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Ex-San Fernando councilman wants charges dropped against ex-lover

July 16, 2012 |  4:25 pm

Former San Fernando councilman wants charges against ex-lover dropped

Former San Fernando Councilman Mario Hernandez, who resigned his post after his affair with Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre turned acrimonious last month, said Monday he wants prosecutors to drop charges of battery and vandalism against his ex-lover and is blaming police for pursuing the case.

It is the latest turn in a tempestuous relationship first revealed by Hernandez last November when he announced at a City Council meeting that he and De la Torre were having an affair. He made the announcement while his wife was sitting in the front row at the council meeting. Since then, the pair -- along with Mayor Brenda Esqueda -- have become the target of a recall election.

The relationship turned messy last month, with Hernandez calling police about De la Torre's alleged violence in a June 28 incident and then each getting restraining orders labeling the other the aggressor. 

The Los Angeles district attorney's office said that whether De la Torre continues to face charges will be a decision for prosecutors based on evidence in the case. 

Sandi Gibbons, the D.A.'s spokeswoman, said the office will pursue a case of domestic violence in which a victim stops cooperating as long as there is evidence to prove an assault.

De La Torre was charged Friday with vandalism -- for allegedly destroying Hernandez's laptop computer and a picture frame -- and with battery after allegedly attempting to strangle Hernandez.

Just four days after the incident, the City Council -- with De La Torre abstaining and Hernandez absent -- fired interim Police Chief Gil Carrillo, who was overseeing the investigation.

"To prosecute her for this, it would be a circus," said Bob Steinberg, De la Torre’s attorney. "It was a lovers’ quarrel."

He said Hernandez made contact with him Monday and went to the district attorney's office Monday afternoon to inform them that he did not want to pursue the case.

Hernandez said he never wanted to pursue a criminal case and it is his "intention to withdraw the complaint against councilmember De la Torre."

Hernandez also said he believes police officers pursued the case out of bias.

"When you have the investigating officer posting comments on Facebook that clearly related to the councilwoman, mayor and myself ... he is no longer impartial so he is looking to hang someone," Hernandez said. "In good conscience, I cannot and will not pursue any action against Councilwoman De la Torre, as I feel the investigation was compromised."

For months, Hernandez, De La Torre and Esqueda have feuded with the police officers' association, which has backed a recall election that will be decided by voters later this year.

Hernandez quit his City Council position last week, apologizing for bringing his private life into council business. Residents and council members have demanded that De la Torre and Esqueda also resign to end the soap opera. 

According to a police report on the June 28 incident, Hernandez told police that De La Torre arrived at his residence shortly before 6 p.m. to retrieve an iPad she had given him for his birthday and pushed past him into the home.

When he told her he did not have the iPad there, she punched him in the left cheek and slapped him before "ransacking his bedroom," smashing the glass of a picture frame and breaking his laptop by slamming it on the floor. He told police she then grabbed him by the neck with both hands and began to squeeze his throat while yelling that she was going to kill him.

A police officer reported finding the bedroom ransacked and saw swelling on Hernandez’s face, marks on his arms and scratches and redness around his throat.

Hernandez got a restraining order against De la Torre on July 3. In seeking her restraining order, De la Torre alleged that Hernandez slammed her head against the floor, which caused her to black out. Hernandez has denied that allegation.

In an email to The Times on July 6, De la Torre said: "Words cannot begin to express how saddened I am over the events of the past several days." Her attorney has denied any wrongdoing on her part.

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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Mario Hernandez. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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