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Case dropped against ex-councilwoman as ex-mayor disappears

December 12, 2012 |  3:29 pm

Former San Fernando Mayor Mario Hernandez in 2011. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A judge was forced Wednesday to dismiss battery and vandalism charges against a former San Fernando councilwoman after the alleged victim, former San Fernando Mayor Mario Hernandez, failed to appear despite a bench warrant issued for his arrest.

San Fernando Superior Court Judge Lesley C. Green dismissed the case without prejudice after Deputy Dist. Atty. Ruby Arias announced that she would not be able to proceed against Maribel De La Torre, 41, since the accuser was not available to testify.

The dismissal came after prosecutors and investigators scrambled all morning trying to find Hernandez, De La Torre's ex-lover and former council colleague, whom she is charged with battering during an argument at his home June 28.

Hernandez resigned from the council shortly after the incident while De La Torre was recalled last month after revelations of their relationship led to comparisons between City Hall and a telenovela.

Prosecutors in the case had subpoenaed Hernandez to appear in court Monday for the misdemeanor trial, but he failed to show up. The judge in the case had briefly issued a bench warrant for Hernandez's arrest. Investigators searched local hospitals and other facilities for Hernandez, without luck.

Prior to the incident, the two politicians had been dating for months, a relationship they say began after Hernandez separated from his wife.

Hernandez told police that De La Torre came to his home June 28 and slapped, punched and choked him. He also said she smashed a picture frame and slammed his laptop on the floor.

De La Torre and Hernandez took out restraining orders against each other and accused the other of being the aggressor. But in a turn of events, the two dropped their respective restraining orders and Hernandez asked prosecutors to drop the charges. Hernandez has repeatedly said that he would not testify against De La Torre.

The tempestuous relationship was first revealed by Hernandez in November 2011 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. In the wake of the revelation, the pair — along with Mayor Brenda Esqueda — became the targets of a successful recall election.

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--Richard Winton

Photo: Former San Fernando Mayor Mario Hernandez in 2011. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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