San Diego

San Diego Firefighter Captain Guilty in Domestic Violence Case

Capt. Michaels entered a guilty plea to one count of corporal injury to a spouse

San Diego Fire-Rescue Capt. Steven Michaels entered a guilty plea Wednesday to one felony count of corporal injury to a spouse.

Michaels, 53, was arrested July 21 following an argument with his girlfriend. 

He originally faced felony charges of domestic violence and trying to dissuade a witness as well as a misdemeanor of tampering with a wireless device.

On Wednesday, Michaels pleaded guilty to one felony charge, however, the judge can sentence the crime as a misdemeanor. 

The veteran fire captain has been arrested three times for cases of domestic violence. In the first two arrests, he was not charged with a crime.

Michaels' record was brought up during the trial of a San Diego man who stabbed two firefighters in the East Village in June 2015.

Video evidence showed Michaels made contact with the defendant, shoving him into a bench. 

Defense attorneys questioned Michaels in court regarding two domestic violence arrests – one in 2006 and one in December 2015.

He said in court that in the 2006 incident, he punched his wife who was seven months pregnant at the time. No disciplinary action was taken against Michaels after the first domestic violence arrest. Charges were not 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 testified in court that In the December 2015 incident, he kicked in his girlfriend’s door. 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.

The fire department follows the City of San Diego Civil Service Rule XI when it comes to employees convicted of a crime. 

The regulations cover all employees and state an employee 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. 
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