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SAN JOSE — In emotional and dramatic testimony, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster’s former girlfriend on Thursday said she fabricated allegations that he beat her, claiming it was simply an extortion ploy that got out of control.
But Elissa Ennis denied that Foster or anyone else paid her to recant her initial accusations that threaten to derail Foster’s budding pro football career.
“I was pissed and I wanted to end him,” Ennis said during her two hours of testimony.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Nona Klippen announced at the end of the five-hour hearing — highlighted by the grueling and unusual testimony from Ennis — that she would delay her decision on whether to send the case to trial by a week. The next court date is set for May 23.
“This delay gives the (Santa Clara County) DA and defense time to collaborate and see if there’s a meeting of the minds instead of forcing this into a trial, which doesn’t sound like a good outcome for anybody,” said Steven Clark, a criminal-defense attorney and former Santa Clara County prosecutor. “This is a dress rehearsal for what a trial will be like, and I don’t see 12 people from the community seeing it differently than the audience today.”
Foster pleaded not guilty May 8 to felony domestic violence, forcefully attempting to dissuade a witness and possession of an assault weapon. He invoked his right to a speedy trial, so if Klippen clears the way for a trial on some or all of the charges, it would have to start within 60 days of his not guilty plea, or no later than July 9.
As Foster looked on during his preliminary hearing, Elissa Ennis testifed that she threatened to mess up Foster’s career after he broke up with her and that she called 911 because “I wanted him to go down.”
Under questioning from Foster’s attorney Joshua Bentley, Ennis also admitted that she attempted to get a previous boyfriend arrested for domestic violence in 2011 in a similar scheme.
“You knew in this case when Reuben Foster broke up with you, you were going to go to your playbook and ruin his career,” Bentley said. “Isn’t that true?”
“Yes, sir,” Ennis said.
Court officials in Baton Rouge, Louisiana confirmed to this news organization Thursday that Ennis was arrested on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault on Nov. 4, 2011, but the charges were dismissed two years later. There is no official record of any false report of domestic violence.
Ennis often struggled to recall events, particularly the night before Foster’s Feb. 11 arrest, when she said got into a fight with two women in San Francisco and suffered injuries that she initially blamed on Foster.
She repeatedly said she couldn’t fully remember what she told police — statements which ultimately led to the criminal charges against Foster. Ennis’ attorney, Stephanie Rickard, stated in court Thursday that she advised her client against testifying, and had urged her to plead the Fifth Amendment, her right against self-incrimination.
In her initial account, Ennis told Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police that Foster dragged her, threw her clothes out, and “punched her in the head 8 to 10 times,” rupturing her eardrum, according to a police report. The report also stated that Ennis said Foster threw her dog across a room during an earlier argument.
The morning of the alleged beating, Ennis flagged down a passing motorist outside the Los Gatos home on Shannon Road she shared with Foster. The motorist, Eugenio Pirir, testified Thursday that Ennis was calm and “she wasn’t panicking” when she asked to use his cell phone.
Ennis also testified that after Foster’s arrest, she went home to Louisiana with Foster’s jewelry and about $8,000 in cash. The cash was recovered, but Ennis said the jewelry is in a safe deposit box back home.
When asked by Kevin Smith if she still loves Foster, Ennis replied, “I don’t love him, I need help for myself.” Then she said she planned to check herself into an unspecified clinic.
As he listened to the testimony, Foster sat silent alongside Bentley, periodically covering his mouth with his hand while looking down, and nervously bouncing his right knee. He also appeared to be writing on a legal pad.
Asked by Smith why she is risking perjury to exonerate Foster, Ennis said: “I had to do the right thing.”
Of the purported lies against Foster, she said, “It was all a money scheme. I didn’t want to get this far in the news. It was about money … I wanted to sue him on my own.”
On cross examination, defense attorney Bentley — who has represented several 49ers players in the past — methodically questioned Ennis over her accusations and elicited the same responses from Ennis: “Yes sir, that was a lie.”
During the hearing, 911 calls were played, including one with Ennis frantic and another with her her calm and deliberate, stating, “My boyfriend broke my phone … my boyfriend, he beat me up.”
Bentley asked her directly, “Did Mr. Foster ever hit you?”
Ennis replied “No sir,” then broke down in tears. “I’m sorry. I really am. I apologize to everybody.”
Ennis also testified that she lied about Foster throwing a dog across a room during an argument, and acknowledged threatening to sell photos of Foster to TMZ showing him returning a Corvette he bought for her to drive. After nearly two hours of testimony, Ennis left the courtroom in tears with her attorney and did not comment to reporters.
“I didn’t get the impression she was trying to help Foster,” said Clark, who watched the testimony from the courtroom gallery. “It looked like raw emotion displayed from someone feeling very guilty and upset about what she did to Mr. Foster.”
Ennis also pointed to an Instagram video she says depicts the fight she had with another woman in an apparent road-rage encounter in San Francisco. It became the subject of a proxy fight over its veracity between Smith and Bentley, who questioned Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Detective Jim Wiens about his response to an Ennis’ claim two days after the arrest that she had lied.
Bentley questioned the extent of Wiens’ follow-up on that alleged fight, pointing to the video, conversations with Ennis, Ennis’ mother — to whom Ennis told about the purported fight — and a search for any arrests in San Francisco. But Wiens testified he was hampered by the absence of a precise location for the fracas.
Smith’s questioning of Wiens focused on the contention there is nothing in the video to definitively prove when and where it happened. But Bentley, in a further questioning of the detective, alleged a lack of diligence by Wiens in not asking the doctors who examined Ennis about when the injuries occurred, and if there was a plausible cause for them other than Foster.
Smith, in his closing statements to Klippen, argued that the most reliable account Ennis gave was when she called for help. He pointed out shifting facts in her new account including where she was the previous night — involving a hairdresser she couldn’t name and an unspecified East Bay city — and a hazy account of what she described as a 15-minute drag-out brawl she now blames for her injuries.
“There were very consistent statements she told to Officer (Katrina) Freeman, to her mother, her brother, medical staff, and 911,” Smith said, as opposed to “the inconsistent statements she gave here.”
Bentley suggested to Klippen that the case doesn’t meet the already-low burden of proof required at preliminary hearings, based on “evidence that calls into question Ms. Ennis’ claims” at the heart of the charges against Foster. He also objected to the “consistent” statements cited by Smith.
“It was all consistent because she lied,” Bentley said. “She was after my guy.”
Clark said it is unlikely that prosecutors would pursue perjury or false-report charges against Ennis because of the chilling effect that could have on domestic-violence victims who fear they won’t be believed by authorities.
“It is to the DA’s credit, that they did it this way, even if it was a very painful experience, ” he said. “The last thing you want to do is send a message you’re not going to believe domestic-violence victims.”
Regarding a felony weapon charge, based on a SIG Sauer 516 short-barreled rifle seized from his home the morning of his arrest, Wiens affirmed under Bentley’s questioning that Foster legally purchased in Alabama — where Foster played college football — the rifle and another handgun recovered at his home. The rifle is still illegal to have under California law, but Bentley sought to have the judge consider a misdemeanor charge.
Foster remains free on $75,000 bail. He also voluntarily has agreed to stay away from the 49ers facility during offseason workouts. The team has said it will cut him if it’s proven he hit Ennis, and he still could face at least a six-week NFL suspension based on its domestic-violence policy.
“We are monitoring all developments in the matter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said regarding the Foster case.
Our update from #49ers Reuben Foster preliminary hearing on domestic violence/weapons case after explosive testimony from accuser. Court resumes at 1:30 bayareane.ws/2GrzYyXRe: Reuben Foster’s accuser admitting she want to jail for 2011 false claim of domestic violence vs another ex-boyfriend:
Elissa Ennis was arrested 11/4/2011 and charged with two counts of aggravated assault in Baton Rouge. Case was dismissed 9/18/2013.UPDATE: Reuben Foster’s ex-girlfriend: Beating allegations were ‘all a money scheme’ bayareane.ws/2GrzYyX
@49ers https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DdbAwJ2UQAEeDg6.jpgUPDATE Reuben Foster’s ex-girlfriend: ‘I apologize to everybody,’ she said tearfully in court, after testifying she… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…Reuben Foster stoic w/ no expression as he follows attorney out of courtroom for lunch recess, after explosive testimony from ex-girlfriend about not only lying but assaulting Foster, stealing money&Rolex watches from him, & admitting to jail term for false DV claim in LouisianaFoster preliminary hearing: Prosecutor and defense attorney have proxy battle with detective over diligence of investigation and veracity of video of Ennis fightAfter nearly two hours of testimony, Ennis left the courtroom in tears with her attorney and did not give comment to reportersReuben Foster attorney Joshua Bentley to Elissa Ennis:
“You knee in this case when Reuben Foster broke up with you that you were going to go to your playbook and ruin his career. Isn’t that true?”
Ennis: “Yes sir”
Few minutes later, after 2-hour testimony, she left court in tearsProsecutor Kevin Smith asks if Ennis still loves Foster:
“I don’t love him, I need help for myself” and announces plans to check herself to an unspecified clinicReuben Foster attorne Reuben Foster’s ex-girlfriend admits that in 2011 she falsely accused an ex-boyfriend in Louisiana of domestic violence after he broke up with her. “I went to jail,” Elissa Ennis testifiesElissa Ennis asked why she is risking perjury to exonerate Reuben Foster: “I had to do the right thing.”Reuben Foster’s ex-girlfriend admits that in 2011 she falsely accused an ex-boyfriend of domestic violence after he broke up with her. “I…Ennis testifiesEnnis testifiesReuben Foster’s ex-girlfriend admits that in 2011 she falsely accused an ex-boyfriend of domestic violence after he broke up with her. “I…Ennis also said of the purported lies against Foster: “I didn’t think it would get this far … I wanted to sue him on my own.”Bentley: “Did Mr. Foster ever hit you?”
Ennis: “No sir.”
She breaks down in tears.
“I’m sorry. I really am. I apologize to everybody”Ennis also says she lied about Foster throwing a dog across a room during an argument.
Bentley: “Why would you lie about that?”
Ennis: “I was pissed and I wanted to end him.”Ennis acknowledges threatening to sell photos of Foster to TMZ showing him returning a Corvette he bought for her to driveReuben Foster attorney to accuser Ennis:
Did Mr Foster ever hit you?
You lied because in your words you wanted to take him down?
Yes sir (cries, grabs tissue)
To ruin his career?
Yes sir (cries)
Because this breakup was final?
Yes sir. I’m sorry. I apologize to everybodyOn cross examination, defense attorney Joshua Bentley goes methodically over accusations and elicits repeated response from Ennis:
“Yes sir, that was a lie”Foster accuser testimony continues:
911 calls played, one with Elissa Ennis frantic, one with her calm and deliberate.
“My boyfriend, he beat me up”