Reuben Foster's ex-girlfriend testified Thursday that the 49ers linebacker didn't hit her and that the injuries police and hospital workers observed on Feb. 11 were the result of a fight with another woman following a road-rage incident in San Francisco the day before.
Judge Nona Klippen heard testimony from four witnesses, including Elissa Ennis, during Thursday's preliminary hearing and set a May 23 date for when she will decide whether the case will move to trial. Two police officers and a motorist who gave Ennis his phone to call 911 took the stand Thursday.
The most explosive statements, however, came from Ennis, 28, who broke down several times during her highly charged, two-hour testimony and who, while being examined by Foster's attorney, Joshua Bentley, admitted that she tried to bring false domestic violence charges against another former boyfriend in 2011 when that man tried to break up with her.
Said Bentley: “You knew 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?”
Said a tearful Ennis: “Yes, sir.”
Dressed in a black-and-white striped dress, Ennis also admitted to stealing money and jewelry – more than $8,000 in cash and two Rolex watches – from Foster when she left his Los Gatos home and went back to her mother's home in Louisiana. She has since returned the money but still has the jewelry, she said.
When she was living with Foster, she drove a Corvette that he had purchased. When their relationship ended, she said she took pictures of Foster returning the car to the dealership and threatened to sell them to the gossip show TMZ.
Why did she do so, and why would she initially lie to police, she was asked? Because Foster wanted to end their relationship, she said, and, "I wanted him to go down. I was pissed."
“It was all a money scheme," Ennis said. "I didn’t want it to get this far in the news. It was about money.”
Ennis often had trouble recalling what happened or what she told police on the morning of Feb. 11 and had to be admonished several times about answering before a question was complete. As for the different stories she has told authorities: "I was lying about a lot of stuff," she said.
Prosecutors, however, believe Ennis initially was telling the truth when she said Foster dragged her by her hair down stairs and punched her as many as 10 times before throwing her out of the house.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith submitted photos of Ennis that were taken on Feb. 11 that show scratches and marks on her hand, knee, face and a deeper scratch on the back of her neck. He also played 911 calls from Ennis in which she says, "My boyfriend's beating me up." Three calls to 911 were made that morning.
Ennis testified that her injuries were suffered the previous day after she was cut off by another car, got into a road-rage situation with the driver and eventually fought a woman in San Francisco. A friend of Ennis' found a video that shows a portion of the fight on Instagram and sent a video of it to Ennis.
Both Foster's attorney and Smith, the prosecutor, argued about the inconsistency of Ennis' injuries. Bentley suggested they weren't consistent with a 228-pound linebacker punching the petite Ennis with a closed fist, as Ennis initially told police. Smith, meanwhile, said that the ruptured eardrum she suffered would be consistent with Foster hitting her. He also said that Ennis is claiming to have had a 15-minute, physical fight with a woman on Feb. 10 but didn't have very many marks on her hands on Feb. 11.
Smith also noted that when Ennis initially recanted to police it was with a different story. Three days after Foster's arrest, she told police she got into a fight on Feb. 10 but said it occurred outside a bar in San Francisco after she had had a couple of drinks. After the street-fight video surfaced in March, she said she suffered the injuries during the road-rage incident.
"Clearly, the issue here is which statement do you believe?" Smith said.
Last week, Foster, 24, pleaded not guilty to the three felony charges against him: domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury; forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime; and possession of an assault weapon. Bentley argued that if there was no domestic violence crime, then the second count – which alleges that Foster smashed her cellphone – does not apply.
Foster, wearing a dark blue suit and pink shirt, sat next to Bentley during the proceeding and mostly was silent and still. The exception came during testimony from the final witness, Officer Katrina Freeman of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department, who said that Foster seemed agitated at times on Feb. 11. Foster appeared to shake his head in disagreement when she said that.
Klippen will review the evidence and testimony and decide next week whether there is reason to move forward with a jury trial, which likely would begin in July.