Efforts by Mayor Ed Lee and City Attorney Dennis Herrera to avoid a costly and potentially embarrassing Ethics Commission inquisition into whether suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is guilty of official misconduct have been tainted by falsehoods and false accusations, a Fog City Journal investigation has revealed.
The contributions to the billboard campaign launched by La Casa De Las Madres – a city-funded non-profit organization committed to preventing domestic violence and providing support services to victims of domestic violence – may suggest the contributions were, in part, politically motivated.
Mirkarimi’s defense counsel, Shepard Kopp and David Waggoner, argued in a brief filed April 11 that the City charter requires the City Attorney to defend the City and County of San Francisco; that no Charter provision exists for the City Attorney to defend a specific office within the city. If that were the case, then the City Attorney would also be obligated to defend the Office of Sheriff as well.
Asked if a potential Board vote on whether suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi should be removed from office is “weighing heavily” on his mind, Mar told Fog City, “I really cannot make any comment about my former colleague, Ross Mirkarimi, but I’ll just say that I always will be a fair person that listens to all the evidence and does my best to be fair – and I know that is going to be a difficult decision.”
Lee, who had asked Mirkarimi to step down Monday or face suspension, announced his decision to suspend the Sheriff following Mirkarimi’s announcement that he would not resign. Mirkarimi now faces an Ethics Commission probe into whether his conviction rises to the level of official misconduct as defined in the city Charter, a finding that will be presented to the Board of Supervisors for a vote. Nine of eleven supervisors must vote in the affirmative to remove an elected public official from office.
Lopez is expected to tell the untold story of what happened on December 3 that led to an altercation between Lopez and her husband, an argument that resulted in Ms. Lopez sustaining a bruise on her right arm. Court documents paint a picture of a couple experiencing marriage difficulties with concerns over a possible divorce and child custody battle.
Gascón said he recognized that there are those who wanted him to “go for the jugular” and keep the trial going; others felt that the prosecution of Mirkarimi was a political vendetta. Gascón concluded that since “ideologues on both sides” may be disappointed in the plea agreement, “This gives me comfort and reassurance that I have not politicized the case and that I have done my absolute best to treat it like any another domestic violence allegation.”
Missing from his prepared statement was a recount of the events that occurred on December 31 that led him to this point. When pressed, he stated, “I understand that some of this continues and that I should be guarded.” He also did not respond to the question of whether he had the moral authority to continue running the Sheriff’s Department.
Calling the Sheriff “a national embarrassment,” Cathy Black, the executive director of Case De Las Madres, a shelter dedicated to victims of domestic violence, told a bevy of reporters gathered on the steps of City Hall, “I think it would be best for everybody involved if he would step aside. If Sheriff Mirkarimi will not do the right thing, then the mayor and the Board of Supervisors must.”
Steinunn Guðjónsdóttir was the event’s keynote speaker. Ms. Guðjónsdóttir is Project Manager of Shelter for Trafficked Women and Women Exiting Prostitution, in Iceland. She is in the US as part of an international visitor leadership program organized by the State Department, and researching domestic- and gender-based violence. She stated, “Violence against women is a symptom of gender inequality. We must address this.”
The opposition brief, filed by Mirkarimi defense attorney Lidia Stiglich, argues statements made to police by neighbors, Ivory Madison and Callie Williams, are inadmissible under rules of evidence because they are considered “hearsay” statements.
Gascón also stated that he will not seek the death penalty “in any case” when discussing a previously-cold 1983 murder case.
The court order, issued by Superior Court Judge Ronald Albers, provides Mirkarimi and Theo with up to two-hours per day and up to six-hours on weekend days to spend unsupervised visits together. Exact times, locations and transportation for the visits are to be arranged by Ms. Patricia Forsyth and her son, Jeremy Forsyth, the order stipulates. The Forsyths are friends of Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez.
Mirkarmi is facing three criminal misdemeanor charges stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident involving his wife, Eliana Lopez, on New Year’s Eve. He was ordered separated from his wife and the couple’s two-year old son, Theo, when charges of domestic violence, dissuading a witness and child endangerment were first filed, January 13. The “stay away” order remains in effect until there’s a resolution in his criminal trial, or is lifted by Judge Albers. Mirkarimi’s criminal trial is set to begin February 24.
Judge Breall refused to modify the order, stating that she found no change in circumstances in the week since the order was first imposed; that she saw no reason to depart from the usual domestic violence court procedures of separating alleged abusers from their alleged victims.
When asked how Mirkarimi’s family is doing, McElroy said, “Every night his son, Theo, asks for ‘Daddy.’ This is tearing the family apart, doing more damage than good. Isn’t it supposed to be the exact opposite of what family court is about?”
Prosecutors allege Mirkarimi hurt his wife during an argument in the presence of their two-year old son and told her not to discuss it with anybody.