Battery charge dropped

Former legislator Jorgenson accused of throwing server

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COEUR d'ALENE - A judge has dismissed the case against former Republican state Sen. Mike Jorgenson, who was charged with misdemeanor battery for an incident at his Hayden restaurant.

Jorgenson, 64, of Hayden Lake, was accused of throwing a now-former bartender and server of his restaurant, The Copa, to the ground over a dispute over pay.

City of Coeur d'Alene chief criminal deputy attorney Wes Somerton filed a motion to dismiss the case in court late last week. A judge immediately approved it.

Jorgenson's trial was scheduled for this week.

Somerton said he reviewed the case file, witness statements, a 911 audio recording, security video and information provided upon further investigation, and "there appears to be reasonable doubt as to whether an unlawful battery had occurred," the motion said.

Somerton said Tuesday, "We spent a bunch of time in a very short period of time on (the case)."

The Kootenai County prosecutor's office had been handling the case from the beginning, in early February, but withdrew last week.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Tuesday, "Because I know Mr. Jorgenson, I excluded myself from any involvement in the case and had my criminal chief, Barry Black, provide supervision over the case to avoid any conflict-of-interest concerns."

Recently, Black discovered by viewing the video of the incident that he is acquainted with the alleged victim.

"I thought it best to send the case to the city under the circumstances even though it is late in the process," McHugh said.

Jorgenson's attorney, Robert Romero, said Jorgenson was leading the alleged victim out of the restaurant by the "scruff of the neck" when their legs got tangled up and they tripped and fell to the ground.

"When you see it frame-by-frame you can understand what happened in this incident," Romero said. "Nobody threw anybody against the ground."

He said they are relieved justice was ultimately served.

"We just wish that there would have been a little bit better investigation at the beginning," Romero said. "It was very costly and hurtful to Mike and his business."

Jorgenson, who served three terms in the Idaho Senate, didn't return a call seeking comment.

Jorgenson and his wife, Cynthia, opened The Copa in 2010, located at 9265 N. Government Way.

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