The circus begins - Page 5

Mirkarimi removal efforts are already getting ugly — and there's still much more to come

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A large crowd came to support Ross Mirkarimi at the May 29 Ethics Commission hearing.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY STEVEN T. JONES

The document then attempts to paint an expansive portrait of the Sheriff's official duties, going beyond the narrow construction of the charter to include the general law enforcement duties listed in state law, interactions with various government and nonprofit groups, administrative responsibilities as a city department head, and passing mentions in the California Family Code that police officers "must enforce emergency protective orders in domestic violence cases."

Yet the promise that the rest of the document would detail Mirkarimi's wrongful actions with greater specificity than the previous list of official charges doesn't seem to be met by this document, which repeats the same narrative of actions that Waggoner had criticized for vagueness.

For example, on the pivotal charge that he dissuaded witnesses and impeded the police investigation, the new charges say that during the period from Dec. 31-Jan. 4, "Sheriff Mirkarimi participated in and condoned efforts to dissuade witnesses from reporting this incident to police and/or cooperating with police investigators," without describing any specific witnesses or actions that he took.

And by the mayor's team's own admissions, the prosecutors don't know what Mirkarimi did to dissuade witnesses, which they hope to learn through future testimony.

The closest the new document comes to directly tying Mirkarimi's actions to the official misconduct language is with Mirkarimi's plea to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge: "False imprisonment of a spouse is a crime of domestic violence. The California Penal Code considers spousal abuse to be a 'crime against public decency and good morals.'"

Mirkarimi disagrees with that interpretation, noting that he and his attorneys specifically considered whether pleading to false imprisonment -– a general charge with many possible meanings -– would violate the city's official misconduct provisions, and he told the Guardian that he was assured by his attorneys it didn't. Mirkarimi told us he would not have entered the plea and would have instead fought the charges in court if he thought it would disqualify him from serving as sheriff.

Waggoner told us that "The Mayor's Amended Charges are further evidence that this entire ordeal is a political hatchet job reminiscent of a Soviet show trial. Far from being a careful analysis of any actual evidence, the new charges are vague, redundant, and conflate the offices of Sheriff and Supervisor."

But ultimately, the case against Mirkarimi is a political one, not a legal case subjected to the normal standards of evidence and procedure. And whether Mirkarimi keeps his job will be a decision made by politicians based on a variety of factors, some of which have little relation to whatever happened on Dec. 31 and Jan. 4.

What's next: the Ethics Commission will meet on June 19 to rule on more of the outstanding issues in the case and begin hearing testimony. To review the long list of documents from the case, visit www.sfethics.org.

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