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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 7:11 pm | Fair 56º


Domestic Violence Case Dogs Fledgling Mayoral Campaign

Justin Michael, former roommate take their dispute to cyberspace

Controversy has already found Santa Barbara mayoral candidate Justin Michael barely a week after he announced his candidacy.

A woman who says she was beaten by Michael while he was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine has gone public with her story. Michael, 29, does not deny the charges but said he has served his punishment for two misdemeanors. “I’ve made mistakes and learned from them,” he told Noozhawk.

Brianna Winn, a former associate of Michael’s who worked for him at his fundraising company Mazque, contacted Noozhawk soon after Michael declared his intention to run for mayor last week.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” said Winn, 26. “But now that he’s in the running I feel like people have the right to know.”

According to Santa Barbara police records, Michael was arrested on Sept. 1, 2007, after pinning down Winn, punching her and putting his hands on her throat.

In a statement written by Winn, who lived with Michael at the time but denies having had any romantic association with him, she said she picked him up around 2 a.m. after a night of partying downtown. According to her statement, his mood got increasingly worse until finally he grabbed her, pinned her down and started slapping her face. At one point, she said, she managed to turn over but he then proceeded to punch her in the back.

“Then he put his right arm around my neck, and his left hand over my mouth, his arm got really tight around my neck and his hand got tighter around my face. At this point I was not able to breathe,” she wrote in her statement. She managed to escape to a neighbor’s house, despite what she said were his attempts to keep her from leaving.

Winn said Michael “was on cocaine and drunk” the night of the incident.

Court documents obtained by Noozhawk indicate Michael ultimately pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors, one a domestic violence count of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant and the other for false imprisonment. According to the files, in January 2008 he was sentenced to 75 days in Santa Barbara County Jail, 20 hours of community service and just over a year in counseling sessions at Zona Seca, from which he recently graduated. He remains under a restraining order that expires in 2011.

While admitting he made “mistakes,” Michael called the allegations “hyperbolic” and indicated his intentions to hire an attorney for what he deems possible libel and slander.

“I’ve graduated from Zona Seca and paid off all my fines,” he said, adding that he is going to have his lawyer request that his records be expunged in June.

“Not to minimize the gravity of my domestic violence charge; it happened, I got help through Zona Seca ... and I learned a profound lesson which will stick with me,” Michael said.

“I hope to encourage others to better understand this issue and be an advocate for women’s rights. Let’s move forward now as a city as I am the voice of my generation and endeavor to win this race. Please consult the actual court record.”

The incident has fueled an intense online battle for the last word. Click here to read those comments from an earlier Noozhawk article.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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