Perspective and proportion - Page 4

As the Ethics Commission finishes taking testimony in Mirkarimi inquiry, the evidence on most charges seems increasingly thin

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Ross Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, took the focus as the Ethics Commission wrapped up evidence-gathering in his trial.
MIKE KOOZIN/SF NEWSPAPER CO.

But Mirkarimi was busy and not answering his phone, prompting Haynes to text at one point that he needed to answer 'so I can protect you." What did she mean by that, Kaiser asked.

"My thinking was that something sounded fishy, something wasn't right, and they need legal help," Haynes said.

"Your focus had been on Eliana up until then?" Kaiser asked.

"My focus has always been Eliana," Haynes responded.

Later, asked about the nature of her repeated phone conversations with Lopez, she denied helping her strategize ways to dealing with witnesses or police. "I was just providing support for her, emotional support," Haynes said, later adding "I wanted to be present for her."

The victim

Lopez testified that while the grabbing incident was unacceptable and serious — which she conveyed to Mirkarimi — she didn't consider herself to be in an abusive environment or in need of outside help, except perhaps the marriage counseling she had been seeking and which Mirkarimi finally agreed to.

"An abusive environment is when those kinds of think happen every day or every week," she said, maintaining -- in the face of repeated questioning -- that this was the first and only instance of physical abuse.

"At the end of the day on Dec. 31, I told him, that cannot happen, this is wrong, we need counseling," she said. "He realized it was wrong and he took it very seriously."

But she said that Madison went from being a supportive friend and counselor on Jan. 1 to suddenly becoming increasingly insistent that Lopez report the incident to police in the days that followed.

"She started trying to convince me to call the police in that email," Lopez said, answering a question about a Jan. 2 message from Madison, "but that wasn't our conversation on Jan. 1."

Lopez said Madison's approach got more aggressive. "She said, 'screw him, I have a lot of friends willing to help you,’" Lopez said, noting that Madison offered her the vacant homes of rich friends and offered to bring in journalist Phil Bronstein, DA George Gascon, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom to help her.

"It looked to me suspicious...She was calling Ross' political enemies," Lopez said.

When Lopez finally made it clear she didn't want police involvement, Madison called the police.

"I didn't expect that my lawyer could call the police on her own. I thought that was my decision," Lopez said.

Keith tried to tie Lopez's custody concerns to his status as sheriff, driving at that point with many questions. But Lopez said her concern was that California family courts would favor Mirkarimi simply because he's an American and she's from a country that has bad relations with the US.

"In this country, I think he's in a better position than me," she said. After he again tried to make it about his official position, she said, "As a sheriff, no; as an American, yes."

She denied the claim by the city and Madison that it was Mirkarimi who sought to improperly use his position, a key element of removing him for official misconduct. Lopez said her conclusions about Mirkarimi's advantages in a potential custody battle were the result of conversation that happened much earlier.

"That conversation happened in March 2011. He wasn't even thinking about running for sheriff at that point," she said, denying that Mirkarimi ever raised his official position in their custody conversations and claiming the concerns about his power were her own. "He never said that, that was my conclusion of our conversations. He never said, 'I am a powerful man.'"

Throughout hearings, Mirkarimi's side has enjoyed strong shows of public support, with many of his supporters wielding signs that read, "I believe Eliana" and "I support Eliana," both in Spanish and English.