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Two San Fernando City Council members file restraining orders

The couple, who publicly acknowledged their affair last year, seek court orders against each other after an alleged violent confrontation, police say.

July 08, 2012|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • San Fernando City Councilman Mario Hernandez sits at a 2011 council meeting. Hernandez acknowledged having an affair with Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre last November. Now they have filed restraining orders against each other.
San Fernando City Councilman Mario Hernandez sits at a 2011 council meeting.… (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)

Two San Fernando council members who publicly acknowledged having an affair last November have taken out restraining orders against each other after an alleged violent confrontation, city officials said.

Councilman Mario Hernandez and Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre sought the court orders after the June 28 incident, officials said. De la Torre is also the subject of a related police investigation.

An officer responding to a call at Hernandez's home on June 28 found the residence had been ransacked and noticed red marks and scratches on the councilman's neck, according to a police report.

Hernandez sought a restraining order against De la Torre, who responded in kind, officials said. De la Torre accused Hernandez of assaulting her last December, but no police report was filed.

"The only thing I will say is that I have never raised my hand against her at any time, or any other woman in my life," Hernandez said in a statement Saturday. "It's just not right.

"There is no excuse for that type of behavior. Those that mock this private issue, shame on them because domestic violence is not a laughing matter."

The story took an unusual twist on Monday, when the City Council, with De la Torre abstaining and Hernandez absent, voted to fire Police Chief Gil Carrillo with no stated reason. Carrillo was overseeing the investigation of De la Torre. A retired veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Carrillo said his firing "came out of left field and it was a shock to me."

In an email to officers and friends, Carrillo said: "I guess it doesn't help matters when one of my detectives is taking a case tomorrow for consideration of a filing against one of the City Council members that I would not allow to be swept under the carpet like they had been in the past."

It is unclear how the City Council will proceed in light of the Hernandez-De la Torre incident. But City Administrator Al Hernandez said Friday that the city would be "taking appropriate action" after learning of the restraining orders that were initially reported in the Los Angeles Daily News.

In an email to The Times on Friday, De la Torre said: "Words cannot begin to express how saddened I am over the events of the past several days." She added that "it would be inappropriate to discuss this matter until any potential legal issues are resolved."

The incident apparently stemmed from an argument between the couple over a trip Hernandez was planning, according to a police report. Hernandez told police De la Torre arrived at his home shortly before 6 p.m. to retrieve an iPad she had given him for his birthday and pushed past him into the home, according to the report.

When Hernandez told De la Torre he did not have the iPad, she allegedly punched him in the left cheek and slapped him before "ransacking his bedroom," smashing some glass and breaking his laptop by hurling it on the floor, Hernandez told police.

She then allegedly grabbed Hernandez by the neck with both hands and began to squeeze his throat, Hernandez told police. Hernandez said he broke free but De la Torre allegedly punched him again before they fell onto the bed and she cut one of her toes on broken glass, according to the police report.

On Tuesday, Hernandez obtained a restraining order against De la Torre.

In seeking a similar court order against Hernandez, De la Torre alleged that the councilman was the aggressor during last week's incident. She alleged that it was Hernandez who pinned her on the bed.

Last November, Hernandez, who was mayor at the time, shocked the community when he announced at a City Council meeting that he was having an affair with De la Torre. His wife was in the audience at the time.

Adding to the municipal drama, the two council members along with Mayor Brenda Esqueda are the subject of a recall campaign. Residents have complained that city leaders are turning the city "into a reality show."

richard.winton@latimes.com

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