Southern California breaking news and trends

San Fernando councilwoman pleads not guilty to attacking lover

Maribel de la Torre

Alice Walton/KPCC

San Fernando City Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre pleaded not guilty to charges of battery and vandalism. She will be back in court on Sept. 20.

San Fernando City Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanors stemming from a June fight that she had with Mario Hernandez, who was also a city councilman at the time.

De La Torre is charged with one count of battery and one count of vandalism under $400 for allegedly attacking Hernandez at his home. She is expected to be back in court on Sept. 20.

At a City Council meeting last fall, Hernandez, who was married, announced that he and De La Torre were engaged in an affair. The relationship soured June 28 when the two got into a physical fight. According to a police report and restraining order, De La Torre went to Hernandez’s home, destroyed a laptop computer, then choked him while saying, “If I could kill you right now I would.”

However, in a restraining order she filed against Hernandez, De La Torre said she was the victim, accusing Hernandez of slamming her into a door and eventually knocking her unconscious.

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J.C. Penney letters plucked in latest San Fernando fast one

jcp j.c. penney san fernando

Photo by Mike Kuniavsky via Flickr Creative Commons

In San Fernando, even the department store carries scandal. A company allegedly hired by J.C. Penney was filmed over the weekend attempting a late-night signage grab from a building awaiting decision on its possible future as a historic site.

The L.A. Times reports that J.C. Penny and the landlord had been notified that no part of the sign or building at 1140 San Fernando Rd. was to be touched before the Aug. 20 hearing.

Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Lopez, who arrived at the scene after receiving a call, called the tactic "sneaky" saying the company's name and equipment license plate were covered by a rag. The letters were replaced some time later.

San Fernando recently fired the chief of police and has been busy with no less than two sex scandals while facing a number of official position recalls and resignations.

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Recall for three San Fernando politicians set for November ballot

San Fernando city seal

Alice Walton/KPCC

The recall of San Fernando's mayor, councilwoman and a former councilman is set for Nov. 6 at a cost of $43,000 in total.

The personal indiscretions of three San Fernando politicians have overshadowed the city’s business, and in November, voters will have the opportunity to recall those electeds from office. 

The San Fernando City Council agreed last night to move ahead with the Nov. 6 recall. Mayor Brenda Esqueda, Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre and former Councilman Mario Hernandez’s names will all appear on the ballot. Voters will be asked whether they want to remove each person from office and if so, who should replace them. 

It is the latest chapter for San Fernando, which is just 2.5-square-miles and home to 25,000 residents. The city has been so rocked by the personal scandals of the three politicians that Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin described feeling like she was at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in “Alice in Wonderland.” The fifth member of the council, Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Lopez, urged Esqueda and de la Torre to follow in Hernandez’s steps and leave office.

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San Fernando councilwoman: 'I feel like I'm at Mad Hatter's tea party'

San Fernando city seal

Alice Walton/KPCC

One San Fernando city councilwoman likens the city's turmoil to the tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland."

With the personal lives of San Fernando’s elected officials taking center stage, one councilwoman today described the small city as being in “emotional freefall.” 

In just the last week, Councilman Mario Hernandez resigned office and his girlfriend, Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre, was charged with two misdemeanors related to a June 28 fight between the two. In a hastily arranged news conference yesterday, Hernandez told media he does not want to pursue the domestic violence case against de la Torre. Both Hernandez and de la Torre, however, obtained restraining orders against the other person. 

All of this comes as the two, along with Mayor Brenda Esqueda, are facing a pending recall election.

“I feel like I’m at Mad Hatter’s tea party and I didn’t even know I was invited,” Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin said in an interview with KPCC.

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San Fernando drama continues with former councilman asking to drop case against girlfriend

Mario Hernandez

Alice Walton/KPCC

Former San Fernando City Councilman Mario Hernandez says he will no longer cooperate with the domestic violence case against his girlfriend, Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre.

A former San Fernando city councilman blasted the town’s police department today for its investigation into a domestic violence case that resulted in the arrest of his girlfriend, who is also an elected official.

Mario Hernandez convened a Sunday news conference in a parking lot underneath the Foothill (210) Freeway to complain about the San Fernando Police Department’s handling of a June 28 fight between Hernandez and Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre. The District Attorney’s Office filed two misdemeanor charges of battery and vandalism against de la Torre for her role in the argument. 

Though Hernandez told police that de la Torre choked him and threatened to kill him, he told reporters this afternoon that he no longer wants to cooperate with investigators. As traffic zoomed by the vacant lot, Hernandez read from an 11-page, handwritten statement.

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