Senator's Wife In Mulch Melée

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and his wife Wanda attend the Rankin Run in Great Falls, Mont., Sunday, Sept. 19, 1999. Baucus, who was the official starter for the event, also competed in the five-mile race.
The wife of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was arraigned on assault charges Wednesday following a dispute at a Northwest Washington garden center.

Wanda Baucus, 56, was charged after a dispute Tuesday with a woman who was having mulch loaded into her car by an employee at Johnson's Nursery, said District of Columbia police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile. Baucus was apparently upset that she wasn't getting help having some mulch loaded into her car and the other woman was.

Witnesses told police that Baucus put a bag of mulch behind the victim's car, preventing her from leaving, Gentile said. The two exchanged words, and Baucus allegedly hit Tierney Barron, 44, several times while Barron sat in her car.

Wanda Baucus' attorney, David Schertler, declined Wednesday to discuss the case in detail, but said he disagreed with police and witness version of events.

"Based on what we know, we do not believe that there was any kind of criminal assault in this case and we don't believe there was any basis for the charges," he said.

Schertler, however, told The Washington Post, there was some kind of assault.

"Our version of events is that the alleged victim attempted to drive her car into Mrs. Baucus," the attorney told "Reliable Source" columnist Richard Leiby. "But there's no mention of that in the police report, and you have to wonder about that. I'm not sure the report has all the material facts in it."

Baucus turned herself in on Wednesday and was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor. She was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court, where she was released on her own recognizance. She was also ordered to stay away from the victim and the garden center.

Barrett Kaiser, a spokesman for the senator, declined comment Wednesday, referring all calls to Schertler.

In a written statement, Baucus said only that there was a "situation" involving his wife.

"We are trying to sort it out, going through the proper channels," he said. "I stand by her 110 percent, and she has my full support."

Wanda Baucus is an anthropologist and painter who told court officials at her arraignment she now works on the Senate staff.

Ironically, Baucus and Montana's junior senator, Republican Conrad Burns, have introduced legislation to designate Sept. 26 as "Good Neighbor Day."

Earlier this year, Sen. Max Baucus underwent emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, apparently caused by a fall he took in a race in November.