After months of discussion and faulty charges, the case against Ross Mirkarimi comes down to the initial act — and how broadly to define 'official misconduct'
Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom investigated whether Jew really lived in the city and then brought just that narrow charge.
The simple residency question was enough to warrant Jew's removal, and Newsom didn't even need to get into the far more serious corruption charges related to Jew being caught with $80,000 in marked bills as part of an FBI extortion sting, for which Jew is still serving a five-year term in federal prison.
Lee has refused to justify his decision to pile on the charges and introduce defamatory declarations unsupported by direct evidence, such as the long declaration of key witness Ivory Madison, most of which was stricken from the record after Commissioner Paul Renne called it "clearly hearsay, clearly having the intention of poisoning the well" and said "a first-year lawyer should know that much of it is inadmissible and it should not have been given to us."
Even though Keith apologized to Renne and the commission, Lee and his lawyers continued to defend much of that declaration and use it as the basis for many of their most incredible accusations.
"You received a great deal of evidence, most of it from the mayor and most of it unchallenged," Keith said in his closing statement, glossing over the multitude of challenges and the fact that most evidence doesn't support the city's charges.
Mayoral Press Secretary Christine Falvey wouldn't address a list of Guardian questions about overcharging the case and continuing to rely on discredited evidence. Instead, the Mayor's Office stands by this Aug. 16 prepared statement: "I am pleased that the members of the Ethics Commission, following a careful review of the evidence, and in the face of a sustained campaign to distract and misdirect them from the facts, agreed with me that Ross Mirkarimi's actions constitute official misconduct and fall below the ethical conduct we expect of the sheriff."
City Attorney's Office spokesperson Matt Dorsey said his office also stands by the process: "We respect Ethics Commissioners' differing opinions about the remaining counts. But nothing about the commission's conclusions would cause us to pursue these charges of official misconduct differently if we had to do it over again."
But Mirkarimi's team says it is Lee who has repeatedly sought to distract and misdirect the public, whether through unsubstantiated claims in his charging documents or Lee's public statements that Mirkarimi "beats his wife" and other comments that blow a single arm-grab out of proportion.
"What the commission has effectively done is agreed with us that's the only issue," Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner told reporters after the hearing, noting that he had offered to stipulate to those facts from the beginning and avoid a prosecution that his closing brief deemed "a dog and pony show." Mirkarimi also told reporters that "the piling on of these charges has weighted us down" and complicated his defense. He added, "I leave this process concerned that the will of the voters is being undermined."
THE PRICE OF OVERKILL
Perhaps it was understandable for the city to use over-the-top tactics on Mirkarimi, who has certainly been weakened by proceedings that generated reams of fodder to be used against him in future elections if he survives the board's removal vote. But the tactic also seems to have hardened the stance of Mirkarimi's supporters and fed their conviction that this was a politically motivated prosecution and misuse of public resources.
During more than three hours of public testimony on Aug.