By Luke Thomas
July 20, 2012
It couldn’t have come soon enough, but today Eliana Lopez and suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and their three-year old son, Theo, are reunited and repatriated, thanks to the lifting of a stay away order imposed on the couple in January.
“We’re ecstatic,” Mirkarimi said following the hearing and after the couple embraced and kissed.
Following the hearing, the couple departed together and joined with friends to celebrate.
The stay away order was lifted following Lopez’s testimony before the San Francisco Ethics Commission last eve during which she said her husband never abused her, nor did he abuse her on December 31 when the couple argued over Lopez’s desire to return to Venezuela with the couple’s son for several months. The argument was particularly tense, Lopez testified, because the couple was dealing with the prospect of a possible divorce and child custody battle.
During the argument, Lopez testified Mirkarimi grabbed her arm for “one second” during which Lopez reflexively yanked her arm away which, she said, contributed to her bruising.
“I bruise easily,” she said.
During her testimony, Lopez said she trusted her friend and neighbor, Ivory Madison, and allowed Madison, at Madison’s urging, to record a video of the bruise which Madison said could be used to “screw” Mirkarimi if the couple entered into a child custody battle.
But on January 4th, without permission or consulting Lopez, Madison reported the December 31 incident to police saying she had a video of a tearful Lopez pointing to a bruise on her inner right arm saying, “This is the second time this is happening.”
Lopez clarified her video comment to the Ethics Commission saying it was the second time the couple had argued about their problems. The first time was in March last year, she said.
Under California law, all reports of alleged domestic violence must be investigated, a fact Madison, who holds a law degree but is not licensed to practice law, would have known. Lopez has maintained from the outset that because Madison represented herself as an attorney, Lopez relied on Madison’s confidence and an implied attorney-client privilege.
That confidence was betrayed, Lopez testified, later adding under cross-examination by Mirkarimi defense co-counsel Shepard Kopp that she “absolutely” regrets ever making the video or trusting her so-called “friend.”
Lopez testified Madison, who donated to Mirkarimi’s campaign for sheriff, is friends with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Dianne Feinstein and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, each of whom endorsed Chris Cunnie in the race for San Francisco Sheriff.
Following Mirkarimi’s plea to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment in March, Mayor Ed Lee seized upon an opportunity to remove a political rival from office, suspending the democratically elected progressive sheriff without pay and later using the media to label Mirkarimi a “wife beater” after the mayor allegedly perjured himself during his testimony before the Ethics Commission.
Mirkarimi’s defense counsel had sought to subpoena four witnesses to testify under penalty of perjury, including Lee-appointed District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, to adjudicate Lee’s alleged perjury, a formal request that was denied by the commission last eve.
The commission said though it took allegations of felony perjury seriously, it was a matter for the district attorney to investigate. District Attorney George Gascón previously said he would “evaluate” whether to prosecute the perjury allegations once the Ethics Commission “does its work” to adjudicate the allegations.
“Given that the Ethics Commission determined that they’re not going to do anything with the allegations that the mayor perjured himself and committed felony perjury, we look forward to District Attorney Gascón taking these allegations seriously and investigating them wherever they may lead and pursuing that investigation with all the seriousness that it warrants and that his office requires him to do,” said Mirkarimi co-defense counsel David Waggoner.
The Ethics Commission, which is tasked with collecting evidence and making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, reconvenes August 16 when closing arguments are expected to be heard. The commission also instructed attorneys to file briefs on the broad definition of official misconduct as defined in the City Charter, and to support arguments with legal precedents.
In the case of Mazzola vs. City and County of San Francisco, an appellate decision overturning then-Airport Commissioner Joseph Mazzola’s suspension, states, “Quite clearly, official misconduct requires a direct relationship of the alleged wrongdoing to the office held.”
The Board of Supervisors will ultimately decide if Mirkarimi will be reinstated to the office he was elected to serve. Nine of eleven supervisors must vote in the affirmative to remove an elected official from office.