A Montana state senator faces up to five years in prison after being charged Feb. 12 with assaulting his 4-year-old daughter, estranged wife and her boyfriend, and struggling with a police officer who intervened in the incident.
This morning's Missoulian reports that 45-year-old Jason Priest appeared in prison garb via video from the Yellowstone County Jail and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He faces a felony count of assault on a minor and misdemeanor counts of family member assault and resisting arrest.
The Republican state senator was elected to the Montana Legislature in 2010 and serves as the chairman of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.
Priest's wife told police that her husband grabbed their daughter like a "sack of potatoes" and threw her back into the house when the child tried to flee from the altercation. Prosecutors say Priest later told police that he became upset with his youngest daughter because she made disparaging comments about him and said she wanted to be with her mother and the mother's boyfriend.
According to court documents, Priest told police, "When your wife is acting like white trash in front of your children it's not easy to always maintain your composure."
Priest is set for a court date Thursday, Feb. 20.