Former state senator arrested

Jorgenson faces misdemeanor battery charge

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Former state Sen. Mike Jorgenson was arrested Tuesday afternoon at his restaurant, The Copa in Hayden, for investigation of misdemeanor battery.

An incident report from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department said Jorgenson, 64, allegedly grabbed an employee by the jacket and threw him to the ground over a money dispute.

Jorgenson declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, referring questions to his attorney, Robert Romero, in Coeur d'Alene.

Jorgenson was released from the Kootenai County jail at 7:25 p.m. Tuesday, after being booked and processed, a sheriff's department official said. His bond was $300.

The alleged victim, identified as Benjamin Chavez III, 41, told deputies he found out his wages had been cut when picking up his paycheck late Tuesday.

"Basically, what he did was lower my wages without telling me," Chavez said in an interview with The Press Wednesday.

"He's been so horrible about paying people," including vendors, Chavez said.

He said his hourly wage had been $10, but on his check this week some hours were paid at either just over $4 or just over $7.

Chavez told deputies "that he attempted to talk with Jorgenson about the money dispute, but Jorgenson became enraged, rushed him saying, 'get out,' then grabbed him and threw him to the ground," the incident report said. The incident occurred just before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"He was trying to beat me up," Chavez said.

He said Jorgenson was yelling at him: "You're done, you're over."

Chavez complained to deputies of a sore head from striking the floor, but refused medical attention.

He said Jorgenson had him on the ground and was "shaking my head so it was hitting the bar that holds up a table."

He said he has a bump on his head.

A bartender told deputies he had to pull Jorgenson off Chavez.

Two other employees described Jorgenson as the aggressor in the scuffle.

"Both indicated Jorgenson has quite the temper, especially if he has been drinking alcohol," according to the report.

The report noted that Jorgenson's eyes "were extremely bloodshot." Jorgenson reported having a "small amount" of wine from a vendor who had been in The Copa earlier that day.

Jorgenson told deputies Chavez fell down when Jorgenson grabbed his jacket and told him to get out of the restaurant.

Jorgenson refused to let deputies review surveillance video captured of the incident.

"No, you'll have to get a court order to see that," he allegedly told deputies, according to the report.

A third witness said Jorgenson threw Chavez to the ground, but that witness "was fearful to speak with us due to Jorgenson possibly retaliating against her," the report said.

Chavez's wife was present and reported that Jorgenson was the aggressor and threw Chavez to the ground.

Jorgenson told deputies he had recently informed his staff that he was cutting everyone's wages.

"Jorgenson said he would be reducing all of their pay to minimum wage, as he is nearly bankrupt," the report said.

Jorgenson said when Chavez picked up his check he was yelling and using profanities. Chavez said in the interview he confronted Jorgenson in private, then Jorgenson followed him out into the restaurant.

Jorgenson told deputies Chavez has reported him to the Idaho Department of Labor for two previous disputes, "so it's been making Jorgenson upset with Chavez as he feels Chavez is just causing trouble," the incident report said.

Jorgenson, of Hayden Lake, served three terms in the Idaho Senate.

He lost a bid for a fourth term to current state Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens.

One year as a senator, Jorgenson was named legislator of the year by law enforcement.

Jorgenson tried to make a comeback last year and challenge Vick, but lost in the May primary.

Jorgenson and his wife, Cynthia, opened The Copa in 2010, "providing a congenial and gracious atmosphere for fine dining," according to his recent campaign website. The restaurant is located at 9265 N. Government Way.

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