The stage is set for a “he said, he said” battle between Ed Lee and Ross Mirkarimi over just what transpired in a tense conversation between the two a day before the mayor began the process of removing the suspended sheriff from office.
The mayor replaced Mirkarimi last month after the latter pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment to avoid other criminal charges in a domestic violence dispute involving his wife.
Both men are expected to testify before The City’s Ethics Commission, which begins hearing the matter Monday afternoon. On Friday, Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn denied motions by Mirkarimi’s attorneys to revoke his suspension without pay, on grounds that he was denied due process when the mayor refused to listen to his account of the dispute.
But city attorneys representing the Mayor’s Office say Mirkarimi was given ample time to weigh in after being offered an ultimatum to resign or face suspension. Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser said Lee waited in expectant silence when Mirkarimi implored the mayor to hear him out.
“He did not say, ‘OK, tell me your story,’” Kaiser said. “But it’s basically the same thing.”
Mirkarimi said the mayor declined to talk to his wife, Eliana Lopez, the former Venezuelan soap opera star who was recorded on video showing a large bruise her husband left on her arm. She has been vociferously supportive of Mirkarimi since the incident sparked criminal charges.
Kaiser questioned Mirkarimi’s comments last week on a radio show in which he aired his version of events for the first time. Mirkarimi said the imprisonment charge stemmed from grabbing Lopez’s arm and “guiding her back into the passenger seat” of the family’s vehicle after they had a “horrible quarrel” over a trip she wanted to take to Venezuela with their 2-year-old son, Theo.
Mirkarimi said Lopez had revealed she was “seeing an attorney” over a potential child custody issue. Upon hearing that, Mirkarimi said he became uncontrollably enraged and reacted violently, thinking he was simply “being a father.”
The former sheriff said the false imprisonment had nothing to do with keeping his wife “in isolation” for 18 hours after the abuse, as prosecutors have alleged. Following Mirkarimi’s radio comments, District Attorney George Gascón said the sheriff’s “failure to take responsibility for what really happened” is “both disturbing and telling.”
Kaiser noted that Mirkarimi must recount the abuse — this time under stricter circumstances.
“The sheriff is going to have to testify under oath, not just to the media,” Kaiser said.