The circus begins

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

steve@sfbg.com

Mayor Ed Lee and his attorneys are presenting a voluminous yet largely speculative case against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in their effort to remove him for official misconduct, broadening the case far beyond their most damning core accusation -– that Mirkarimi dissuaded witnesses from telling police that he bruised his wife's arm during an argument on Dec. 31. And so far, there's no evidence to support that key allegation.

In fact, Mirkarimi and his attorneys insist there was no effort to dissuade witnesses, one of many unsupported aspects to a case they say should never have been filed without stronger evidence. And they say the mayor's team is now compensating for the weakness of its case by piling on irrelevant accusations and witnesses in an effort that amounts to character assassination.

There are even signs that the city is nervous about its case. Knowledgeable sources told the Guardian that the City Attorney's Office last week offered to settle the case with Mirkarimi, offering a substantial financial settlement if he would agree to resign, an offer that Mirkarimi rejected.

It was one of a series of rapidly unfolding developments that also included a raucous Ethics Commission hearing, the disclosure of phone records by Mirkarimi's side, a new list of charges, and the city's release of the video Mirkarimi's wife, Eliana Lopez, made with neighbor Ivory Madison, documenting the bruise in case of a child custody battle over their son.

Lopez has maintained that Mirkarimi never abused her and that she's been hurt most by the efforts to prosecute him and remove him from office.

"I hope they realize after reflection that what they have done is irreparable and perpetually damaging to me and my family," Lopez said in a statement condemning the city's release of a video that she fears will remain online for her children and grandchildren to see.

Yet all indications are this spectacle is only going to grow more sordid, divisive, and sensational as it moves forward — belying the statement Lee made last week as he introduced his annual budget: "As many of you know, I'm a person who does not like a whole lot of drama."

SIMPLE OR COMPLEX?

The May 29 Ethics Commission hearing to begin setting standards and procedures for the official misconduct proceedings against Mirkarimi illustrated two sharply divergent views on when elected officials should be removed from office. It also displayed the increasingly bitter acrimony and resentments on each side, emotions only likely to grow more pronounced as the hearings drag on for months against the backdrop of election season.

Both sides would like to see the decision as a simple one. Lee and his team of attorneys and investigators say Mirkarimi's bruising of his wife's arm and his unwillingness to cooperate with their investigation of what followed make him unfit for office. Mirkarimi and his lawyers admit his crime, but they say that's unrelated to his official duties and that the rest of Lee's charges against him are speculative and untrue.

Yet there's nothing simple about this official misconduct case — or with the implications of how each side is trying to counter the others' central claims. So despite the stated desires of some Ethics commissioners to narrow the scope of their inquiry and limit the number of witnesses, San Franciscans appear to be in for a long, dramatic, and divisive spectacle, with Mirkarimi's fate decided by the Board of Supervisors just a month or so before the five supervisors who have been his closest ideological allies face reelection. Nine of 11 votes are required to remove an official.

Comments

Ivory told Eliana that Ross was a "terrible husband" and that she should understand how serious it was (suggesting that Eliana didn't see it that way). She also implied that Ross "was about to find out" that what an abusive person he was and is. Apparently, she was already thinking ahead about how the case and the publicity around it would destroy him. The reason that Ivory waited 4 days to contact the police is that she was hoping that she could pressure Eliana to do it first. Her efforts were unsuccessful, and when she realized it, she called the police on her own. She was clearly out to get Ross.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

Gimme a break. None of what Madison said was anything but advice, and accurate advice at that, given the facts Lopez gave her about Mirkarimi's behavior. Of course she wanted Lopez to call the police--that's what abused wives should do if they can't leave with assurance that their abusive husbands won't go after them. It's Lopez, not Madison, who hemmed and hawed until the 4th.

Especially since Madison actively supported Mirkarimi's campaign, I can't see much evidence of her being "out to get" him in any way other than defending a friend from an abusive spouse.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

reporting the actual evidence, while the SFBG is simply denying it exists.

Are you seriously suggesting that there was no attempt to hush up Madison? And that the video doesn't exist? And that those phone calls and text didn't happen?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 10:53 am

Wow. Are you for real? The Chronicle has not been objective at all as far as this case is concerned. The Chron can easily be compared to the National enquirer.

A DAY OF INFAMY FOR SAN FRANCISCO.

"The Chronicle obtained the video through a public records request after courts and the city’s Ethics Commission refused to order it kept from public view."

Well done, pretending to protect Eliana Lopez you release that mistake of a video. Shame on all of you, and especially those, the courts, the so called ethics commission, and the Chronicle newspaper.

Eliana Lopez has been abused by this city by the release of this video against her wishes to the media, abuse much worse than some arm grabbing. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 11:06 am

the outset has been unstinting in it's support for Ross for no reason other than his politics.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 11:32 am

I wrote 2800 words on this case in this story alone, so which statements do you find to be examples of my unstinting support for Ross? Which statements do you find biased and untrue? I offered more details on developments on this case over the last week than any other local newspaper, so how can you possibly claim the Chron has offered better coverage? You're free to disagree with my conclusions, but I'm one of the few journalists in this city presenting a complete set of facts on which readers can form their own conclusions.
At this point, this case has little to do with Ross' ideology and everything to do with the standards by which the mayor can remove an elected official. It seems to me that power should only be used in the most extreme circumstances (with recall being the normal recourse against elected officials who behave badly) and that the precedent being set by filing charges before even completing an investigation should disturb even those who hate Ross and want him gone.

Posted by steven on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

coverage from the SFBG. Indeed, Bruce and Tim appear to be proud that they present the "news" from a leftist perspective.

If you had sub-contracted the job of reporting of RossGate to me, you would not have published it because you would find my account too biased. So it seems you're saying that pro-Ross bias is OK but anti-Ross bias is not.

I'd agree with you, however, that this is about whether Lee can fire Ross in the same way that he can fire the police and fire chiefs. And of course he can't, even though personally I don't see the sheriff's job as any more political than those other jobs and so am not clear why we even elect sheriffs.

But Lee has 76% voter support for his action, and I think that even you would have to admit that that is not something that should be ignored by elected supervisors.

If Ross wasn't in a LE job, I might give him the benefit of the doubt. But how can we have a violent convicted criminal running security for the jails, courts and probation service? How can someone admitting false imprisonment be running the prisons? It beggars belief.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

I have not seen a credible opinion poll on removing Ross, and I'm not sure how much weight I would give it anyway given all the sensational and misleading coverage of this case. For example, even DNative is criticizing me for not reporting that Ross dissuaded Madison -- but again, there's no evidence to support that claim and that's not even what she said (the closest such claim was Mertens' claim that he heard someone who sounded like Ross in the background during a Lopez call, even though they weren't together at that time and he said "no" when asked by police whether it sounded like he was coaching her, instead saying it sounded like Ross was on another call). There was been so much misinformation and innuendo put out that inaccurate claims are regularly made by Mirkarimi's critics without even knowing they are doing so. I'll cop to having a progressive worldview, but I'm also a journalist of 21 years and I'll stand by my reporting on this case as more credible than anyone's.

Posted by steven on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 11:13 am

Seriously, the SFBG prides it self on a leftist slant to its reporting, but now all of a sudden it is going to take a neutral via on the Sheriff situation?

Come on, the writing here is so slanted and biased, you probably don't even realize that it is biased and slanted.

Here are a few tidbits of bias that I see in just this article:

1. The title of this article
2. The fact you completely neglected to mention that Madison and her husband have stated that Ross and campaign manager tried to dissuade their testimony and reporting.
3. Completely leaving out the results of two opinion polls show broad support for ousting Ross, while managing to mention a large crowd of supporters at the hearings and only a few people there against him.
4. In your discussion of the phone logs that were turned over by Ross, you failed to note that they did not include text messages (the Chronicle did note that) and that these maybe the smoking gun to support the allegations of Madison.

Posted by D.native on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

I repeat: there is no second opinion poll. There is only a push poll referred to in that Chronicle cesspool of mendacity which goes under the nom-de-guerre Matier and Ross.

The secrecy under which the details of this second *alleged* poll are held can certainly be taken to mean it is also a push poll generated for the purpose of character attack, but in this case even more egregiously so.

Dnative, you have to be either a liar or a fool to cite this poll. I have just enough respect for you to think you might back away from mention of this poll if prodded in this manner.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 7:19 am

Lilli- you obviously have strong opinions. You make a fair point about not knowing how the questions were phrased etc. However, Considering there are only two polls that have been done on this issue and both are overwhelmingly against Ross, you can't just completely dismiss them as totally flawed. Even if push polling occurred, it seems apparent that Ross does not have a big groundswell of support for himself out there. Even the SFBG, a paper usually unashamed of taking a radical view, has not come out in full support of Ross. Other than a people with nothing to lose, i.e Agnos, Hennessey, no one of note has come out supporting him.

You can cry push poll all you want, but that doesn't change the facts that Ross does not have any serious support in this fight.

Posted by D.native on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 7:54 am

Lilli would be crowing about how the city is behind him and how the polls are valid.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 8:51 am

is a case study at the Columbia school of journalism for biased coverage.

Posted by D.native on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

After reading the article posted here pertaining to this case, it is clear that this journalist has done his homework, and his article is accurate on the facts.

Please point to the part where you have spotted any bias?

Columbia students would have a field day at the Chronicle though. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

But the Rest of the BG's coverage is incredibly biased towards Ross.

Posted by D.native on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

>"Please point to the part where you have spotted any bias?"

1. "The circus begins" (The title. Didn't take too long to find)

2. "Mayor Ed Lee and his attorneys are presenting a voluminous yet largely speculative case against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi" (First line. In reality they haven't presented their case yet.)

3. "In fact, Mirkarimi and his attorneys insist there was no effort to dissuade witnesses..." (This paragraph goes on to describe the Mirkarimi version of events with no effort to describe the other side).

4. "belying the statement Lee made last week as he introduced his annual budget: "As many of you know, I'm a person who does not like a whole lot of drama."" (Unnecessary poke at the Mayor's integrity. Was he supposed to ignore this whole thing to avoid 'drama'?)

Oh wow. It goes on for five more pages and I just don't have the time for this right now. I will admit that Steve is objective when compared to Tim Redmond, but that is nothing to write home about. Overall, however, saying that the SFBG doesn't produce heavily biased journalism is like saying that the Giants don't play baseball. It is what they are both known for.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

Excellent reply, Troll. I'll be really interested to see Steven's response.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

It's not biased to point out there is no hard evidence of witness dissuasion, it's a straight factual statement that other biased media outlets have refused to point out. The city has indeed presented its case, and it has not been able to point to a single message or effort that Mirkarimi made to dissuade witnesses. They infer from the actions of Lopez and Haynes that it must have happened, but even the city can't point to any evidence showing that it did happen. If the city is going to make that charge and remove an elected official, shouldn't they have completed the investigation and found some proof first? Again, it's not biased to point out that the case is speculative, because that's what it is -- it's a descriptive term, not a pejorative one. The entire witness dissuasion case is based on hoping Lopez, Mirkarimi, or Haynes will admit to the charge in their testimony. I stand by my reporting and challenge you to point out any piece of evidence in the city's case that refutes it.

Posted by steven on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 11:25 am

>"The city has indeed presented its case"

Sorry but I don't think this is true. My understanding is that the city will present a case to the Ethics Commission and even call witnesses but that has not happened yet.

So, Steven, could you please educate us as to when the "The city has indeed presented its case"?

Thank you.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 10:24 am

The city has submitted a complete list of all witnesses with descriptions of their expected testimony, and the last Ethics hearing was partly to sort out what was not relevant and should be excluded from the case. No new witnesses can be offered at this point. The only part of the case that we haven't seen yet are the statements from Mirkarimi, Lopez, and Haynes, and whatever the city attorneys can then break loose from their cross examinations. That's why I wrote that the city's case is speculative on the witness dissuasion charge because there is no evidence of that, although the city hopes the testimony will reveal some.

Posted by steven on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

Well maybe it would help if you noted that the main part of the hearing has not occurred yet. No witnesses have testified. The City Attorneys haven't interrogated anyone before Ethics. Nobody has been cross examined. All that has happened is that they've provided lists of witnesses and other discovery items. You've thereby decided that you could state as a fact that their case is speculative. Some of us might actually want to wait at least for the opening statements to occur before Ethics. Until then, things might 'appear to be speculative' or 'based on what we know so far..."

Look, what you've done is fine by SFBG standards. Probably above the norm. But when you do stuff like that and then claim that you are an objective journalist....wow...you're only fooling yourself and no one else.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

"...mistake of a video."

Who made the mistake? Lopez, for not protecting her abusive husband, or Madison, for trying to help her friend?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

Funny how Bay Guardian "progressives" are for sunshine until it's one of their own whose oxes are being gored.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 10:15 am

@Guest. Reading your replies, it is very obvious that you are not current with your information about this case. Catch up, and come back later. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 10:55 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 11:30 am

Name a few of your news sources. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 11:35 am

None of them have the bizarro SFBG angle here that there is "no evidence", and 76% of SF voters agree.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

Don't bother, Guest; unless you get your news from Buck Tavern/SFBG-approved Pravda sources, you'll laughed out of here as a reactionary Republican.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 10:24 am

None of those media outlets have done stories of any detail or depth looking at the evidence in this case. If you've seen any such stories, please post a link because I certainly haven't seen them.

Posted by steven on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

"Madison's testimony that attempts were made to 'persuade' her not to go to the cops."

You mean Eliana asking her not to give it to the police because presumably she was honest in the vid when she said she's making the vid in case they divorce and she can use it to have Theo? That's a crime to you??? How do you know she wasn't being honest in the vid about the purpose of her letting Madison film her?

"The delay in reporting the crime to the police. "

Didn't Ross not find out about it until after the police had the vid? How could Ross delay Madison giving the vid to the police?

"The video that Ross doesn't want released."

So Ross doesn't want a video by his wife who is in a very emotional state and who admits on the vid that she's making it to use in case of a divorce. Yeah anybody with 3 brain cells and is innocent of nothing more than grabbing his wife on the arm a little to hard wouldn't want it released either. Glad to see you sticking up for those with fewer than 3 brain cells.

"The texts between Ross and his campaign manager shortly before the campaign manager tried to "talk to" Madison."

Which haven't been released yet so you don't know what's on them.

Sorry but looks like you got nothing.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

does not invalidate it as a strong piece of evidence that Ross abused his wife - a criminal act to which he has already admitted, pleaded and apologized for.

To claim it's not relevant because of the purpose for which it was made is to diuscount it's more obvious significance in this context.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 6:02 am

"The fact that the video was made with a custody battle in mind does not invalidate it as a strong piece of evidence that Ross abused his wife..."

That's it in a nutshell.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 10:16 am

*yawn* You know that if the tables were turned and Avalos had suspended Cunnie you'd be all over it. Don't pretend the "progressives" are the pure ones and the "machine" people are always corrupt.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

braying for his head, so don't play the hypocrisy game with me.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 6:02 am

And as such, are braying for the Sheriff's head? It is you that should NOT play the hypocrisy game.

To answer your question though Guest, under the same circumstances, Republican or Democrat, it does not matter. If one needs to lie and obfuscate in order to win, means that they have already lost. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 10:30 am

taking this stand if the DV perp had been, say, Lee, Arnie or Bush?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

Or if the Mayor had been John Avalos?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

Judith says: "Anyone else but Mirkarimi would have had the grace to step down and avoid this circus."

At least you recognize that this case is a circus.

What Mayor Lee, Judge Wong and others, have done to the Sheriff's wife by releasing that video to the media, against her wishes, is much WORSE than the case against the Sheriff.

The Mayor is the one who should resigned. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 9:21 am

Got a link?

I thought that, so far, Ross's small army of lawyers was trying desperately to suppress the video as it contains damning evidence of his wrongdoing.

That's what a defense team should do, of course, but the people clearly want to see the video.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 9:35 am

You can view the video here: http://blog.sfgate.com/cityinsider/2012/05/31/emotional-video-of-eliana-...
Frankly, I don't think it's nearly as damning as I and others thought it would be, particularly once you consider this is a soap opera actress used to crying on cue. She says on the video it was only to be used in a child custody case, and I have every reason to believe her when she says that she's been more victimized by various prosecutions and defamation aimed at Ross and her family than she ever was by her husband. In their self-righteous efforts to condemn Ross, people seem to have lost perspective on who the real supposed victim was here and on what's in her best interests.

Posted by steven on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 10:54 am

Excellent comment concerning this case. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 11:12 am

her interview the other day, she said this only happened once.

So was she lying then or is she lying now?

I didn't actually hear her say this video was ONLY to used in a chiuld custody battle, although I believe that was the original intent. However, as evidence of a violent crime, it's not private any more.

And if the video isn't damning, why did Ross try so hard to prevent it being made public. Doesn't he want us all to have the whole truth?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 11:29 am

Actually, your presentation of what the video shows is a little backward. It's unclear when she says "this is the second time this is happening" whether she means Ross violently inflicting a bruise, although that's probably not unreasonable inference, despite the fact that she now denies it. But the statement that she makes at the end of the video seems very clear about what her intention was: "I'm going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me."
Clearly, this woman was worried about a custody fight, and she had every motivation in the world (not to mention the acting skills) to exaggerate what happened, which she and her lawyer have since then implied was the case.
Nobody is excusing Mirkarimi from bruising his wife's arm, a crime to which he pled guilty and has already paid a big price. The issue is whether that moment of bad judgment and the troubled nature of this marriage warrants the overturning of his election for sheriff by a mayor who actively opposed his election in the first place.

Posted by steven on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

that it is evidence of a crime and, as such, can be used for purposes other than it's original intent. It wasn't Eliana's property, nor should she withhold key evidence in a criminal trial.

But your post was interesting because it seems you are willing to throw her under a bus (metaphorically speaking) in order to save Ross. Even though Ross admits guilt to a violent crime, you accuse Eliana of "acting" and "exaggerating" even though even ross doesn't deny the bruising.

So instead of sticking up for the victims of domestic violence, you find yourself trying to diminish the victim here by accusing her of drama. Would you have been just as outraged if George Bush was being impeached for DV? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

You say: " Even though Ross admits guilt to a violent crime"

There was NO violent crime committed, if there was we would not be here talking about this.

You say: "Whatever Eliana's intention in making the video,"

That video was directed and suggested to be made by the neighbor Ivory Madison, this was not Eliana's idea.

Ivory, who is legally trained (but not licensed), and a well publicized radical feminist, knew how easy it was to use the DV courts to ones advantage in any circumstances. And she coached Eliana (a foreigner ignorant of the laws) to do just that.

You say: "So instead of sticking up for the victims of domestic violence,"

Eliana Lopez is indeed a victim, but it is this city that has done most of the damage, not her husband.

You say: " Would you have been just as outraged if George Bush was being impeached for DV?"

That would imply that Mrs Bush would have been considered a liar by the DV courts in San Francisco. And I would challenge you to go there. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 11:04 am

"...a well publicized radical feminist..."

Horrors! Shouldn't any progressive be proud to call himself or herself the same?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

"Nobody is excusing Mirkarimi from bruising his wife's arm..."

Actually, a lot of commenters have bent over backwards to do just that. They've said, depending on the timeline, that: she was never bruised; we don't know how she got bruised; the bruise was really minor; that she got it by pulling away from him; and, even if he gave it to her, it doesn't amount to DV. They've even said that, because they were spouses having an argument, there ought to be some sort of wacky carve-out from criminal battery laws if the injured party wants there to be.

He didn't plead guilty to the bruise, he pled guilty to false imprisonment. (Of course, he didn't really think he was guilty or that Ivory Madison deserved the apology the plea deal forced him to give—just two of his many lies.)

As far as your last sentence goes, you might want to read the amended complaint from the City Attorney again. While the bruising episode itself is plenty, his other activities since then certainly warrant his removal. It's never been about "overturning an election," and anyone who thinks so its truly paranoid.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

somehow a bruise ensued which wouldn't have happened except that Eliana resisted.

Seriously, I read it here from a Ross apologist. You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

Except that you put too much emphasis on the bruise, and NOT on what Eliana Lopez is saying.

Eliana Lopez says: " That she never feared her husband, and that she is NOT a battered woman."

Next time you go ballroom dancing, be very careful how you handle your partner, you could create a bruise. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 11:21 am

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