A video at the center of the criminal case against suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi can be used in the upcoming administrative hearing on his suspension, a judge ruled today.
The video is of Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, who was taped by a neighbor on Jan. 1 crying and pointing to a bruise on her arm that she said was caused when Mirkarimi grabbed her during an argument the previous day, police and prosecutors said.
After the neighbor, Ivory Madison, called police to report the incident, Mirkarimi was arrested two weeks later and eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge before the case went to trial.
He was sentenced on March 19 to three years’ probation and other penalties and was suspended without pay two days later by Mayor Ed Lee on official misconduct charges.
Mirkarimi has a right to a hearing at the city’s Ethics Commission, which will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to uphold the charges and remove the suspended sheriff from office.
The city attorney’s office had sought a copy of the video from the Police Department, which had seized it from Madison’s home with a search warrant.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong granted the release of the video today over the vociferous opposition of Lopez’s attorney, Paula Canny.
Canny said the video should not be released “out of respect for crime victims.”
She said, “It has to do with my client not wanting her image to last on the Internet into perpetuity.”
Following Wong’s ruling, Canny talked to reporters outside the courtroom, speaking strongly against the judge and San Francisco’s district and city attorney’s offices for their actions in the case and saying she will appeal the ruling.
“The court has inherent jurisdiction to protect people,” she said.
“They don’t want to protect Eliana, they don’t want to protect her rights. They’re so out of their minds to get Ross Mirkarimi that they don’t care who they step on.”
Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith countered that “when a claim of privacy is made, one of the things that’s relevant under the law is the extent to which the matter is already public.”
Keith said Lopez “has made repeated public statements about the videotape, she has attacked its credibility and attacked the motives of the prosecution in the case and she has made a range of statements about the case. Given that, we think the court was correct” in its ruling.
He said the city attorney’s office plans to get a copy of the video made from the Police Department and will present it at the Ethics Commission hearing.
Whether the video would be able to be seen by the public “would be up to the Ethics Commission to decide,” he said, adding that the mayor’s position is that the proceedings should be “open and public.”
The next Ethics Commission hearing on the Mirkarimi case is scheduled for May 29. The hearing is expected to only address rules and procedures and to schedule future dates for the proceedings, which could take months.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News