The domestic violence trial of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was assigned to a judge Friday morning, the first step in what could be a few days of very crucial pretrial motions on what evidence will be admitted.
Mirkarimi, 50, is charged with three misdemeanors – domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness – for a New Year’s Eve incident in which he allegedly grabbed the arm of his wife Eliana Lopez while their 2-year-old son was present. Lopez, 36, later told a neighbor about the episode, and the neighbor went to police. Both Mirkarimi and Lopez have since publicly denied there was any abuse.
Judge Garrett Wong was scheduled to take up the case Friday afternoon.
At a brief hearing in the morning, a separate judge initially appointed Judge Susan Breall to handle the trial, but Mirkarimi’s attorney Lidia Stiglich challenged that appointment, saying Breall would be biased against her client. She did not specify a reason in court. Wong was then appointed.
Breall handles the domestic violence calendar, and as the first judge to receive Mirkarimi’s case, granted prosecutors a protective order barring Mirkarimi from visiting or communicating with his wife and child during the course of the case. Another judge subsequently granted Mirkarimi visitation of his son.
Among the issues Wong is expected to have to rule on before the trial begins are the admissibility of Lopez’s statements to two neighbors about the incident, and a videotape taken by one of the neighbors of a sobbing Lopez showing a bruise on her upper arm and talking about how Mirkarimi had also done something similar to her months before.
Lopez reportedly admitted to that neighbor her fears about losing custody of her son to Mirkarimi, who she said had told her he was “a powerful man” and could do it.
Mirkarimi’s attorneys have argued Lopez’s statements were not spontaneous, but calculated, and as hearsay should not be allowed.
If convicted, the newly elected sheriff could face potential jail time or probation, plus having to give up his service weapon. But he would not necessarily have to leave office.