Threats from mayor and neighbor in evolving Mirkarimi saga

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The media circus that surrounds Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi could be dragged out if Mayor Ed Lee files official misconduct charges
Luke Thomas

In Old West and pulp fiction stories, it’s usually the sheriff who tells a criminal that he has 24 hours to get out of town or else. But in the latest twist in an increasingly ugly San Francisco drama, that’s what Mayor Ed Lee reportedly told Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi yesterday afternoon, setting up a 5 pm showdown by which Lee told Mirkarimi to resign or face removal from office.

That’s just one of a few rapidly unfolding developments surrounding domestic violence allegations against Mirkarimi, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of false imprisonment and is now facing Lee’s threat of bringing official misconduct charges against him.

With the criminal case ending yesterday, Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, and her attorney Paula Canny called a press conference for noon today to finally tell the story of what happened on New Year’s Eve, when the couple fought and Lopez was left with a bruise on her arm, the next day telling neighbor Ivory Madison that Mirkarimi had inflicted it.

But Canny arrived without Lopez, telling the large pack of journalists that they were no longer free to talk because of a cease-and-desist letter and civil lawsuit threatened by Madison and her lawyer husband, Abraham Mertens, who wrote an op-ed in today’s Chronicle calling for Mirkarimi’s removal and accusing Mirkarimi, Lopez, and their lawyers of trying to “discredit, dissuade and harm my wife.”

“Events have risen so that Eliana Lopez is no longer willing to come speak,” Canny said, noting that she has had to get her own lawyer to defend against the accusations and legal threats from Mertens and Madison. 

[added from here at 3:30 pm] Canny repeated a previous claim that Lopez knew Madison had attended law school and was seeking legal help from her, making the videotape confidential under attorney-client privilege, a claim Mirkarimi’s judge rejected. “My client sought legal advice from someone she thought reasonably to be an attorney,” Canny said today, noting that only Lopez can lift the veil of confidentiality in such cases.  

Although Lopez didn’t cooperate with the prosecution of her husband, maintaining that she was not a victim of domestic violence, Canny reiterated that Lopez was willing to testify in court as to what really happened that night but that she wanted immunity from prosecution first. “She has always said she would testify under immunity, but the District Attorney’s Office refused to offer it,” Canny said today. 

Given that Mirkarimi faced a child endangerment charge because their two-year-old son, Theo, was present during the altercation, it’s conceivable that Lopez could also be charged with a crime. Sources close to Mirkarimi and Lopez told the Guardian that Lopez was prepared to say today that Mirkarimi was restraining rather than attacking her, something she was willing to discuss with reporters before these latest legal threats.

Canny noted that the media circus and threats made on the couple’s livelihood have been the most damaging part of a saga that she called “an amazing, horrible experience” and  “oppressive and unfair,” noting the irony of a prosecution that purported to be about helping victims of domestic violence.

“Has any of this helped Eliana Lopez? Has any of this helped Theo?” Canny said. “This is not about helping her.”

She said that neither Lee nor anyone from the Mayor’s Office have tried to contact Lopez. “If the mayor wants to call me, I’d say he’s not trying to make the world a better place,” Canny said.

Canny also had this message for Lee: “To the mayor, please respect the electoral process,” adding that Lopez also strongly wants Mirkarimi to remain in office and that “Eliana Lopez is not afraid of Ross. Eliana Lopez loves Ross…If people care about them at all, let Ross do his job.”

Canny also took issue with La Casa de las Madres and other domestic violence advocates that have pressured Lee to oust Mirkarimi and sought to capitalize on the case, even circulating Lopez’s name and image. “That’s not how crime victims are to be taken care of,” Canny said. 

Many political and legal observers say they’re surprised by Lee’s apparent decision to suspend Mirkarimi and bring official misconduct charges, saying it will be a complicated, distracting, and divisive process that is unlikely to result in Mirkarimi’s removal. They say the charges so clearly don’t rise to the level of official misconduct that even the Ethics Commission, where the hearing is held, may reject them. If Ethics recommends Mirkarimi’s removal, it was take nine of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors to remove him.

Then again, these observers speculate that Lee may simply want to use the hearings to air the evidence and discredit Mirkarimi so that he’d be easy pickings for a recall campaign that could be launched this summer -- in the process, potentially gaining a campaign issue to use against progressive supervisors facing reelection this fall. The Chronicle reported yesterday that the case has generated a bonanza of donations to La Casa de las Madres, which is planning to do Spanish-language billboards in the Mission District, where Sup. David Campos is now running for reelection.

Lee has not offered many substantial comments on why he may believe official misconduct charges are warranted, but he’s expected to do so as soon as this afternoon when he announces his decision on the Mirkarimi matter.

 

 

 

Comments

If Mertens and Madison feel they have a case, shouldn't they be allowed to pursue it?

Irvory Madison did what she was legally obliged to do, which is report what she believed was a Domestic Violance case, there should be no reason to discredit her for doing what is correct.

I think the SF Guardian has done harm to Mirkarimi in their reporting thus far, may be tread lightly moving forward?

Posted by Chris Pratt on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

are victims here, but rather their neighbors who sought to protect Eliana from Ross's assaults. Now that Ross and Eliana are (still) trying to cover their tracks, it seems the full force of Ross's anger is now directed at their good samaritan neighbors.

Up to this week, it was possible to believe that Ross might still have been innocent. But his admission and apology, initially half-hearted but now, finally, sincere, has shown the world that he accepts his guilt.

Those neighbors should sue. And I also wonder whether there could be new charges arising out of Ross's attempts at coercion, suppression of evidence and encouragement of perjury.

Ross must go.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

What do you mean by "the full force of Ross's anger is now directed at their good samaritan neighbors"? How has that manifested? This couple's plug of their business seems clearer in that op-ed than evidence of how Ross and his wife have somehow attacked them.

Posted by steven on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

The neighbors should sue the Mirkarimis in order to protect Eliana and Theo. Ultimately its all about the children. According to Phil Bronstein.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

The neighbors should sue the Mirkarimis in order to protect Eliana and Theo. Ultimately its all about the children. According to Phil Bronstein.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

Did someone say they weren't being "allowed"? I missed that part. As for Mrs. Merten-Madison's "legal obligations", that remains quite an open question.

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

I never said they weren't being allowed. I asked a question nothing less nothing more.
It is my understanding that if you know of or believe an incident of Domestic Violence you must report it. Even if this is not a law, I think you are under a moral obligation to report the incident.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

You must report it but first you must contact your media advisors?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

to be clear, Eliana did not show up because a cease and disist order was issued. She was ordered to stop saying improper comments about Ivory Madison and other witnesses. She was not ordered not to talk about what happened.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

It has understandably been less than fun for the Merten-Madisons to have it questioned whether Mrs. Merten-Madison has the legal prowess she offers on her webpage. Why doesn't Mrs. Merten-Madison just come out on her own front porch and tell reporters about it? Who's got the cat-suited heroine's tongue?

Posted by GuestChristine Craft on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

Criticizing the neighbors that did the right thing by notifying the police of a domestic violence incident is extremely tacky.

Even Ross apologized publicly to Ivory and her family (sincere or not)
But continuing to defame her only shows how tasteless you are Christine Craft.

Comments like this, actually hurt Ross because even though he has accepted accountability for false imprisonment and taken full responsibility of the incident, it is obvious that his supporters have not.

Too bad he can't just be completely innocent of all charges, but instead has to redeem himself only through technicalities and " missteps".

Posted by GuestOfNoOne on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

San Francisco's cutest Trustfund-baby couple, Ivory and Abe, will at last get their 15 minutes of fame while their RumRoom startup continues imploding.

No matter. Mummie and daddy will continue paying the bills.

Posted by Troll the 10th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

1) Calling the cops generally makes things worse.
2) Some people bruise more easily than others.
3) Some people are more volatile than others.
4) Women sometimes abuse their power to have significant others arrested on domestic violence claims.
5) Some people don't want Ross to be sheriff and will do whatever it takes to undo the election.
6) Nothing that happened at the Mirkarimi's residence is anybody's business but theirs.
7) Nothing that happened at the Mirkarimi's residence would have prevented him from doing his job until a bunch of busybodies, political enemies, sore losers, and garden-variety creeps crawled out of the gutter to kneecap the man.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

coersion of a witness, attmpting to distroy evidence. need there be more? Ok. false imprisonment by a law officer....

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

Let me get this straight: the neighbor who called police out of concern for the safety of Ms. Lopez is now threatening to sue Ms. Lopez? Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Stay strong, Ross. Do not dignify this with a resignation.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:33 pm
Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

You guys realize that all these "women" defending Ross are really just Greg under different aliases, right?

Posted by RamRod on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

Those who've read the Guardian, and indeed have been kicking around the SF political scene for some time, know that Erika, Lisa, Christine, Lucretia Mott and others are longtime posters who've weighed in on any number of topics long before the Mirkarimi thing, under the same handles. And the same goes for me.

On the other hand, the troll(s) that came out of the woodwork for this are new, and a lot of the same bullshit has proliferated just recently... under different handles... but always variations on the same shit. I suspect that The Donald, RamRod, Chromefields, H-Monk-Brown-CL, Steroidal Progressive, the guy who pretends to be me, the guy who pretends to be marcos, the guy who pretends to be Lisa, and numerous "Guests" and Anonymi... are actually the same person or same couple of people.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

Next thing you know, he'll be responding to his own posts.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 11:27 am

And there's a little piece of Greg in all of us.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 11:41 am

And all of this Ron Merkinelli business is making Greg confused and sad.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

So everyone who comes here and posts in agreement with you is a "long-time" and honorable poster?

And everyone who comes here and disagrees with you is really all just one person, a troll and time waster?

How convenient for you to be able to stereotype anonymous posters.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 11:33 am

I agree stay strong. Admitting to abusing your wife and apologizing to the public for this abuse is no reason for you to step down as Sheriff! This is/was a family matter!

Posted by Greg on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

"Admitting to abusing your wife and apologizing to the public for this abuse is no reason for you to step down as Sheriff! This is/was a family matter!"

You can't be serious?!
I'm sure the progressive movement can find another hero, come on John Avalos and David Campos are more suitable to fawn after!

Posted by GuestOfNoOne on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

Any one should report, especially health care providers, cases of DV directly to the local police especially if the alleged victim shows demonstrable signs of abuse.
Police then have a paper trail to follow and if the victim is an adult they can press charges. A lot of victims are afraid to report, so at the time of the visit resources can be given for a quick exit if the abuse happens again. Victims, if they are adult, have to be willing to give specific information to the provider but it should still be reported, whether or not the police act on the information.

My question is whether or not, after the incident, did the neighbor immediately report it and did she, if indeed she is a lawyer, provide her with information about safety. Confedentialtiy seems to have totally gone haywire in this case, further making it more difficult to provide safety for all concerned.

The charges of child endangerment and abuse of Ross's wife have been dropped in exchange for a guilty plea of imprisonment of the said neighboor, who is now writing Op-Ed pieces about removing Ross vs. helping Ross's wife's recover.

Something doesn't ring true about this case and it is beginning to sound like let's get Ross vs. lets get this family some help including marriage counseling of a high profile politician on the wrong political side of the Mayor.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

"in the process, potentially gaining a campaign issue to use against progressive supervisors facing reelection this fall."

Does that include THE PROGRESSIVE SUPERVISOR THAT HE APPOINTED? I realize that the SFBG has been reduced to cowering paranoia but do you really have to share it with the rest of us?

Posted by Troll on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

Mirk will just further embarrass himself.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

"Many political and legal observers say they’re surprised by Lee’s apparent decision to suspend Mirkarimi and bring official misconduct charges, saying it will be a complicated, distracting, and divisive process that is unlikely to result in Mirkarimi’s removal."

Seriously? There are actually political observers who can't see why Lee is bringing an official misconduct charge against Mirkarimi? He obviously wants to avoid any appearance of being tolerant of Domestic Violence. In case you haven't noticed, Steven, a lot of people are fucking pissed off at Ross. Plus, if Lee chose not to pursue the Sheriff's removal to the utmost of his ability, that would be exactly the kind of thing which would provide a lot of ammunition to Lee's opponent come election time.

Another reason for Lee's decision could be that he simply dislikes guys who rough up women.

I think that, a few years from now, people will look back and realize that this incident wasn't just the death knell for Ross Mirkarimi's political career, but that it was also the beginning of the end for the Bay Guardian.

Posted by RamRod on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

Bay Guardian once again blaming everyone except the guy who pled guilty.

Posted by Ryan C on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

It amazes me that so many SF progressives (of which I too am one) just continue to stand by their man and refuse to believe that one of our own could be guilty of dv. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, and you have no idea who abuses their wife or kids...be it physical, emotional, or sexual.

Everyone is just reading and regurgitating what they have read, what defaming lies Ross' lawyers have created about the neighbors. They were doing what any citizen, neighbor, friend should do: report a crime, something they witnessed, were privy to... Why the F do you think the neighbors have an agenda, are pushing theirs? Because that's what you've been told.

Wake up, people! Think for yourselves.

P.S. DV is NOT a private matter.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

Why is this worthy of so much press?
He made a mistake, admitted it and is trying to get on with life.
Most other misdemeanors would not be pursued to this extent.
Yet every single day this is on the front page of the Chronicle?
One day with nothing new to report Nevius said he wasn't going to write about it anymore and filled a whole column about "not writing about it"!
Isn't there something else we should know about?
I smell a rat.
Who would benefit from Mirkarimi's removal?
Is the Chronicle so desperate to sell papers it is milking this for all it can get?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

What is a progressive......please define.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

politician who says he is "regressive"?

Didn't think so. The term is meanignless - there is just big government versus small government.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

Nobody is really for all-around small government, except a handful of lunatic Ayn Rand devotees, and the other 99% of us probably wouldn't want to live in the kind of society that they advocate. Hell, if they actually got what they're asking for, I don't think even they would really want it, because they wouldn't last two weeks in such a society.

The rest of us? Just like I've never met a politician who admits to being "regressive" even when they are, I've never met one who says they're for "big government," ...even if they are, or more precisely could give a rats ass about the overall *size* of government, as long as it's doing the things they want, and not doing the things they don't want.

Conservatives want government to protect the interests of the strong, and liberals want government to protect the interests of the weak.

Conservatives want more government spending on all the parts of government that kill, jail, prosecute, and spy on people... and less government spending on all the agencies that feed, educate, house, and care for people. Liberals want the opposite.

It's never really bigger or smaller government. It's all about what *kind* of government.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

Most libs want to increase it.

That's a fundamental ideological divide.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 11:35 am

I attempted to define SF's political spectrum, include the progressive ideology, here: http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2011/11/10/san-franciscos-political-spectru...

 

Posted by steven on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 8:48 am

Excellent piece. Thanks for the link.

Posted by RamRod on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 10:24 am

I am not a one percenter but know that I do not want more government power put in place. Just intelligent use of our government and not theirs.

Posted by Guest 51 on Mar. 28, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

A progressive is:

Against progress other then meaningless grandstanding/toothless policy statements
Against any development unless it is by a non profit developer
Against anything which may involve someone who either has money or seems to have money
Against consumer/personal choice when it comes down to where to shop

Of course this is only the inbred SF arm of the progressive movement, nationwide progressives are much more different.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

The wife beater is guilty. A "very powerful man" apologizes for falsely imprisoning his wife. Justice is done. The amoral SF pr...regressive apologists attack Madison. History repeats itself for the 1000th time.

Posted by DanC on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

I asked the question above and nobody answered: How was this neighbor attacked? Mirkarimi's critics love to use very aggressive language, like wife beater. He didn't beat her, and wasn't even accused of striking her, but I guess "wife grabber" just doesn't have the same harsh ring. Only two people know exactly what happened that night, and I was looking forward to Lopez telling the story and asking a few probing questions, but I never got that chance because apparently Madison and her husband think they're the real victims here. The reaction to this incident has gotten ridiculous and has clearly done far more damage to Eliana than Ross did.

Posted by steven on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 8:56 am

If you're going to "share" with your family pathology with your neighbor, it would be a good idea to ascertain whether that neighbor has a commercial interest in your story.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

If you're going to "share" your family pathology with your neighbor, it would be a good idea to ascertain whether that neighbor has a commercial interest in your story.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2012 @ 7:37 pm