San Diego fire captain pleads not guilty to domestic violence

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SAN DIEGO - A veteran San Diego fire captain accused of injuring his girlfriend during an argument and blocking her from calling for help pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three felony charges, including corporal injury against a spouse or significant other.

Steven Michaels, 53, faces five years in state prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Samira Seidu.

The prosecutor told reporters that Stevens, a 30-year firefighter with San Diego Fire-Rescue, allegedly shoved his girlfriend against a wall on July 21 and refused to let her use a cell phone to call for help after she was injured.

“ She did have an injury that required medical attention and she tried to call for that and he refused to allow her to do that,” said Deputy District Attorney Samira Seidu.

Judge Jay Bloom ordered Stevens to have no contact with his girlfriend during the criminal case.

Michaels has been arrested twice in the past for alleged domestic violence -- once in 2006 and again in December 2015.

His run-ins with law enforcement were brought up during the trial of a man who stabbed two San Diego firefighters at an East Village trolley stop in June 2015.

Deputy District Attorney Samira Seidu says the Fire Captain has no prior criminal history, and charges were never filed in the prior arrests. However she says details from those prior incidents could come out in a trial. “You know if we do go to trial, additional information may come out but for now what we do know is what’s charged in this case,"

Defense attorney Gretchen von Helms said Stevens -- who remains free on $75,000 bail -- has done a lot of good work in the community and is innocent unless proven guilty.

"It's important, at this point, to let the system work," von Helms said. “He served honorably in the community, he’s fought fires and defended and protected people, he’s done volunteer work with the Burn Institute, so he has a lot of credibility, he has a lot of good works that he has done and what we need to do in this case is follow the law, which is that he is presumed innocent."

In addition to the domestic violence count, Stevens is charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.

He will be back in court Sept. 21 for a readiness conference and Oct. 13 for a preliminary hearing.


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