The wife of suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi testified at the city’s Ethics Commission tonight that while her husband did cause a bruise on her arm, he did not try to cover up the incident after the fact.
The commission is conducting an inquiry into whether Mirkarimi should be permanently removed from office after Mayor Ed Lee suspended him in March following the sheriff’s conviction on a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge.
Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to the charge in connection with a Dec. 31 incident in which he grabbed the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez, during an argument.
Lopez returned to the U.S. from her native Venezuela, where she has been since March, to testify in front of the commission at City Hall. She began her testimony on Wednesday and completed it today.
Lopez has expressed support for her husband, and under questioning from Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith, who is representing the mayor, she acknowledged Mirkarimi bruised her arm when he grabbed her, but did not go so far as to call it an injury.
“I’m not a doctor, it was a bruise,” she said.
She later said she bruises easily, even sometimes while playing with the couple’s young son, Theo.
On Jan. 1, she told a neighbor, Ivory Madison, about the incident and made a 40-second video tearfully talking about it. Madison called police three days later to report the case over the objections of Lopez, who said she just wanted to go to couples therapy with her husband.
Mirkarimi served for seven years on the city’s Board of Supervisors before being elected sheriff in November, and the city attorney’s office has alleged that Mirkarimi used the power of his office to try to dissuade Madison or other witnesses.
However, Lopez denied that, saying Mirkarimi was mostly just despondent after learning that an investigation was under way.
“He didn’t want to answer the phone, he was completely demoralized,” she said.
She recalled telling Mirkarimi, “You are supervisor and just became sheriff. Do something,” but said, “He said no, he cannot do anything.”
Lopez’s testimony was often rambling and at one point drew an audible sigh from Keith, the deputy city attorney.
“I feel the same way, don’t worry,” Lopez retorted.
Following her testimony, Lopez spoke briefly to reporters outside the hearing room.
“It was great to see Ross, and I just can’t wait until we’re together,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the day when I’m going to be just the sheriff’s wife.”
Lopez and Mirkarimi will both be in court at the San Francisco Hall of Justice on Friday morning to try to modify a protective order barring contact between the two since January.
Lopez’s attorney Paula Canny said she will seek to have “peaceful contact” allowed between the couple.
Following Lopez’s testimony, the Ethics Commission also ruled that it will not issue subpoenas for four people that Mirkarimi’s attorneys have said could prove that Mayor Lee lied under oath when he testified in front of the commission on June 29.
The attorneys were seeking subpoenas for Supervisor Christina Olague, city Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and construction company owner Walter Wong.
Lee testified that he had not consulted with any supervisors about Mirkarimi before suspending him. But Walker has told reporters that Olague told her that Lee discussed the issue with her prior to the suspension.
Lee also testified that he had not offered Mirkarimi a job via an intermediary in return for his resignation from office.
But Peskin has told reporters that a third party, Wong, asked him to offer Mirkarimi a job on the mayor’s behalf.
Mirkarimi’s attorney David Waggoner said, “If the charging officer lies under oath, what does that say about this entire proceeding?”
Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser called the issue “an invitation to a sideshow” and encouraged the commissioners to disregard it.
Commission chair Benedict Hur agreed.
“I’m not diminishing in any way the seriousness of a perjury allegation … but it’s a matter for the (district attorney), not something for us to decide,” Hur said. “The issue is too collateral to merit additional testimony.”
The mayor issued a statement following the commission’s ruling, saying they “made the right decision.”
Lee said, “It is time for Sheriff Mirkarimi to stop creating baseless sideshows, and accept responsibility for his actions and for his official misconduct.”
The commission will return to the case on Aug. 16 when the attorneys will make closing arguments. Hur said the commission plans to make their decision that day on what to recommend to the Board of Supervisors, who will ultimately decide whether to oust Mirkarimi.
Nine of the 11 supervisors would have to uphold the charges to remove him from office.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News