Mirkarimi sentenced, absent drama

Photo by Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal

The drama that hordes of reporters were waiting for didn't happen. District Attorney George Gascon's threat to "bring up" at Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's sentencing the notion that Mirkarimi didn't really think he was guilty vanished. Mirkarimi sat in front of Judge James Collins, who years ago helped a sitting judge duck a domestic violence charge, and agreed to the terms of his sentence (three years probation, mandatory attendance at a 52-week DV counseling program and some modest fines). Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi said she had nothing to add; neither did Mirkarimi's lawyer, Lidia Stiglich. And that was that -- as far as the courtroom went.

Outside, Mirkarimi faced the expected scrum of cameras and microphones, and read a prepared statement that sounded as if the district attorney had insisted on it. "I deeply and humbly apologize for my behavior," he said. "There are no excuses and I accept full responsibility." He said he had started counseling "to remedy my arrogance and anger issues" and apologized for saying earlier that the incident was "a private family matter."

And he gave no signs of being ready to step down, saying he would "work so much harder to regain your trust ... to be a better public servant."

An hour or so later, Gascon faced the same press crew and announced that he had treated this case "just like any other domestic violence incident." He denied that there was any political motivation; in fact, he denied it twice. He never made exactly clear why he had decided not to intervene after all at the sentencing hearing, except to say that Mirkarimi's statements after receiving his sentence were satisfactory (see above).

He said he's a "strong believer in redemption and restorative justice" and said this deal would "offer [Mirkarimi] an opportunity to redeem himself."

Which, of course, led to the question of the day: Did Gascon think Mirkarimi could, or should, hold onto his job? Phil Matier from the Chron asked it directly, and Gascon refused to answer, saying "it's not my place" to say. I tried again a few minutes later, asking if, given Gascon's belief in redemption, there was any possibility that the sheriff could sufficiently redeem himself to remain in his elected position. Again: "It's not my place to say."

It was, however, what everyone was talking about. Matier and Ross reported that Mayor Ed Lee was huddling with lawyers to try to figure out whether he has legal grounds to begin the process of removing Mirkarimi from office. It's tricky, and has only happened twice in the last 100 years, once in the 1930s, when a public defender was involved in a murder-for-hire case, and again in the 1970s, when an airport commissioner who was also a union official was charged with favoring union workers.

One obstacle, according to Matier and Ross: The D.A.'s Office won't give Lee the video that was at the heart of this case. Gascon confirmed that, saying the video was considered internal work product and wouldn't be released to anyone.

The law on removing a sitting elected official in San Francisco is murky and confusing, with little precedent. Does a guilty plea to false imprisonment of his wife equal "official misconduct?" Can an incident that took place before Mirkarimi became sheriff count as misconduct in the office he assumed later?Would the supervisors hold a public trial? What rules of evidence would apply?

The politics are murky, too: If Lee files charges, he'll be tossing the matter to the Board of Supervisors in an election year, which the supes will hate and it will be a blow to the concept of civility that the mayor tries so hard to promote. If he doesn't, then in the unilkely event that Mirkarimi does anything else bad, critics will blame the mayor for not acting.

So this isn't over yet.

Meanwhile, the award for the most inappropropriate question at the Gascon news conference goes to the San Jose Mercury news reporter who, after much discussion about whether Mirkarimi could carry a weapon again and when the stay-away order would be lifted, asked (I kid you not):

"Which should he get back first -- his gun or his wife?"




If RM faces removal proceedings, he'll probably need representation. And he might be hurting financially after all the legal bills he has to pay already.

Posted by The Commish on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

Even thru all those crocadile tears, his hypocrisy and intrnasigence shine thru.

But at least he finally admitted guilt and full responsibility. Only took him - what? - 2 months?

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

Open letter to the Mayor/City Attorney,

Hi Mr Mayor,

I am writing you re your deliberations about Ross Mirkarimi. I am coming from it from the perspective of nonviolence, in the tradition of MLK, whom I've had the great pleasure of studying.

Believing that you yourself ran for mayor against your own word for the higher purpose of goodwill, hard work and reconciliation, I am hoping you will apply this spirit to the aftermath of this case involving the Sheriff.

While I understand the apparent conflict of interest in this particular situation, ie, “if Ross has been charged with false imprisonment then how can he be in charge of our jails?” I also think the legal proceedings and the amends Ross is making are remedy enough to the situation at hand. The legal system did its job in grand fashion and now it's time for "dignity and love" as MLK would say. "This is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility".

"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."...Nonviolence in the truest sense is not a strategy that one uses simply because it is expedient at the moment; nonviolence is ultimately a way of life that men live by because of the sheer morality of its claim."

Once upon a time, the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by MLK to guide the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was seriously challenged by one of their own—a Reverend UJ Fields, to be exact, who served as recording secretary on its executive board. He'd put the whole movement at risk and in a very bad light by essentially lying to the press, as an act of revenge it turned out, brought on by hurt ego. Here's what MLK had to say, after giving Fields a hearing:

"We are all aware of the weaknesses of human nature. We have all made mistakes along the way of life, and we have all had moments when our emotions overpowered us. Now some of us are here this evening to stone one of our brothers because he has made a mistake. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
“Will we be like the unforgiving elder brother, or will we, in the spirit of Christ, follow the example of the loving and forgiving father?”

Compassion has enemies. Moral outrage and fear are two of them. I hope you will find the strength of compassion to allow Mirkarimi to pursue his job as Sheriff. With the internalizing of important skills that he will surely gain, it is arguable that he will have an even stronger skill set to meet the challenges of his new position.

Daniele Erville
San Francisco

Posted by Daniele Erville on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

Daniele, I will co-sign this thoughtful letter. Just one caveat~ I do not believe that the legal system "did its job in grand fashion." The legal system in this country is deeply flawed. Practically every case results in a plea bargain, so that most defendants are never afforded an opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights (i.e. to a fair trial, to confront their accuser, to present evidence on their behalf, etc.). You may be shocked to learn just how often this happens (I know I was). One of the guests posted a brilliant NY Times op-ed by Michelle Alexander, the legal scholar who wrote The New Jim Crow. Here's what she said~

"More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty."

“'The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used,' said Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In other words: the system is rigged."


Posted by Lisa Pelletier on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

Criminals and DA plea bargain because they don't want to go to trial and face the vagaries of the jury, and to save us all money.

If you are guilty of murder and the DA offers life instead of trying for death at trial then it is the the guilty persons advantage to go for life.

If the DA took everything to trial the jails would be packed with even more people as the slate of charges would be sent to the jury, instead of the one or two that a person pleas to.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

And if the accused is innocent? (which happens more frequently than we'd like to acknowledge.) Or just too poor to afford a good defense lawyer? Or has the "wrong" shade of skin~


Posted by Lisa Pelletier on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

But yes, here is some shocking news for you, Lisa. Having money is better than not having money. It gets you better justice, better healthcare, better housing, a better car, a better wife, cuter kids and an all round better life.

Gee, maybe that's why we all go to college and work hard. D'ya think?

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

That is about money, and lack of representation, but Mirk had a pile of attorneys (six) working for him and would have for longer even if he couldn't pay them (the court needs to release a defense attorney even if they are private), plus getting acquitted would made it tough for him to lose his $200K/year job. Hell he probably could have scared up a few pro-bono attorneys as well.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

he said he wanted to keep fighting it, but the bills were piling up. so money was an issue.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

admitted. His only hope was to get all the evidence suppressed and hope for a rogue jury, but he realised that he should just admit his guilt.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

The point is that people are routinely denied basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution does not say "every *rich* person has the right to a trial by jury" or whatever (see 4th, 5th & 6th Amendments in the Bill of Rights). It says "every person". Yes, Ross had money -- well, more than most of us -- but in the end, this may have been the deciding factor in his decision to cop a plea. Why should anyone have to pay to be afforded basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution?

Posted by Lisa on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

Justice, healthcare, housing and so on. This can hardly be a shock to you.

The US Constitution does not and can not give everyone free, unlimited, top quality legal counsel. But you can get a free PD if you can't afford it.

Really, Lisa, what else would you expect? The Constitution doesn't pay bills and is not a suicide pact.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

In a situation like this, both sides win. Ross gets a lesser charge while the DA doesn't have to risk getting a rogue jury. It's a win-win.

In Lisa's heart, Ross is innocent and this is all a right-wing conspriacy. Such tired, lazy thinking.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

I do not know if Ross is guilty or innocent. I do know that people get railroaded on a daily basis by the criminal justice system. That may or may not have happened in this case. I still think we haven't heard the entire story (why did Eliana ask for immunity, for instance?).

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find out two or three negative things about a person, and I'm quick to judge them. Then later I find out that there was some crucial element that might have "exonerated" them in my eyes. And I'm sorry for my initial rush to judgment. So, I was determined to keep an open mind until I learned all the facts. That's all.

Posted by Lisa on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:46 pm
Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

I doubt it will even come to that. He will, however, face a recall vote which has a much lower threshold than the Board does. He should be a lot more worried about the recall process than what the mayor is scheming about.

This distraction just never seems to end.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

will distract them from opposing Lee's pro-jobs agenda.

Lee has Ross and the Supes just where he wants them. Who'd have thought this a year ago?

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

Which he doesn't seem at all interested in. The recall will take care of the issue - one way or another. And really I feel that's the better way for this to end - not in some drawn-out trial by the BOS. If people want him removed then they can vote directly for it - that removes any stench of politics or "conspiracies" from those, like the SFBG, who are prone to them.

On another note - Ross sure has gotten grey.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

If the Supes want to stand up for Mirkarimi in an election year, go for it. Lee gets to wash his hands of the whole matter the instant it goes to the BoS, and the progressives will then publicly paint themselves as the faction that's ok with spousal abuse. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Board moved to oust him, even Campos and Avalos would have to think long and hard about giving moderates a huge opening in what are otherwise shoo-in elections for them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 7:03 am

it isn't Gascon's place to say whether or not Mirk should keep his position. The ball is in the mayor's court now, not the DA's. Say what you will about his blathering a few days ago, he nailed this answer correctly.

Posted by DanO on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

that hurt Ross and weakened his position.

I think Lee will move to have ross removed. Too many conflicts of interest having a perp guarding the perps.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

Why did the DA's office accept a non-DV plea yet give him almost the same sentence as DV conviction? Think about it, with the tape in evidence and Christina Flores' testimony they had a very high probability of conviction on the DV battery, which prevents gun ownership for 10 years. If they really wanted to humiliate Mirk, they would have made sure that stuck.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

run a mile at the first sign of any aggro.

I'm guessing the DA wanted to make sure there was a conviction and, since Ross is getting the full DV punishment anyway, it was worth it to settle it.

The over-riding factor now is that Ross has admitted guilt after two months of denials.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Which is all the more strange since he supported Chris Daly's unconstitutional attempt to force San Francisco residents who owned handguns to turn them over to the SFPD. Even Tim noticed this rather revolting display of hypocrisy on the part of Mirkarimi.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

either for his job or elsewhere. He's a bureaucrat.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:12 pm
Posted by Steve on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 12:48 am

This is very similar to several DV cases I know about in San Francisco (I was neither victim nor assailant). There was a DV battery charge, decent evidence for the charge, but certainly not an assault, and there was actually no injury, a victim who refused to cooperate, and the plea was to a non-"DV" charge, but only if the sentence included a 52 week DV course and a continued criminal protective order. But because it was not a "DV battery" guilty plea, the protective order could potentially be lifted before probation was complete.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

Mirky is toast. At this point it is simply a matter of time. His attempt at Mea Culpa was too little too late. When you dont even have the usual luddites at the SFBG backing you up, you know its time to throw in the towell

Posted by Greg on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

You did a good job of supporting him when nobody else was but, after today. Nobody can believe he was innocent any longer.

I think Ross will resign to prevent a protracted and divisive battle. If he cares about the city and his cause more than he cares about himself, that would be the right thing to do.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

It's not me. I think you know that, though. I wouldn't be surprised if you were the same person who posted that.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

accumen I have ever seen in my adult life. I'm 32, so I probably have time to witness a few more train wrecks. But make no mistake this was fucking abysmal.

Greg, Tim, Lisa, his other defenders... you should be asking for a personal apology from this asshat. Had he put 10% of the effort and thought into protecting his reputation as you did he'd probably be in a better place.

Unreal. He basically put himself on full display as arrogant, dismissive asshole for 3+ months, then ends it doing what he should have done from day one and admitting defeat.

Posted by Longtime-Lurker on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

I guess he and Eliana were expecting some measure of justice to prevail. I'm sure he realizes that the world's biggest prison-police state isn't exactly a bastion of justice, but I don't think they expected quite this level of politicization of the judiciary. Well I guess this case illustrates just how low the American court system can go.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 7:58 am

That would be a stunning end to this drama - and show fascist AmeriKKKa once and for all!!

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:25 am

Ross was sobbing crocodile tears yesterday as he acknowledged his culpability and apologized to all and sundry.

You're a little late with the news.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:46 am

I think we're all starting to feel a little embarrassed for you at this point.

Dude, I'm not even debating this with you anymore - nobody is. I really feel bad trying to give basic life advice to someone who is like twice my age but apparently nobody else ever did. So here goes - Sometimes the people in life you *thought* were really good folks turn out to actually be assholes. This is one of those cases.

Let's try a sports analogy. Watching you has been like watching a diehard fan of an utterly shitty football team. Yes, they may have had some tough calls go against them. Yes, they may have had some untimely injuries. There are a thousand little things that go against them. But ultimately they lose becuase the *suck*.

Mirkarimi sucks, lol. No idea why you continue to hitch yourself to his train of failure.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

He can't really accept that things have changed and so he keeps saying the same things over and over, as if that can somehow make a difference.

Ross is now more in trouble for what he did since the incident, i.e. the attempted cover-up, than he is for the incident itself. Maybe Greg just needs to stick a finger in the air, notice which way the wind is blowing, and admit that he was wrong - dead wrong.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 2:24 pm
Posted by Sambo on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:07 pm
Posted by Matlock on Mar. 19, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

Why the DA's office to receive a statement non-DV, however, give approximately the same sense as condemns DV? Think about it, with the group in the Flores evidence and testimony Cristina, had a very strong likelihood of conviction for DV battery, prevent possession of weapons for 10 years. If they really wanted to humiliate DARK, would have ensured that he stayed.

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Posted by DaudAhmed15 on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:09 am

From Tim Redmond's blog on Ross Mirkarimi's case, here is a quote from former Chief Mike Hennessey: "My opinion is that he should remain in the job and be given a chance to show what he can do with the office. I think he's being punished accordingly by the justice system," said Hennessey, who has been lauded by victims' advocacy groups over the years for domestic violence services and programs that began under his watch. While admitting guilt to the crime of false imprisonment is serious, he added, it should not automatically disqualify Mirkarimi from holding office. "During my time as sheriff, I hired many people with criminal records who have done outstanding jobs for the department," Hennessey said. "Oftentimes, you have to look at the whole issue of rehabilitation and redemption."

Posted by Daniele Erville on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 6:28 am

Check out the classic bit of the formerly hidden hubby speaking for his suddenly mute wife in today's Chronicle. Ivory Madison's real lawyer hubby bemoans how difficult it was for his wife's and their friend's communications(read phil bronstein) to be subpoenaed by the defense in this case. Did Mr. Mertens(the now vocal hubby) ever study that part in criminal law class about the right to a defense? How come his superheroine uber-feminist wife with all her self-proclaimed legal training cannot speak for herself? Perhaps she's too busy studying to retake that bar exam, given in July?

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 8:23 am


We'll see how much your bleating helps Ross when the recall comes up. That Chron piece by Madison's husband was quite powerful - clearly they're in no mood to let bygones be bygones. And why should they? Ross and his legal team set out to destroy his wife's reputation despite their long-time friendship with Mirkarimi and his wife.

If you were in the same situation and anyone gave half-a-shit about you Christine, they'd probably do the same thing on your behalf. Pity no one does.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:19 am

there is now a basis for new charges against Ross e.g. suborning perjury and intimidating witnesses and seeking to destroy evidence.

I predict Ross will resign by Friday.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:48 am

Even the conservative columnist Debra Saunders in the Chron is now saying this case is completely overblown.

A "bruise" is not wife-battering, says Saunders. And I agree. Let the man continue with his life. We can vote him out in three years if need be.

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 9:55 am

It may or may not be wife-battering. But it is a great start in any event.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:18 am

I agree - like the Bush administration's definition of torture. If it doesn't kill you then it's not torture. Same for this - bruising, black eyes, teeth knocked out, concussions, burns or broken bones are not "battering." They're simply signs of a wife who needs "correction."

Ross "corrected" Eliana. It's time everyone accepted that and moved on - like the Chron's resident neanderthal conservative Debra Saunders suggests.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:22 am

I wouldn't under estimate the woman's rights groups ability to mount a signature gathering drive with enough volunteers to keep costs reasonable. And getting the signatures to recall RM would be a lot easier than for some obscure ballot measure that nobody understands.

Thanks to Ranked Choice Voting RM 'won' with only 38% of the vote, which means that, even back then, 62% of the voters wanted someone else. That % is probably way up. Another reason that he should resign now.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:47 am

resign and then put his name in the hat in a special election.

No way he gets anything close to even the paltry 38% he got in November.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 11:11 am

Thank you Troll the 14th.

Posted by Daniele Erville on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:15 am

The TrustFundBaby lawyer and his TrustFundBaby wife – Abraham and Ivory Madison – neighbors also had a pathetic article in the Chron today. Pleading and bleeding victimhood.

Perfectly timed to keep the fires of the witch hunt stoked.

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 10:44 am