Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has been charged with three misdemeanors in connection with an alleged domestic violence incident against his wife, Eliana Lopez, on New Year's Eve, District Attorney George Gascón announced this afternoon. Gascón said a restraining order has been issued that bars Mirkarimi from contacting his wife and child and that bail has been set at $35,000, although he was unaware whether Mirkarimi had been booked yet.
Mirkarimi is being charged with one misdemeanor each of domestic violence battery, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness from testifying. Gascón said their young son, Theo, was present during the incident. Lopez has refused to speak with investigators, but she has publicly denied that her husband has ever abused her.
Mirkarimi has maintained his innocence, as he did again with Lopez by his side during a City Hall press conference held simultaneously with Gascón's press conference at the Hall of Justice. "We believe that these charges are very unfounded and we will fight those charges. I'm confident in the end that we will succeed,” Mirkarimi said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It was unclear whether the appearance with Lopez violated the restraining order.
Gascón confirmed press reports that Lopez had communicated via text message about the incident with the neighbor who ultimately contacted police – although he refused to disclose or characterize the contents of the communications – and that there was a photo taken of an injury to Lopez's arm. He also said there are indications that this was not an isolated incident and the investigation is continuing. “We have heard there have been other instances,” Gascón said.
The fact that the charges were misdemeanors wouldn't require Mirkarimi's removal from the office he assumed just last weekend if he's convicted, but he has already been required to relinquish any weapons, including his service revolver. He faces a year in jail and three years probation on the charges.
“While we do not relish having to bring charges against a San Francisco elected official, I have taken an oath to uphold the laws of the state of California and as the chief law enforcement officer for the city and county of San Francisco it is my solemn duty to bring criminal charges when the evidence supports such action. No one is above the law,” Gascón said. “Whether this was the elected Sheriff or any other San Francisco resident, this type of behavior is inexcusable, criminal, and will be prosecuted.”
Gascón also said that while Lopez has refused to cooperate, he believes there is ample evidence to bring charges. “A case is always stronger if the victim is willing to testify. However, it is very common for victims to be uncooperative in domestic violence cases," Gascón said, noting that his office filed 771 domestic violence cases last year. He also said, “Regardless of whether the victim supports a prosecution, it is the state's and my office's obligation to ensure the safety of the victim.”