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De La Torre Trial Continued Until Dec. 10 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 01 November 2012 07:18

MIKE TERRY/SFVS

San Fernando City Councilmember Maribel De La Torre, accompanied by her attorney Robert Steinberg, departs the San Fernando Courthouse on Wednesday, Oct. 31, following a continuance in her battery trial.

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The criminal case against San Fernando City Councilmember Maribel De La Torre, scheduled to begin today, Nov.1, was continued until Dec. 10.

Judge Lacey C. Green granted the motion to continue the trial on Wednesday, Oct. 31, as both parties – prosecutor Kathy Lee from the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, and defense attorney Robert Steinberg – said they needed the testimony of City Administrator Al Hernandez, who left the country for a vacation in Europe.

Steinberg additionally sought sanctions against Hernandez, who had been subpoenaed to appear, saying he knew of the pending trial date and should have been ready to appear in court. But Judge Green basically gave the defense the option of quashing the subpoena and eliminating the testimony, or continuing the trial and having Hernandez appear.

"The ball is in your court," Judge Green said to Steinberg, who then agreed to a continuance.

De La Torre faces battery charges following a physical fight with former mayor and fellow councilmember Mario Hernandez on June 28th of this year. She has pled not guilty, and faces a maximum of two years in prison and a $3,000 fine if convicted.

Last November Mario Hernandez, who is married, publicly acknowledged having an affair with De La Torre during a council meeting while his wife was sitting in the front row of the council chambers.

The incident of domestic violence took place at Mario Hernandez' residence, according to a San Fernando Police Department report. Mario Hernandez – who was leaving on a weekend retreat -- claimed that De La Torre choked him and told him that he "wasn't going anywhere," and also stated she "could f____in' kill him." He eventually filed a police report, and photographs were taken of bruising around his face and neck.

De La Torre also filed a police report, claiming Mario Hernandez had pinned her down and knocked her unconscious.

Both parties later sought restraining orders against each other, but dropped them.

Mario Hernandez resigned from his council seat on July 10. He also tried to recant the filed police report, but was told by then SFPD Chief Gil Carrillo that police are now mandated to take action when they see evidence of battery or domestic violence. Afterward, Carrillo was fired.

After reviewing the police report, the District Attorney's office decided to proceed with the case.

In court, both attorneys said testimony by the city administrator would be "crucial" to the case.

Lee said that Al Hernandez was one of the first people Mario Hernandez called after the altercation took place, and told Al Hernandez what happened. She also said that De La Torre also called Al Hernandez, but described the conversation as "pleasant."

"She talked of city business, a JC Penney rally and other matters, not what occurred," Lee said.

"[Al] Hernandez is a 'fresh complaint' witness. His testimony is crucial as circumstantial evidence, and he is the only witness who can testify."

Steinberg also sought Al Hernandez as a witness, for different reasons.

He said the city administrator was responsible for the investigation of the police officers who handled Mario Hernandez' filed complaint, and the restraining order, and when and how De La Torre was to surrender to authorities. Steinberg indicated he plans to challenge whether proper procedures were followed.

But he also hammered the point that Hernandez should have appeared in court on Wednesday and be ready for the start of trial on Nov. 1

"We were ready for trial," Steinberg said outside the courtroom. "Except Mr. [Al] Hernandez went on a cruise and disobeyed the subpoena.

"Mr. Hernandez is a crucial witness for the DA and for us…and he know of this hearing a month ago. I asked the judge to impose sanctions on him, and she decided not to."

In an interview published in San Fernando Sun/El Sol last week, Al Hernandez acknowledged that he was aware that he was needed in the court case. "I am on both of their lists, De La Torre's and the DA's," he said.

Al Hernandez chuckled but sounded serious when he said, "I'll be real unhappy if I don't get to take my trip.

I hope when I return from my trip all of this will all have died down."

Judge Green also told all parties to appear on Dec.6 to show their readiness to start the trial on Dec. 10.

De La Torre, Mario Hernandez, and Mayor Brenda Esqueda all face a recall election on Nov. 6.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 01 November 2012 07:29