By Kat Anderson
February 17, 2012
District Attorney George Gascón announced yesterday during a press roundtable that he will not prosecute the wife of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi over her possible involvement in an alleged domestic violence incident on New Year’s Eve.
Gascón also stated that he will not seek the death penalty “in any case” when discussing a previously-cold 1983 murder case.
During the question and answer portion of the roundtable discussion, a reporter asked Gascón if it was “awkward” to work with Sheriff Mirkarimi because of his “personal predicament,” and was asked to comment on a recent media report indicating his wife, Eliana Lopez, is seeking immunity before she testifies in Mirkarimi’s upcoming criminal trial, set to begin February 24. Gascón said he anticipates no problems working with the Sheriff as a partner in the criminal justice system.
“I know that the Sheriff is a very professional man and I anticipate that he will separate his personal life from his professional life,” Gascon responded to a bevy of reporters convened at the Delancey Street Restaurant, Thursday morning.
As to reports that Lopez will cooperate only if she is granted immunity, Gascón responded, “Frankly, we’re very confused. We don’t normally see victims asking for immunity. Frankly, we normally don’t see victims surrounding themselves by a large group of attorneys that are working closely with the attorney representing the offender. So, this is a very unusual case.”
“We have no intention whatsoever of prosecuting ‘Ms. L’ for any local charges,” Gascón continued. “But, we’re curious as to why she is asking for immunity. We also learned through the media that she was going to cooperate. But when we called her attorney, we were told she would not avail herself.”
Gascón also confirmed a commitment he made while campaigning for the office of District Attorney. He was asked if he would seek the death penalty in a 19-year-old cold case involving William Payne of San Francisco. Payne is accused of strangling 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley on November 16, 1983.
“We will not be seeking the death penalty here because this is a commitment I made to the voters,” Gascón declared, adding that his office will consider pursuing life without the possibility of parole instead.
When questioned about “Go Lorrie’s,” the airport shuttle service company accused of making illegal contributions to the Ed Lee for Mayor campaign, Gascón said, “We’ll look at other cases and make appropriate determinations. One of the messages that I want to send, and I hope it’s a real clear message with this case, is that any attempt to usurp our election laws will be reviewed by us. We’ll take a look at it, and if appropriate, we’ll prosecute those cases.”
Gascón also announced two initiatives. First, the District Attorney’s office has a new policy regarding “officer-involved shootings (OIS).” When there is an OIS, the DA’s office will release a letter summarizing the events surrounding the OIS and the independent findings of the DA’s office. Names of officers cannot be released due to police officers’ “Bill of Rights,” Gascón said.
The second initiative involves the rolling out of a new Sentencing Commission. Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen sponsored legislation that formed the commission. The goal of the commission is to “look at how we prosecute and sentence cases,” with an eye toward reducing recidivism and supporting realignment by handling cases locally rather than sending people to state penitentiaries, according to Gascón.
Gascón commented that “blindly following” penal code sentencing guidelines can turn low-level offenders into hardened members of the prison system – an outcome he seeks to avoid.
“We know that some offenders will benefit from not being incarcerated,” Gascón said. “Some offenders, when mixed with more serious offenders, do worse. Some, we realize, should be cited and released with little attention because too much attention might not be good for them. Some, must be kept away from society.”
With the help of the Sentencing Commission, “We can look at the offender, the offense and try to assess what is the best outcome,” Gascon said.
The District Attorney’s Office recently hired a “sentencing specialist,” with experience working with community-based organizations in other counties. The specialist has a background in social studies and knows what it is like to “be a gang member,” Gascón said.
“The sentencing specialist came from a rough beginning,” shared Gascón. “He had problems with the law, and he turned his life around. . .He will have the total spectrum of knowledge.”