Despite the impassioned pleas of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s wife, a judge has renewed a court order barring him from seeing or contacting his spouse or son until his domestic abuse trial is over.
“This country is trying to pull my family apart,” Eliana Lopez told Judge Susan Breall at her husband’s arraignment Thursday. “This is the real violence, I believe.”
Mirkarimi, seated in the front row, quivered and wiped tears from his eyes.
Prosecutors asked to extend an emergency protective order filed after Mirkarimi’s arrest last week on domestic violence battery, child endangerment and witness dissuasion charges, all misdemeanors. The 50-year-old pleaded not guilty Thursday and sought a trial within 45 days.
Lopez met privately with a county victim services advocate, delaying court proceedings for about 30 minutes.
“I’m not in danger,” the 36-year-old Venezuelan native then told the judge. “I’m not a little poor immigrant. I came here because I love Ross, and I want my family together.”
But on the videotape she reportedly asked a neighbor to make after a New Year’s Eve fight with Mirkarimi, Lopez “had a demeanor and temperament quite different than she has now,” prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi said.
That videotape, which police later seized along with texts and emails between the women, shows a tearful Lopez describing how her husband bruised her arm that day, according to court documents. Lopez also reportedly discussed earlier physical abuse, and made the tape to ensure that her husband couldn’t obtain sole custody of their 2-year-old son.
She said Mirkarimi had warned her that he was powerful enough to do so, the arrest warrant affidavit indicated.
Lopez also allegedly sent her neighbor text messages saying Mirkarimi was worried that she would go to police.
But Lopez wrote that she had not planned to do so.
“I’m going to continue making a record,” Lopez allegedly wrote. “Please don’t say anything, he’s scared.” On Jan. 4, neighbor Ivory Madison contacted police.
Aguilar-Tarchi said she could understand why “even a very well-educated, articulate, bilingual woman would seek to keep this indoors.” In other written messages, the prosecutor added, Lopez had asked what would happen if she changed her door locks or called police. “Will they arrest him?” she allegedly wrote. “Or will they just come and talk to him?”
Breall, who handles domestic violence cases for the court, said, “When you cry out for help, you don’t always cry out for police intervention. But the police are involved in this case, and a child is involved in this case.”
Breall said Lopez “clearly is educated, intelligent … a strong individual, and quite charming.”
“I believe that Eliana never wanted this to go to this extreme and end up in court,” the judge added. But she reiterated her concern for the couple’s young child and said the situation remains “extremely volatile.” The police arrest warrant affidavit more than justified renewal of the stay-away order, she said.
“I’m going to treat this case, at this point, like every other,” Breall said.
Outside court, an emotional Lopez told reporters that “this country has not allowed me to work on my marriage in a healthy way. I feel like … everybody is using my family, myself, in a political game just to destroy Ross.”
She added, “This country is destroying my family.”
Mirkarimi’s attorney, Bob Waggener, said his client is innocent of all the charges.
“There is a lot that has to come out,” Waggener said. “And it will come out soon.”
The sheriff is due back in court Monday to set a trial date, and Thursday to again argue to remove the protective order.
By Joshua Sabatini
SF Examiner Staff Writer
Well-known politicians have mostly shied away from the domestic violence case against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, but not former Mayor Art Agnos, who has become the embattled sheriff’s most prominent public defender.
Agnos was there to swear in Mirkarimi as sheriff Jan. 8 when Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein declined after news reports of the allegations came out days before the event. And Agnos showed up at San Francisco Superior Court on Thursday for Mirkarimi’s arraignment on the three misdemeanor charges related to the alleged New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident involving Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez.
“I know this man and this woman. They love each other. They support each other. They love their child. They want to be together again. It does not rise to the level, in my opinion from what I know as an intimate friend, to anything close to domestic violence,” Agnos said.
He went on to suggest the charges were politically motivated, and said Mirkarimi should continue serving as sheriff during the legal proceedings.
Agnos said he was at the arraignment to “support my friend.”
All: Joseph Schell/Special to the sf eXaminer