Judge refuses to lift stay-away order for sheriff 

A judge upheld Thursday that San Francisco's embattled sheriff must not have any contact with his family after being charged with domestic violence and two other crimes.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi still cannot see his wife, Eliana Lopez, and their 2-year-old son, Theo, after Mirkarimi's new lawyer requested that a stay-away order be modified or dropped.

Judge Susan Breall issued the order last week and said Thursday that she saw no changes after a week and suggested that Mirkarimi petition the family court to seek supervised visitation rights for his son.

Mirkarimi's lawyer, Lidia Stiglich said that Mirkarimi is taking the allegations seriously and has gone to three counseling sessions.

"I am incredibly disappointed to say the least. This has been enormously crushing — the fact that I haven't been able to see my family, be with my wife or be with my son," Mirkarimi said after the hearing. "This is disproportionately cruel and we will continue to commit to fight this."

Mirkarimi said he plans to file the petition.

Mirkarimi, 50, is scheduled to go to trial next month on charges that he bruised the right arm of Lopez, 36, a former Venezuelan telenovela star, during a New Year's Eve incident at the couple's home.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, all misdemeanors.

Mirkarimi has vowed to remain in office and fight the charges.

Stiglich, who replaced Robert Waggener on Wednesday as Mirkarimi's attorney, argued that the sheriff should be allowed to visit his son, especially after a recent child protective services investigation found no abuse or neglect.

"With respect to Theo, Mr. Mirkarimi is devastated at being separated from his son. His son is devastated at being separated from his father," Stiglich said. "It would be appropriate that the court lift the stay-away order as to Theo."

But prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi argued that the stay-away order was requested because of the charges and should remain in effect.

Aguilar-Tarchi cited two emails Lopez sent to her neighbor Ivory Madison, who called police about the Dec. 31 incident. In one email on Oct. 19, Lopez tells Madison about possible neglect of her son by Mirkarimi while she was in Los Angeles for the day. Lopez referenced in the email that the toddler had not been fed, was left alone in a car and had vomited, Aguilar-Tarchi said.

"I traveled to LA, very worry about Theo because the last week when I was traveling just for a day and Ross spent just two hours with Theo was a nightmare," Lopez wrote. "I found Theo all wet, shoes, socks..."

In a second email to Madison on Jan. 2, two days after the alleged incident, Lopez appears worried about her safety, Aguilar-Tarch said.

"I am realizing how serious it is and how smart I have to be to protect Theo and myself," Lopez wrote. "I just want to run away."

According to an arrest affidavit, Mirkarimi is alleged to have mistreated his wife on two separate occasions last year and to have told her he was a "very powerful" man who could take away their son.

Lopez appeared on a Jan. 1 videotape recorded by Madison candidly discussing the Dec. 31 confrontation and another incident earlier last year, according to the affidavit.

Lopez's lawyer, Cheryl Wallace, told the judge Thursday that she believes the interaction between Lopez and Madison, who is an attorney, should be deemed privileged information.

Aguilar-Tarchi argued that the conversations between Lopez and Madison should be seen as between two neighbors.

Breall agreed.

Stiglich again reiterated the Mirkarimi had attended counseling sessions and noted that Mirkarimi and Lopez were together for nearly two weeks after the New Year's Eve incident and there were no further incidents.

"He loves his wife, he loves his family. He's looking forward to getting beyond and being reunited with his family," Stiglich said.

While Breall praised Mirkarimi for going to counseling, she suggested that he also participate in a treatment program for batterers.

"I know Sheriff Mirkarimi would not want to have any special treatment just because he is the sheriff," Breall said. "It's only been one week and I find no change in circumstances to justify the defense's request."

Mirkarimi is due back in court on Feb. 22 for a pre-trial hearing.

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