Offering apologies to The City, his family and the neighbor who reported him to police, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge in connection with an alleged New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident involving his wife.
Mirkarimi admitted to a new charge of false imprisonment after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors Sunday night. Charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness will be dismissed at his sentencing next Monday.
“I want to be back with my family and I want this to end,” Mirkarimi told Judge James Collins, who accepted the deal. The sheriff then offered a “sincere apology” to Ivory Madison, the neighbor who told police that his wife, Eliana Lopez, had complained that he grabbed and bruised her arm in front of their young son.
Madison told police that Lopez, a Venezuelan immigrant, documented the injury out of fear that her “powerful” husband could take her son away in a custody battle. But Lopez didn’t cooperate with authorities and publicly denied that any abuse occurred.
Lopez and her attorneys questioned Madison’s motives, but Mirkarimi struck a different tone Monday. “I realize that what was reported … was truly a desire to help my family,” he said.
His wife’s attorney, Paula Canny, maintained that Madison, who has a law degree, had violated confidential attorney-client privilege in disclosing her conversations with Lopez.
“Ross, I think, spoke from the heart,” Canny said. “That’s not my opinion, and that’s not my client’s opinion.”
In agreeing to the plea deal, Mirkarimi avoided jail time and a potentially lengthy trial. He will be on probation for three years, and have to undergo counseling, community service, and a year of domestic violence classes. A protective order preventing him from seeing his wife and possessing a gun remains in effect for now. He has been granted visitation rights to see his son.
Kathy Black, executive director of La Casa de las Madres, which assists domestic violence victims, said the terms of Mirkarimi’s sentence have “all the elements that would be present in a domestic violence conviction.”
“The legal system did its job,” she said.
Had the sheriff been found guilty of domestic violence battery, he would have been forbidden from owning a gun, although he could have appealed that decision. The false imprisonment charge does not carry such a requirement.
Neither prosecutors nor Mirkarimi’s attorney would discuss the nature of the false imprisonment to which Mirkarimi pleaded guilty. Canny called it “a fairly common plea-bargain charge,” especially in cases involving law enforcement, because it doesn’t include the gun prohibition.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar Tarchi thanked the “courageous” witnesses who agreed to come forward in the case, and said Monday’s agreement would provide “the victim and her family some closure.”
The plea came after several pretrial rulings went against his defense. Mirkarimi also was subjected to public disclosure of the embarrassing details of his personal life in court filings and witness testimony at pretrial hearings, including a prior girlfriend who came forward with similar accusations.
“For the last two months, this case has caused my family, my department — the Sheriff’s Department — and this city, great turmoil, pain and disappointment,” Mirkarimi told reporters. “This plea allows us to move forward. As I have, and I intend to return to the business of running one of the finest sheriff’s departments in the nation, of mending my family and raising my son Theo in a safe and happy home.”
Canny said Lopez was “grateful that this stressful public spectacle will soon be over, and that she and her family can heal.”
The guilty plea to misdemeanor false imprisonment included several conditions:
-3 years of probation
- 100 hours of community service
- 52 weeks of domestic violence classes
- Parenting or family counseling
- Stay-away order from Lopez remains in effect
- No appeal of the conviction
- Public apology at the hearing