Jury selection began on Wednesday for a trial involving a Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency board member accused of an April 2020 domestic assault.
Before the pool of possible jurors entered the room, the judge in trial asked Dan Mortensen, the accused party in the case, if he was sure that he wished to reject the prosecutors’ offering of 52 weeks of domestic violence classes in exchange for a dismissal of the case.
Mortensen stated that he wished to defend his name in a trial setting, and expressed his belief that his acceptance of a diversion program would not be construed publicly as a case dismissal.
“(If) your reputation that you spent a lifetime building was smeared by The Signal, and Natalie Arriaga from the police (sic) department came out and made an announcement that there were multiple witnesses to this wife beating and you were hauled away to spend days in a cell with a fella named Miguel who had no last name, no English, and tattoos on his face, for something you had nothing to do with, you would see this as the government continuing to smear your name,” said Mortensen in open court. “And you would not be able to take it.”
“There’s no way that you can take anything except a dismissal or being found not guilty,” Mortensen added.
The judge in the case informed him that the offering to Mortensen of diversion in a domestic violence case was a rare, “one time exception,” and that a jury trial would be unpredictable. Mortensen then responded that he was 100% confident that he was going to be acquitted.
“I’m running for office again in November,” said Mortensen, referencing his upcoming re-election campaign for SCV Water trustee area No. 3. “I’m not taking domestic violence counseling.”
After it was decided to move forward with the trial, the potential jury members were brought in and deliberations for their selection began.
Mortensen was charged in connection with an alleged battery of spouse from an incident that allegedly occurred April 12, 2020, on the 23300 block of Haskell Vista Lane.
On the night of the incident, sheriff’s deputies responded for a disturbance call at 8:30 p.m. to the Newhall neighborhood.
“Deputies contacted several people and the investigation revealed that during an argument, the suspect, Daniel Mortensen, assaulted the victim, causing a visible injury,” said Lt. Ignacio Somoano of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at the time of the incident.
No ambulance was called to the scene, according to Franklin Lopez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
In the days following the incident, Mortensen asked people to remember the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“I would say don’t think that this couldn’t happen to you,” Mortensen added in April 2020. “My reputation is my reputation, and I don’t think there is anyone out there that thinks ill of me.”
Mortensen has served on the SCV Water Agency board since it was formed in January 2018. Before, he was a member of the Newhall County Water District board and was first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2015.
Jury selection is slated to continue Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in the Santa Clarita Courthouse.