A San Diego Fire-Rescue captain was sentenced Wednesday to nearly a half-year in custody for a felony committed when he injured his girlfriend by throwing her against a wall last July.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) Capt. Steven Michaels must serve 180 days in custody for one felony count of corporal injury to a spouse stemming from the domestic violence incident reported on July 21, 2017.
On that day, Michaels had an argument with his girlfriend and threw her against a wall causing an injury. He was arrested six days later.
A prosecutor said Wednesday the incident left the victim with an open wound to her head.
Several firefighters, a psychiatrist and the victim were in court Wednesday in an attempt to get Michaels' charge lessened to a misdemeanor, which would increase his chance to remain with SDFD.
The victim testified on Michaels' behalf saying that the "mutual combat" fight over his cell phone occurred while they were both drunk.
Addiction psychiatrist Dr. Clark Smith said at the time, Michaels was using alcohol to self-medicate post-traumatic stress caused by the stabbing of two of his firefighters. The doctor said Michaels believed both of his firefighters were going to die.
"What I am guilty of is, I was a bad person, I was a bad boyfriend," Michaels said in court Wednesday. "I don't want to let her down and I don't ever want to let my brothers and sisters from the fire department down."
Judge Timothy Walsh said that those aren't crimes and said if he reduced Michaels' charge to a misdemeanor it would send the wrong message to the community.
Walsh criticized the defense for framing their argument as if it was the judge taking away the fire captain's 30-year career. Walsh said Michaels was the one to take away his own career.
Michaels' sentence may be served as part of the county's alternative custody program.
It is not yet clear if the felony will end Michaels' career with the SDFD, but it is likely as the department follows City of San Diego Civil Service Rule XI.
The rule states that an employee convicted of a crime faces suspension or removal under various circumstances including:
- The employee has been offensive in his or her conduct toward fellow employees, wards of the City, or the public.
- The employee has been guilty of any conduct unbecoming an officer or employee of the City.
- The employee has been convicted of a criminal offense involving moral turpitude.
The veteran fire captain has been arrested two other times for cases of domestic violence — one in 2006 and one in December 2015.
The incidents were brought up during a trial for a man who stabbed two SDFD firefighters in the East Village in June 2015.
During that trial, Michaels said in the 2006 incident he punched his wife who was seven months pregnant at the time. No disciplinary action was taken against Michaels and no charges were filed.
"We took no action because his behavior posed no threat to other employees or to the public," then-SDFD spokesperson Lee Swanson said.
City pay data shows Michaels was promoted from fire engineer to fire captain after the first arrest.
Michaels also testified during that trial that he kicked-in his girlfriend’s door in the December 2015 incident. It was determined that charges would not be filed, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
"Our office reviewed the evidence and statements in this case and determined that domestic battery charges could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt," City Attorney Spokesman Gerry Braun said at the time.