A family law judge has granted Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi the right to visit his 2-year-old son under supervision as his criminal domestic violence case proceeds.
The order modifies an existing criminal protective order barring the sheriff from contact with his wife, Eliana Lopez, and his son, Theo, for the duration of Mirkarimi’s case. He will now be allowed to see his son for up to two hours on weekdays and six hours on weekends, in visits arranged by family friends.
The hearing was a rare victory for Mirkarimi, who has been assailed by allegations of abusive behavior toward Lopez and a prior girlfriend.
“I get to see my son, and I can’t tell you how excited and grateful I am,” an emotional Mirkarimi said, emerging from the courthouse. “This has been a tortuous process.”
Mirkarimi is awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and witness dissuasion in connection with a New Year’s Eve incident in which Lopez reportedly sustained a bruise on her arm.
“Our goal in these proceedings is always to make sure that we have a safe and healthy plan,” said Judge Ronald Albers. The judge said the proposal agreed to by lawyers for Mirkarimi and Lopez “makes absolute sense to me.”
Prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar Tarchi attempted to address the judge at the close of Wednesday’s court hearing, but was either unheard or ignored by Albers, who quickly left the courtroom.
While Lopez’s attorneys were later fiercely critical of the prosecutor’s appearance at a civil family law matter, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office insisted Tarchi was only there to ensure Mirkarimi and his wife were not arranging the visits with Theo themselves, which would have violated the protective order.
“Our office is completely satisfied with the family court order allowing for supervised visits,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman.
Family law experts interviewed by The San Francisco Examiner agreed it was highly unusual for a criminal prosecutor to appear at such a hearing.
“I do think that it’s good for the folks from the District Attorney’s Office to come over for the family law hearings, but I haven’t seen them put the resources into it before now,” said Emberly Cross, an attorney with San Francisco’s Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic.
She attended Wednesday’s hearing as she does each week in court on behalf of her nonprofit, which helps domestic violence and sexual assault victims obtain restraining orders.