Eliana Lopez, the wife of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, briefly testified under oath for the first time Wednesday night in her husband’s ongoing official misconduct proceedings. She was asked by attorneys for The City about the Dec. 31 domestic dispute with her husband that eventually led to his arrest, conviction and suspension in March by Mayor Ed Lee.
The mayor’s case to remove Mirkarimi relies not only on his guilty plea to misdemeanor false imprisonment, but also evidence that the newly elected sheriff used his position in city government to suggest he could easily gain custody of the couple’s 3-year-old son, Theo.
But despite earlier statements in a highly publicized video in which Lopez said Mirkarimi told her he was “very powerful” and could win custody, she testified Wednesday that she was actually referring to his status as an American citizen compared to her position as an immigrant from Venezuela.
“In this country, I think he’s in a better position than me,” Lopez said. “As the sheriff, no. As an American, yes.”
The Ethics Commission, which will eventually make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to permanently remove or reinstate Mirkarimi, will hear more from Lopez tonight.
Wednesday’s proceedings also included extensive questioning of Linnette Peralta Haynes, Mirkarimi’s former campaign manager who called and texted both Mirkarimi and Lopez dozens of times Jan. 4 — a tense day in which the domestic violence was first reported to police by neighbor Ivory Madison.
Haynes said she was simply trying to protect both Lopez and Mirkarimi by providing emotional support and advising them to get separate attorneys. Haynes — who has limited training in domestic violence advocacy — said although she determined Lopez had suffered a bruise on her arm as a result of the Dec. 31 incident, she also concluded that the sheriff’s wife was in no imminent danger of being abused again.
As attorneys tried to establish a case that Mirkarimi dissuaded witnesses from coming forward about the abuse, Haynes repeatedly denied allegations that she told Madison not to talk to police about the matter in order to protect the sheriff.
That contention is clearly refuted in a written declaration by Madison, who said Haynes told her over the phone as police investigators were at the door to “refuse to talk to them, or tell them I had lied, or that I was mistaken and was talking about another couple.”
Haynes testified that she was skeptical of Madison, who was acting “fishy” in her dealings with the fallout of the abuse.
Tonight, the commission will consider whether to explore allegations of untruthful testimony against Lee and Mirkarimi himself. That scenario could require lengthy questioning of at least five more witnesses.