Prosecutors Friday fired back at defense attorneys for Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi – arguing that the statements of Mirkarimi’s allegedly battered wife Eliana Lopez were admissible at trial – in a court filing that included photographs of a clearly distraught Lopez displaying a large bruise on her arm.
The images are stills from a videotape reportedly made by the couple’s neighbor Ivory Madison the morning after an alleged New Year’s Eve incident in which Mirkarimi is accused of grabbing his wife’s arm during an argument when their 2-year-old son was present. Madison later reported the incident to police.
Mirkarimi, 50, has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. Both he and Lopez have publicly denied there was any abuse.
Lopez’s statements to Madison and another neighbor about the incident, as well as the videotape, are crucial to the prosecution.
Defense attorneys maintained in a filing Wednesday that the statements by Lopez were calculated, hearsay statements that are not admissible at trial, attributing them to her fears that Mirkarimi could gain custody of their son in the event of a custody dispute.
Lopez reportedly told Madison that not only had Mirkarimi “grabbed, pushed and pulled” her, bruising her arm, the day before, but that he had done something similar months prior. She also allegedly spoke of Mirkarimi telling her he was “a powerful man” and could take her son from her.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar Tarchi argued in Friday’s brief that despite the fact that Lopez’s statements were made many hours after the incident, they can still be considered spontaneous under the law.
“Although roughly 18 hours passed between the event and the statements to Madison, the victim was clearly still under the stress of the traumatic and stressful events from the day before,” Tarchi wrote.
Tarchi described Lopez’s statements as “an immediate, unsolicited, emotional outpouring” after she had been “sequestered” at home by Mirkarimi, leaving only while Mirkarimi was in the shower the next day.
Tarchi quoted statements by Madison to police that when Lopez came to her that day, she appeared “devastated” and that the incident was still “fresh” in Lopez’s mind.
Within a minute of coming to Madison’s apartment, Lopez “completely burst into tears and was crying,” and showed her the bruise, Madison reportedly told police.
Madison described herself as Lopez’s “closest friend in the United States” and “had never seen the victim like this before and knew this fight was different,” Tarchi wrote.
“This was not just a normal fight…Some of the fights [the victim and the Defendant] have are out of control, Ross is out of control and this was one of those and this was serious,” Tarchi quoted Madison as saying to investigators.
“What I am a hundred percent sure about is that [Defendant Mirkarimi] was violent enough that [the victim] literally fled the house.”
Madison told police that Lopez had run out of the house and into the street, screaming, and that the couple’s son Theo was also outside, crying and screaming, when an apologetic Mirkarimi asked Lopez to “please come back in the house” and “please don’t tell anyone.”
Claims by the defense that the video was “scripted and calculated,” Tarchi wrote, are “yet another desperate attempt by the Defendant to position himself as a victim of nefarious political conspiracies.”
“But distractions do not change the facts” of the case, Tarchi said. “The Defendant battered his wife in front of their young son, then, fearing the consequences if the victim sought police intervention, he dissuaded her from reporting the matter to authorities.”
A trial judge, Garrett Wong, was assigned Friday, and attorneys from both sides are scheduled to argue whether the statements and video are admissible, as well as other issues, on Monday morning.
Jury selection could begin Tuesday.