Video a flashpoint in Ross Mirkarimi hearing 

click to enlarge The video of Eliana Lopez, wife of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, showing a bruise on her arm has become a flashpoint for the hearings into whether Mirkarimi can get his job back. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • The video of Eliana Lopez, wife of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, showing a bruise on her arm has become a flashpoint for the hearings into whether Mirkarimi can get his job back.

A video showing the bruised and tearful wife of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi could be shown publicly, depending on a decision likely to be made today by The City’s Ethics Commission.

Mayor Ed Lee suspended the newly elected sheriff from his job without pay in March, after Mirkarimi’s guilty plea in the high-profile domestic violence case that stemmed from a New Year’s Eve argument that turned physical at the couple’s home.

The video of Eliana Lopez, which was considered the key piece of evidence in the sheriff’s criminal domestic violence trial, has only been released in the form of still images and transcripts. According to court records, Lopez made the video with the aid of neighbor Ivory Madison to document the bruise in case Mirkarimi ever tried to play hardball in a potential custody battle over the couple’s 3-year-old son, Theo.

When the video was obtained with a search warrant by authorities after Madison contacted police, Lopez immediately defended her husband and complained that allegations against Mirkarimi were nothing more than a political plot to end his career.

The five-member Ethics Commission is continuing to hold a series of administrative hearings — similar to a court trial with witnesses and evidence — on whether the mayor’s suspension should be upheld. The commission will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which has the final decision on whether Mirkarimi is permanently removed from office.

Though only one part of the evidence related to the domestic-violence incident, the video has loomed powerfully over the saga. A criminal court judge’s decision that it could be presented as evidence coincided with Mirkarimi’s decision to plead guilty to a charge of false imprisonment and thus avoid a media-swamped trial.

In a recent exclusive interview with San Francisco’s ABC affiliate, KGO-TV, Lopez said the mayor’s attempt to release the video — and its potential permanence on the Internet — could ruin the future of her family. The interview was conduced in her home city of Caracas, Venezuela, where she had brought her son to stay with relatives, including her ailing father.

“Is it really right to release the video? Don’t think about my son or my career, my life, my family?” she said to the TV station, holding back tears. “It looks like it’s right for them.”

At a Memorial Day event Monday in the Presidio, Mirkarimi echoed Lopez’s concerns to a group of reporters.
“That video gets to live in perpetuity, so that my son and his grandchildren are plagued by that,” Mirkarimi said. “I don’t think that The City, nor the system at all, has ever cared or been considerate of what my wife’s interests are. They never asked her what she wanted.”

The City Attorney’s Office — on behalf of Lee — is seeking to release not just the video, but also the phone records of Mirkarimi’s campaign manager, who the mayor’s team alleges tried to dissuade those involved in the tumult from talking to police.

Mirkarimi’s defense attorneys have filed legal documents arguing their client doesn’t have to comply with some of the mayor’s requests.

The upcoming hearings also are set to incorporate a long list of witnesses, including Lopez. But in the KGO-TV interview, she said whether she comes back to the U.S. is still up in the air.

“San Francisco has not been nice with me,” she said.

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Dan Schreiber

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