder And More Dangerous.  According to the Associated Press:  "A bill scheduled to be heard next week by a House committee could make it harder - and allegedly more dangerous - to obtain orders of protection against domestic violence. The bill (HB2472) also would make other significant changes to laws on domestic violence, including adding a new requirement for jury trials in abuse cases and making certain non-violent acts no longer qualify as grounds for judges to issue orders of protection. The legislation also would prohibit the people who take out the orders from disobeying the orders' terms." [Associated Press, 2/8/02, via LexisNexis]

Bill Sponsor, Russell Pearce, Argued The Current Law Favored Women Over Men.  The Associated Press reported: "Orders of protection typically require a person to avoid contact with another person, usually a spouse or partner, often by prohibiting them from going to a residence and work place. Advocates for domestic violence victims argue that the orders help protect women who have been abused or likely face abuse, particularly if they are breaking off a relationship. However, the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, argues that the current system is too one-sided, allowing abuses in which a wife may get an order by making false allegations against her husband merely to get a leg up in divorce or child-custody proceedings." [Associated Press, 2/8/02, via LexisNexis; emphasis added]

Pearce Wanted Both Parties Present During Hearing For Orders Of Protection.  According to the Associated Press:  "Unlike in many adversarial court proceedings, a person can go to court to ask a judge to issue an order of protection without having the other spouse or partner present. Even if an order is later dismissed after the person named requests a hearing, 'the mere fact that it was issued works against you in a child custody case,' Pearce said. Pearce's bill would specify that a judge could issue an order of protection only if there was a hearing involving both sides or a police report citing 'reasonable cause' that the defendant had committed or may commit domestic violence." [Associated Press, 2/8/02, via LexisNexis]

Failed Order Of Protection Bill Would Have Forced Women To Face Their Abusers In Court.  The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence wrote in its 2002 Legislative Summary:

The most detrimental bill was HB 2472, introduced by Rep. Russell Pearce (R-29). This bill stated that victims would be charged with allegedly "inviting" the defendant to violate the order. In addition, it removed a victim's ability to have an ex parte hearing, where the abuser does not have to be present, when petitioning for an OP [order of protection]. Therefore, a person would have to face their abuser in court in order to gain protection. Thankfully, this bill went nowhere. After many repeated attempts, the bill failed to move through the process. [Mag.Maricopa.gov, 6/24/02]

Order Of Protection Bill Would Have Prosecuted Plaintiffs.  In its 2002 Legislative Summary, the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence described HB 2472:

Increases availability of jury trials to a criminal action which could result in any jail time or suspension of civil rights (now must be more than a year). Strikes 13-2810, Interfering with Judicial Proceedings, as a domestic violence crime. Prohibits ex parte orders and requires a hearing on every Order of Protection. A police report can be used to verify reasonable cause. If the plaintiff knowingly violates any terms or conditions listed on the Order of Protection, the order shall apply to the Plaintiff and the plaintiff may be arrested and prosecuted for interfering with judicial proceedings and any other crimes that occurred.  [Mag.Maricopa.gov, 6/24/02]

Voted Against Harsher Sentences For Those "Accused Of Beating A Pregnant Woman"

2002: Pearce Voted Against Increasing Penalties For Assaulting Pregnant Women.  According to the Arizona Republic, in 2002 Pearce "was the lone vote against a bill that would increase the sentence for anyone accused of beating a pregnant woman." [Arizona Republic, 7/23/08, emphasis added]

  • Arizona SB 1050 Enhanced Sentences For Those Committing Violence Against Pregnant Women. According to the 2002 Arizona State Legislature: "SB 1050 makes changes to inconsistencies in statutes that prescribe when a modified injunction against harassment or order of protection is effective. The bill also makes clarifying changes to enhanced sentencing for domestic violence crimes against pregnant victims." Including a provision distinguishing "between the sentence enhancement allowed for domestic violence misdemeanors and felonies when the victim is pregnant." [AZLeg.State.AZ.us, SB 1050, 4/17/02]

Voted Against Complying With The Violence Against Women Act

2002: Pearce Voted Against A Provision That Would Have Kept AZ Compliant With The Violence Against Women's Act.  The Arizona Republic reported that "in 2002 [Pearce] voted against a bill that would eliminate the fees for orders of protection for victims. This bill had to pass in order for Arizona to be compliant with Federal law, the Violence Against Women's Act."  [Arizona Republic, 7/23/08, emphasis added]

  • Arizona SB 1394 Removed Fee Required To Obtain An Order Of Protection. According to the 2002 Arizona State Legislature, SB 1394 "Removes service of process fees for all orders of protection and injunctions against harassment." The history of the legislation was included as: "The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requires that fees for service of process on all orders of protection and injunctions against harassment be statutorily removed in order to ensure continued federal funding of Arizona programs after October 2002. Last year Arizona received an estimated $6.5 million in VAWA monies." [AZLeg.gov, SB 1394, 5/9/02]
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