Ross Mirkarimi speaks about domestic violence incident 

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, spoke Wednesday about the Dec. 31, 2011, domestic violence incident with wife Eliana Lopez, left, that lead to his suspension from office. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, spoke Wednesday about the Dec. 31, 2011, domestic violence incident with wife Eliana Lopez, left, that lead to his suspension from office.

Suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has for the first time detailed his version of the events that led to the high-profile domestic violence incident involving his wife — including how she sustained a sizable bruise on her arm.

Mirkarimi told KQED’s “Forum” program Wednesday that he and his wife, Eliana Lopez, were headed to lunch on New Year’s Eve with their 2-year-old son, Theo, when they began to argue about a trip Lopez wanted to take to her native Venezuela. Mirkarimi said a “horrible quarrel” erupted when he and Lopez disagreed about the trip, and about the notion that she had “been seeing an attorney” about something that “was potentially a custody issue.”

Scroll down to listen to the full audio from the KQED "Forum" program.

The former sheriff said Lopez and their son had recently been in Venezuela for more than two months, and he was concerned about stories he’d heard about kidnappings of Americans in the South American country. Mirkarimi said he turned the car around and returned to the couple’s Western Addition home, with Theo extremely upset in the back seat.

“I didn’t want us to be arguing in public about a sensitive subject like that,” Mirkarimi said.

Mirkarimi — whose voice cracked with emotion during his recounting of the event — said he grabbed Lopez’s arm when she exited the car and “tried to guide her back into the passenger seat” so they could talk. He said that’s the contact that left a bruise, which was depicted in a video made the next day by Lopez and neighbor Ivory Madison, who later took the matter to police.

That incident in the car is what led to the false imprisonment misdemeanor to which Mirkarimi eventually pleaded guilty, he said, adding that he never attempted to “isolate” his wife in their home, as prosecutors alleged in court documents during the lead-up to his criminal case.

“There was no sequestering of my wife,” Mirkarimi said. “She came and went as she pleased.”

Asked last month about the exact events leading to the conviction, District Attorney George Gascón said it had to do with Mirkarimi having “precluded” Lopez “from freely coming and going as she pleased,” but Gascón offered little other detail at the time. Wednesday, he declined to discuss specifics surrounding the imprisonment charge, but called Mirkarimi’s “failure to take responsibility for what really happened” both “disturbing and telling.”

Mirkarimi’s interview comes as he prepares to challenge his suspension in two hearings this month, including his legal challenge to the official misconduct removal process that Mayor Ed Lee began last month. Mirkarimi also faces an administrative hearing Monday by The City’s Ethics Commission, which will recommend to the Board of Supervisors whether it should uphold the suspension.

Nine of 11 supervisors would have to agree with the mayor’s decision to suspend Mirkarimi to permanently remove him from office.

Next steps in legal fight

Thursday, 9:30 a.m.
Court hearing on suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s attempt to exempt City Attorney Dennis Herrera from court proceedings on the grounds that he represents both the Mayor’s Office in the legal proceedings and the Board of Supervisors in administrative proceedings related to Mirkarimi’s suspension. 

Friday, 9:30 a.m.
Court hearing to challenge Mayor Ed Lee’s suspension of Mirkarimi on grounds that his pay was revoked without due process and that a suspension is not legal because the alleged domestic violence occurred before Mirkarimi was technically sworn in as sheriff.

Monday, 4:30 p.m.
Ethics Commission hearing on the misconduct charges.

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Dan Schreiber

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