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As the City Turns... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 13 December 2012 06:13

M. TERRY/SFVS

Battery and vandalism charges in a domestic abuse case were dropped against former council member Maribel De La Torre on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

She wasn't exonerated, charges were dropped because former mayor and council member Mario Hernandez didn't show up for court. When asked by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol if they were still romantically involved, De La Torre refused to answer the question.

Meantime, Hernandez failing to show up didn't come as a surprise. Last June, after filing a police report, having his injuries photographed, and claiming that De La Torre in a rage physically assaulted him and destroyed his property, he later had a change of heart and wanted police to lose the report.

De La Torre in turn also filed a police report against Hernandez, saying she acted in self-defense claiming he choked her, causing her to momentarily fall unconscious. She too, wanted San Fernando police to forget her report but the police, citing domestic violence laws, refused. The Los Angeles District Attorney's office after reviewing the evidence believed the case against De La Torre was strong enough to pursue the case and filed charges against her. But without Hernandez in court this week they could not proceed. He went missing.

Whether it was strategy not to have him show up so that the case would be dropped or it was Hernandez' way of avoiding testifying against his girlfriend has yet to be known.

The District Attorney's office released the following statement:

"The case against Maribel De La Torre was dismissed without prejudice this afternoon after Deputy District Attorney Ruby Arias announced that we were unable to proceed. The case was dismissed by San Fernando Superior Court Judge Lesley C. Green, who also dismissed the body attachment [bench warrant] for witness Mario Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez was personally subpoenaed to appear in court on Monday, Dec. 10, for trial of the misdemeanor case. When he failed to appear, a body attachment was issued by the court.

"Judge Green gave the District Attorney's Office every opportunity to find Mr. Hernandez. The District Attorney's Bureau of Investigation conducted the search, which included checking hospitals and other facilities in case the witness was ill or had been injured. He could not be found and it appears that he voluntarily absented himself from the court."

Attorney Arias said investigators went looking for Hernandez at his mother's home Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, but his mother would not allow them to enter the house and said that he wasn't there.

District Attorney's office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said it's not uncommon for victims of domestic violence not to show up in court.

This case would have been tried by a jury that would have considered whether the woman in the relationship was, in fact, the batterer and, if found guilty, punished her for assaulting her partner. De La Torre – who was recalled from office in the Nov. 6 election – smiled and joked with reporters and talked about her shoes as she stood outside of the courthouse with her attorney after the charges were dropped.

She told reporters that Hernandez "needed help." "I spoke to his therapist yesterday morning, and I hope he continues to get the help he needs," she said.

De La Torre was flanked with a small posse of supporters that included former and recently recalled council member Brenda Esqueda and her boyfriend Sgt. Alvaro Castellon, who has been placed on administrative leave by the department along with a couple of community gadflys.

De La Torre said that she wanted to be tried so that she could clear her "good" name. Other potential witnesses may have also been to looking forward to getting on the stand. One of those potential witnesses may have been former interim police chief Gil Carillo, who may have had much to say. He was the chief in charge. Others were speculating that it would have been interesting to hear from De La Torre's exhusband if he was called as a witness.

Her attorney, Robert Steinberg, told media that he believed De La Torre didn't survive the recent recall election because of this case.

"It should have not got this far," he said.

Steinberg said that De La Torre was victimized because she wanted to "reform" the local police department. But when asked by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol why she never during her 12- year tenure on the council, all the way up to the final days of the recall election, ever revealed specific evidence of "police corruption" that she and Esqueda claimed to have, she had no comment.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol attempted to ask De La Torre for a reality check. Wasn't she, in fact, the department's biggest supporter, and some would say an "apologist" for the department during her 12- year tenure?

Again De La Torre did not answer the question, and her attorney advised her not to respond.

With news cameras and microphones at her disposal on Wednesday, that would have been the perfect opportunity for her to publicly reveal the evidence she claimed to have against the San Fernando police department. But her claims of being punished for being a "police reformer" were not explained.

De La Torre also refused to answer whether she was going to have difficulty paying her attorney's bill since she has gone online to start her own defense fund. So far, it appears, she has raised only $50 by the online account.

It's unfortunate. If this was, in fact, a legitimate domestic violence case, it would have been important to hear.

It's been a very tough year for the City of San Fernando. Many are hoping, as the year ends, that this is the last chapter and public attention for of the antics of Hernandez, De La Torre and crew.

And so the city turns...

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Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 06:22