Last gasp ends the sordid Mirkarimi saga

The arm-grab that Madison reported to police set off a feeding frenzy that engulfed Mirkarimi.
Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

A San Francisco judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, which is likely to be the last step in an ugly and protracted political, legal, and administrative battle stemming from Mirkarimi grabbing Lopez's arm during an argument on Dec. 31, 2011.

The couple's neighbors, attorney Abraham Mertens and his wife, Ivory Madison, reported the grabbing incident to police over the objections of Lopez, who had sought advice from Madison and allowed her to film a short but emotional video displaying a bruise on her arm, which became the main evidence against Mirkarimi.

That exploded into a high-profile drama in which Mirkarimi was vilified by the media, charged with domestic violence and witness dissuasion, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment, suspended without pay for six months by Mayor Ed Lee, and finally reinstated to office by the Board of Supervisors in October.

Along the way, the two couples – who are still neighbors, despite Mirkarimi's efforts to sell his house and move – became increasingly bitter public rivals. Lopez consistently denied being abused and implied to reporters that Mertens and Madison had political motives for breaking her confidence and reporting the incident to police. Mertens and Madison maintained that Mirkarimi tried to dissuade their cooperation with police – an allegation that the long investigation failed to substantiate – and blasted Mirkarimi and Lopez in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.

Other than that, Madison and Mertens refused to talk to the press as the saga unfolded – a stance they maintained today, with a man who answered the phone at the Red Room website business they run immediately telling us, “They're not interested in talking.”

But Madison, who went to law school before becoming a fantasy writer, did let loose in June when she submitted a wild, incredible 22-page declaration to the Ethics Commission as part of the city's effort to permanently remove Mirkarimi on official misconduct charges, purporting to describe the tyrannical way the Mirkarimi ran the household, as Madison claimed she was told by Lopez (which she disputes).

The commission criticized and gutted the declaration, finding that it was prejudicial and contained little usable evidence. Commissioner Paul Renne even dressed down the deputy city attorneys for submitting it, calling it “clearly hearsay, clearly having the intention of poisoning the well of this hearing,” causing Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith to apologize and explain they had little to do with the declaration because Madison had hired a private attorney who helped her prepare it.

The couple and their attorney have threatened to sue Mirkarimi and Lopez for more than a year, and they finally filed the defamation case in January, and it has now been quickly dismissed. Domestic violence advocates and allies of Mayor Lee also threatened a recall election against Mirkarimi, but that also seemed to wither late last year – meaning this is probably the last we'll hear about this case, at least until Mirkarimi runs for reelection in two years, if he decides to do so.

Asked to comment on the lawsuit's dismissal, Mirkarimi told the Guardian, “My family and I are very happy and have moved forward, and I hope they are too.” His attorney, David Waggoner, told us, “Hopefully, the dismissal represents the end of what has been a long and painful experience for everyone involved.”


Of course, they may have withdrawn the suit for good reasons, but either way the coverage was biased and selective.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

... I guess that'd be a "no."

Figures that this story would pain the trolls so much they'd root about for any kind of soporific fiction to grasp.

Posted by lillip on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

Or are you one of these geeks who don't believe anything unless it is "on the internet"?

Posted by Anon on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 6:36 pm


... and that especially is true for the claims made by the known serial bold-faced liars who post repeatedly on this forum.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

flat, as there are millions of links to that if you google it.

Some of us get our knowledge from the real world, not third-hand from behind a computer screen.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

It's there in black and white on SFGate.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

Gossip columnists are always the most reliable source of objective information.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

does in fact imply that Mertens withdrew the suit himself: it signifies that the case was not judged on its merits and that Mertens retains the right to bring it at another time.

Why would Mertens have withdrawn his suit just two months after it was filed?

Is it because the case was so obviously without merit that Mertens knew he'd look like a fool if he failed to cut his losses now? -- or is it because, while the suit has no merit, that Mertens intends to bring it back at a later time when some political hay can be made from it?

Judging by the way the San Francisco Comical utilized every pretext available to run negative stories on Mirkarimi during his travails, I expect the case is going to be held in reserve for when Mirkarimi nexts stands for office.

The recall is off, so the suit is off. Naked politics.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 8:16 am

I'm not sure how they could do that since the statute of limitations on what Lopez and Mirkarimi said about Madison and Mertens will have run out by then. (Like Madison, IANAL...maybe having filed the suit in time and having it dismissed without prejudice tolls the statute?)

My guess? They either had a change of heart or couldn't find a defamation lawyer who'd take the case, more's the pity.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 8:45 am

hater. Yes. I see that California imposes a one-year statute of limitations on libel and defamation.

Not that Lopez wasn't always safe from judgement since she nothing she said was untrue, let along *knowingly* untrue.

No, Mertens couldn't find a defamation lawyer to take the case; which is why he filed the papers himself.

And while the case will not come back -- except through future catty references to the "case which was not pursued" -- my point yet stands that this whole charade was political.

And did Lopez say anything the least bit suspect when whe accused Madison of passing herself off as a lawyer? "Umm," that'd be a "no."

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 9:18 am

both that Ross had assaulted her and that he had not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 9:28 am

Really, you think M&R just made it up that Madison and Mertens requested the case be dismissed?

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 8:42 am

La Casa de las Madres and other reactionary anti-domestic violence groups put up their billboards and made their statements at hearings, BUT THEY LOST.

They got yelled down at all the hearings, and Martens has slinked back into her corner where she belongs. She knows now that you shouldn't try to help women who make trouble for their men.

Point, set match: Progressives won.

Now you people need to learn to deal with it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 8:25 am

Naked politics. A witch-hunt against Ross. We stand w/Ross!

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 8:27 am

Since everyone knows it's next door to Ivory Madison and Abraham Mertens.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

After he condo converts, it will be easier. How many years has he been in the condo lottery?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 10:05 pm
Posted by anon on Mar. 22, 2013 @ 5:57 am