A video of the wife of suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was again the subject of a legal battle in court today as his suspension proceedings move forward haltingly.
The city attorney’s office is seeking the use in the proceedings of a video of 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, authorities said.
Lopez’s attorney Paula Canny asked for a delay so she could file further briefs on the matter. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong agreed to delay ruling on the issue until May 15.
After the neighbor, Ivory Madison, called police to report the incident, Mirkarimi was eventually arrested two weeks later and the video was the central piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case against him.
Just before the case was set to go to trial, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced on March 19 to three years’ probation and other penalties.
Two days later, Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay on official misconduct charges.
The suspended sheriff has a right to a hearing at the city’s Ethics Commission and later the Board of Supervisors, which will ultimately decide whether to uphold the charges and remove Mirkarimi from office.
Canny said outside of court today that the city’s attempt to use the video in the suspension proceedings “smacks, to me, of an effort at character assassination” and said it would serve to re-victimize her client.
Lee, speaking to reporters at City Hall this afternoon, said he thought it was important to include the video in the public record because “it does allow people to view what happened at that time.”
He said, “It sets the tone … I know there’s a different tone being set now by Mr. Mirkarimi at this time that it was an argument, not an act of violence.”
The mayor said he did not think that Lopez “can claim privacy when she was recording (the video) for use in a future setting.”
Mirkarimi’s attorneys have previously said that Lopez wanted the video for potential use in a custody hearing over the couple’s young son rather than for criminal charges.
The battle over the video comes in advance of the next Ethics Commission hearing on May 29 on the Mirkarimi case. The hearing is expected to only address rules and procedures for the proceedings, which could take months.
Lee said the case “does use a lot of resources and time” and “I wish that didn’t happen.”
Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith, who represented the city at today’s hearing, said although the case might not be resolved any time soon, the Ethics Commission “needs to make their decision based on a full record.”
Keith said the city attorney’s office would be sitting down with Mirkarimi’s attorneys to “get the proceedings to go as quickly as possible.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News