Editorial: The Mirkarimi case is an abomination

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Editor's note: And so the man who became interim  mayor on a false pretext and then lied his way through an election for a full term amid a sleazy mass of campaign irregularities and violations, has suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi without pay and is now using the full power of the city attorney's office to continue the Mirkarimi crucifixion. Without pay? The usual City Hall/cop practice is to suspend or put a city official on administrative leave with pay. Even Willie Brown, former mayor, Chronicle columnist and PG@ES lobbyist, says Mirkarimi should not have been suspended without pay. B3

EDITORIAL There's only one way to say this: The official misconduct case against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has become a one-sided star-chamber proceeding that violates all the basic rules of fairness, decency, and due process.

Over the past few weeks, Mayor Ed Lee, acting through the City Attorney's Office, has been collecting evidence and issuing subpoenas to force witnesses (including some who have only a peripheral involvement in the matter) to give testimony. The mayor is acting as if he's prosecuting a murder case instead of conducting a hearing on whether an elected official should be thrown out of office for a misdemeanor.

And Mirkarimi and his lawyers have absolutely no ability to respond.

That's right: The mayor and the city attorney have subpoena power. The defense in this case doesn't.

If this were a criminal proceeding, in a real court, Mirkarimi would have the same ability to compel testimony as the mayor. And under the rules of discovery, he'd have the right to see all of the evidence compiled against him.

But because this in front of an Ethics Commission that hasn't even adopted evidentiary rules, one side has all the rights, and the other side has none. That puts Mirkarimi at a terribly unfair disadvantage. You can argue all day about Mirkarimi's conduct, but people charged with the worst horrific crimes have more legal protections than he does.

The Ethics Commission needs to immediately adopt rules that level the playing field — and the city attorney should insist on it. If there are going to be witnesses — and clearly the mayor is planning to present them — then Mirkarimi's lawyers must be allowed to review those statements in advance, as they would in any trial. All evidence against the sheriff should be turned over to the defense, well in advance of the hearing. Until that happens, the mayor and the city attorney should put the inquiry on hold.

Because right now, the process is an abomination.