Gilbert mayor cleared of domestic violence - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert mayor cleared of domestic violence

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Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 3:27 pm | Updated: 2:15 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman will not be charged or prosecuted in a domestic violence case brought by his wife last year.

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A written recantation submitted by Michelle Berman to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office led to the decision not to pursue the case against the mayor, said Barbara Marshall, head of significant crimes investigations, during a press conference today.

Berman said he was gratified to learn the county wouldn't be pursuing the case.

He said his wife made the accusations due to areaction from prescription drugs that had caused erratic behavior, and today "she doesn't remember any part of it, doesn't remember a damn thing" about statements she made to the police or media last summer.

Michelle Berman told a Gilbert police counselor in July that her husband had threatened to kill her father and that the mayor had subjected her to physical and emotional abuse, including an incident in which he punched her in the back in May. The police department turned the case over to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which in turn sent it to the county attorney for a determination on filing charges.

After the story broke, Michelle Berman obtained an order of protection against her husband and his son, Steve Berman Jr., and filed for divorce. Steve Berman denied all of the allegations and attributed his wife's behavior to an addiction to prescription drugs. He said he spent $17,000 defending himself against the accusations.

But by November the couple was appearing in public together to collect signatures to put Berman on the March 10 primary election ballot. The two said they had reconciled.

During the press conference, County Attorney Andrew Thomas said in the course of investigating Michelle Berman's claims, his office looked into previous reports that Steve Berman had abused two former wives, a son and a stepdaughter, allegations made to police between 1984 and 1995. No charges were ever filed, and statutes of limitations prohibit the county from doing so now, Thomas said.

Three incidents between 1987 and 1995 were reported to the Gilbert Police Department. Thomas expressed concern that none of these incidents were forwarded to the county for investigation, but he said there would be no investigation into whether the town police department should have turned the cases over.

"We've done what we can do," Thomas said.

Berman was a town councilman from 1987 through 1991, then was appointed to a two-year term as mayor before losing a bid to become Gilbert's first elected mayor. He defeated incumbent Cynthia Dunham in 2001 to become mayor and won re-election over her in 2005.

Berman said Wednesday that his wife is no longer taking the prescription drugs that caused her erratic behavior and didn't blame her for her actions. "If I thought she'd done this to me, I never would have reconciled with her," he said.

He said his wife is planning to start a support group for other women struggling with addiction to prescription drugs.

All five men running against Berman for mayor this spring said dropping the domestic violence case against him will probably have little to no effect on how the campaign unfolds over the next two months.

Dave Petersen, a former town councilman, said his campaign would be based on "sloppy, wasteful spending" by the Town Council, and "there are enough issues in this election. No need to go over Steve Berman's personal life."

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