The final witnesses, including the defendant himself and the Sheriff’s Department investigator, took the stand Wednesday in a case involving a Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency board member accused of domestic violence.
While taking the stand in his own defense, Dan Mortensen, a Newhall tax attorney and a governing board member for the local water agency, testified that he did not know how his wife came to be face down in her own blood in their bedroom on the night of April 12, 2020.
Mortensen also said that his 2016 arrest at a topless bar in Van Nuys was not his fault and that after investigators viewed the security camera footage they decided not to charge him with felony vandalism.
Although pleading his innocence in court to the jury and Judge Maria Cavalluzzi at the Santa Clarita Valley Courthouse, Mortensen’s testimony was contradicted by that of the first law enforcement official on the scene, Deputy Edwin Flores.
And despite it ultimately being stricken from the official court record, Mortensen took time on the stand to not only have a back-and-forth with the prosecutor and Cavalluzzi, but to also allude to the deputy district attorney having some interest in prosecuting him due to him having an upcoming election in November.
“If I wasn’t in office, I would fight this case, 100%,” said Mortensen, later adding: “Is that why you’re so determined to win this case?”
To this question, both Cavalluzzi and the prosecutor became animated and the judge admonished Mortensen for his lack of decorum.
Mortensen also laid out the events as he saw them that night, as well as the events that transpired during his 2016 Van Nuys arrest.
As to the first arrest, Mortensen said his wife’s stepbrother had taken him to the bar and that he could not remember whether it was a topless bar. Upon leaving the location, his wife’s stepbrother believed he had been pickpocketed and the two returned inside the bar to find the money, the defendant testified.
After being kicked out by the bar’s security, his wife’s stepbrother retrieved a crowbar from his car, bashed in some piping on the building and then fled the scene with Mortensen in the car alongside him.
As they fled, law enforcement caught up with them.
“It was like Armageddon,” said Mortensen, recounting how the law enforcement officers gave chase. “There were like six cop cars around us, and a helicopter came over us.”
Mortensen was never charged for a crime in connection with the incident, based on the security camera footage the investigators saw, he said. The prosecutor, during cross-examination, asked him to confirm if he had said to L.A. Police Department officers: “We got robbed by those bitches” and had banged on the bar door after being kicked out.
Mortensen said no.
After telling his side of the story to the 2016 incident, Mortensen then said on the night in question of April 12, 2020, that he had had a few drinks but gone to bed hours before his wife. During the night, he thought he heard the sliding glass door in his 15-year-old daughter’s room sliding open, believing that someone was trying to enter the home.
That’s when Morgan Mortensen, his wife, attempted to block him from exiting the sliding glass door in their bedroom to check on his daughter, he said.
He said he then went to their other door — ignoring what he called drunken belligerence by his wife — and left to check on his daughter. After finding his daughter at her doorway down the hall, they went back to his room, and found his wife bordering on consciousness, lying face down in blood, he said.
Mortensen testified that no blood was found on him that night by investigators because, as his daughter bent down to help her mother, he went to get ice. When he returned to the room, the door was locked and his daughter was on the phone with 9-1-1, reporting her father for domestic violence.
That night, Morgan Mortensen told deputies that Dan Mortensen had punched her using his fist, Deputy Flores said. At no point that night did Claire or her mother mention that Morgan occasionally passes out from drinking or that she could have possibly hit her head on a piece of furniture in the room, Flores said, referring to alternate scenarios brought up by the defense earlier in the trial.
On Tuesday, Morgan and her now-17-year-old daughter, Claire, both contradicted their previous statements to law enforcement, saying they were confused and mistaken when they originally said Dan Mortensen had struck his wife.
However, Flores said, not one person in the house, including Mortensen’s wife and daughter, said that night that he was not capable of doing something like hitting Morgan Mortensen.
“She stated that she heard a commotion; she heard her mom kind of scream; she went to see what was going on; she was concerned for her mom at that time,” said Flores, recounting the night’s events and the events leading up to the 15-minute panicked 9-1-1 call Claire placed. “She saw her father step out of the room.”
Closing arguments and the beginning of jury deliberation are set to take place Thursday at the Santa Clarita Courthouse.