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Saturday, August 9, 2008

[AZ] Mutual protection order violations in Mayor & Michelle Berman break-up?

..."I don't know what to say, other than I just wanted a gentle, quiet divorce," Michelle Berman said...

Estranged wife still contacting Gilbert mayor
East Valley Tribune
Nick R. Martin
August 8, 2008
[Excerpts] They are separated and headed for a divorce, but it appears Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman and his wife haven't had enough of each other. Berman's wife sues for divorce... Michelle Berman said on Friday her estranged husband called her July 25 in direct defiance of a restraining order she obtained last month. She declined to say what the phone call was about but said she did not report it to the police. If she had, according to the restraining order, the mayor could have been arrested and charged with a crime. However, Michelle Berman also said she has called her husband and sent him numerous text messages since obtaining the court order. Her story backed up claims Steve Berman made in newly filed court records, saying Michelle left him as many as 15 voice mail messages since July 22, when a judge granted the restraining order. In one voice mail just this week, the document says Michelle Berman even called to ask him "to come assist her because she was in pain." If true, the voice mails and text messages appear to contradict the reason Michelle Berman said she got the restraining order in the first place: because she was severely afraid of her husband. In her original request in Maricopa County Superior Court, she told a court commissioner, "I fear for my safety and the safety of my family." On Friday, Michelle Berman said most of her messages urged her husband to "seek medical help" for psychological issues. "I might have left a few voice messages ... saying, you know, this never needed to happen," Michelle Berman said... [Full article here]

Mayor's wife files for divorce
The Arizona Republic
by Mike Walbert
Aug. 8, 2008 10:45 AM
[Excerpts] The estranged wife of Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman filed for divorce this week. Michelle Berman, 45, is seeking a divorce from Steve Berman, 60, after less than 10 months of marriage. The two married November 2007 after dating for six years. The filing comes about a month after a domestic violence investigation centering on the mayor was launched... Their breakup erupted into the public spotlight over the last month after it was confirmed that Steve Berman was being investigated by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in connection with an alleged domestic dispute incident in early July. "I don't know what to say, other than I just wanted a gentle, quiet divorce," Michelle Berman said late Thursday in an interview with The Republic... Michelle Berman alleged that Steve Berman threatened to kill her and physically injure her father. A Gilbert police counselor was made aware of the allegation on July 9. Gilbert police officials handed the matter to the Sheriff's Office to avoid a conflict of interest. Michelle Berman also claimed her estranged husband physically and verbally abused her during their relationship. Steve Berman has denied the accusations and, in turn, alleged that Michelle is lying and that she has a prescription painkiller abuse problem. Steve Berman was not arrested or charged in connection with the alleged July incident... An order of protection was granted in Superior Court on July 22, barring Steve Berman and his son Steve Berman Jr. from having any contact with Michelle Berman. As part of the order, Steve Berman was required to turn over all firearms he owns to the Gilbert Police Department. Steve Berman was married three times previously [Full article here]


    Heat City
    March 7th, 2009 | 1:11 am |

    Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman is shown in this undated photograph in his office. From mayorberman.com

    Heat City special report: With Gilbert’s mayoral primary just days away, the town’s police department has opened a criminal investigation into allegations that current Mayor Steve Berman tried to poison his wife.

    An investigation began on Jan. 27 after the mayor’s wife, Michelle, made a pair of frantic phone calls to the town’s police chief, saying her husband had threatened to commit suicide and kill her. At the time, it was marked as a “special incident” and was not looked at as a crime.

    But according to police records released Friday, the investigation was upgraded last week to a possible felony case after Michelle Berman told police she believed her husband tried to poison her.

  2. The investigation marks the second time in the past year that Steve Berman has been investigated on suspicion of a crime as part of his relationship with his wife. Last July, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office looked into allegations that he punched her during a fight. But in January, after Michelle Berman recanted her allegations, the county attorney’s office declined to press charges.

    Now, the pair’s turbulent relationship appears to have become even rockier. This time, it’s spilling over into Gilbert town business. The dispute has forced at least six of the town’s officers, including its police chief, to try and sort out the details. Heat City obtained the newest investigative reports through a series of public records requests with the Gilbert Police Department. In all, the reports totaled more than 40 pages.

    Steve Berman, who did not return a call for comment, is running for reelection. The town’s primary is Tuesday.

    The details

    On Jan. 27, police Lt. Mike Angstead received a serious task from Chief Tim Dorn: Look into a pair of frantic voice mail messages the mayor’s wife recently left on the chief’s phone. Dorn forward the messages to his lieutenant. Both included allegations that the mayor had threatened to hurt her and commit suicide unless she lied to the media about their relationship.

  3. “He threatened me,” the mayor’s wife said in one of the messages, according to transcripts included in a police report. “He told me he was going to kill himself and take me with him.”

    In another message, Michelle Berman said: “I’m not looking to hurt his reelection but I am looking to stay safe and keep my family safe.”

    The messages were left about two weeks after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced it would not seek charges against the mayor.

    Dorn asked the lieutenant to follow up, which he did in a tape-recorded phone call. During the call, Michelle Berman repeated many of her claims to him but offered no proof, the report shows. Angstead recommended that she get a restraining order if she felt truly in danger.

    Mayor’s own accusations

    The following day, the mayor himself called the police chief’s cell phone to respond to his wife’s allegations. “Mr. Berman told me that his wife recently had surgery for a medical condition,” Dorn wrote in his own report. “She had been prescribed pain medication due to the surgery. He believes that the pain medication is now causing her to make irrational and untrue statements, as has occurred in the past when she is under the influence of pain medications.”

  4. Steve Berman told the police chief he would never hurt his wife. His phone call was not tape recorded, the records show.

    Last July, when the original allegations of domestic violence surfaced, Dorn turned the investigation over to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He said at the time the pass was to avoid “any appearance of conflict” because the case involved a high-level town official.

    This time, however, the case stayed in the hands of Gilbert police. “No further action taken,” Dorn wrote in the report.

    But the trouble didn’t stop there.

    Poisoned tea? Call for help

    About three weeks later, on Feb. 19, Michelle Berman called the police department for help again, records show. This time she called the town’s main police dispatch, asking for officers to meet her at a house in Gilbert. Two on-duty officers and a sergeant went to the house, and one stood guard outside while the mayor’s wife told them her story.

    “Michelle initially indicated that her husband, Steve Berman, had been threatening to blow his head off in front of her is (sic) he lost the Gilbert mayoral election,” officer Randy Gardner wrote in a report about the meeting. “He was telling her not to contact police at all because it would ruin him.”


  5. She then told the officers she had been in the hospital, undergoing several medical tests and procedures because she had come down with severe abdominal pain. It turned out she had an enlarged gallbladder, according to the records.

    When a doctor removed the organ in mid-January, “he told her it was the largest gall bladder (sic) he had ever seen in a live person…and if it had not been removed she would have died.”

    Michelle Berman told the officers she had recently seen a strange text message on her husband’s phone, which was sent to him by a friend of his. She started connecting the dots. “The message stated, ‘Make sure whatever you use is strong enough to do the job and it can’t be traced back to you,’” according to her account to police.

    She told the officers she remembered her husband mysteriously starting to make her hot green tea in the mornings during the holidays. “Michelle also indicated that Steve’s behavior was abnormal and that he was being extremely nice to her,” officer Gardner wrote in the report. Before he would hand her the tea, Michelle said she would see the mayor in the laundry room of their home, where they kept numerous cleaning products. She never saw him putting anything in the tea, however.

    After hearing the allegations, Sgt. Benny Fisher stepped outside the house and called his commanding officers. The report shows all the officers there were instructed to write about the experience.

  6. Following up

    When another officer, Sgt. David Meyer, contacted the mayor the next day, Steve Berman told him it was all a misunderstanding. His friend had sent him the mysterious text message by mistake. It was intended for a pool cleaner as a warning to avoid being caught putting too much acid into a swimming pool. “But the message didn’t go to him. It went to me,” Steve Berman told the officer, according to the report.

    He blamed the allegation’s on his wife’s supposed prescription drug abuse, and said he knew, because of the previous domestic violence allegations, he would be the prime suspect if she died. “Guess who’s screwed?” the mayor said, according to the report. “If anything happens to her, I’m toast.”

    On Feb. 23, Lt. Angstead, the original officer tasked with investigating the matter, and Meyer followed up with Michelle Berman. She said she was interested in having the police department pursue and investigation, and she gave the officers her medical records. She also volunteered to let them run more tests on her.

    The following day, Feb. 24, Angstead added the possibility of a criminal charge to the investigation. If the investigation proves Michelle Berman’s allegations, the mayor could be charged with a class-six felony — adding a poisonous substance to his wife’s drink.

  7. Previous trouble

    The allegations Michelle Berman leveled against her husband last July were startling. Along with the accusing the mayor of hitting her, she also said he once plotted to kill a fellow town council member who he blamed for his 1993 election defeat.

    She told Maricopa County Sheriff’s investigators, as well as the East Valley Tribune, that Steve Berman had also threatened to kill her and beat her father. She filed for divorce and wound up obtaining an order of protection.

    During multiple investigations that followed, authorities learned that two of Steve Berman’s ex-wives and his step children had also accused him of domestic violence. Those people had reported the allegations to police, but no charges ever resulted.

    Ultimately, with Michelle Berman, investigators were unable to back up many of her claims. And eventually, she recanted her statements and reconciled with her husband. The restraining order was dropped, the divorce was ended, and no charges were ever filed.

    The credibility of Michelle Berman’s newest accusations are unclear. But according to the newly released reports, police officers have told her they are taking them “very seriously.” The investigation is ongoing.



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