SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who is facing domestic violence charges, will not be required to appear in court Monday when prosecutors and his defense attorneys will present motions before a trial judge.
Mirkarimi, 50, has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness in connection with a Dec. 31 incident in which he allegedly bruised the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez, during an argument in which his 2-year-old son Theo was present.
Mirkarimi was in court Friday morning when Judge Garrett Wong was assigned the case and again Friday afternoon when Wong was presented with several new motions filed by both the prosecution and defense.
Actual trial proceedings will not begin until Monday, when Wong requested the lawyers return at 10 a.m. to present their cases. Mirkarimi’s attorney Lidia Stiglich requested that Mirkarimi’s presence at Monday’s hearing be waived. Wong granted that waiver.
Wong said that he would not order a jury panel for Monday. Jury selection is likely to begin on Tuesday, and it is expected that a questionnaire will be used to systematically and uniformly select jurors.
Wong, who has not had a chance to review documents since the case was assigned to him Friday morning, will have to consider a motion filed by Stiglich Wednesday in which she argued that statements Lopez made to neighbors Ivory Madison and Callie Williams in the days after the New Year’s Eve incident should not be admissible in court.
One of those statements was made in a 45-second video recorded by Madison on Jan. 1.
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said that the defense motion was expected.
“We are not surprised or concerned with any of the motions filed by the defense,” Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai said Friday. “We are confident the law supports us in this area and the video will be admitted into evidence.
“There is no doubt that without this video, this case would be difficult to proceed on,” Talai said.
The defense had argued that Lopez’s statements were inadmissible because they lacked trustworthiness and because Lopez had had time to reflect before making the utterances to her neighbors, as opposed to making them spontaneously.
“There is overwhelming evidence that Lopez had the opportunity to reflect between the time of the alleged incident and the conversation (with Madison),” Stiglich wrote in the defense motion.
To ensure that the video remains part of the evidence, the district attorney’s office filed a response motion Friday afternoon with the court saying Lopez was under duress when she was filmed while speaking with Madison.
The motion includes still photos captured from the video indicating that Lopez was wiping away tears and appeared visibly upset while displaying a large purple bruise on her arm.
“Although roughly 18 hours passed between the event and the statements to Madison, the victim was clearly still under the stress of the traumatic and stressful events from the day before,” the motion filed Friday by the district attorney’s office reads.
The District Attorney’s office also released the still photos and a transcript to the media on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, Stiglich also requested to not have the trial sent to Judge Susan Breall, before whom Stiglich and Mirkarimi’s former attorney, Bob Waggoner, have appeared for hearings in the case.
Last month, Breall denied a request by Mirkarimi to lift or modify an order barring him from having any contact with Lopez and their son while the case proceeds. A family court judge later modified the order to allow Mirkarimi to visit with his son.
Stiglich testified Friday morning that Breall would not be impartial and would be biased against her client.
Before becoming a judge, Breall previously worked for 17 years in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, including 10 years prosecuting felony domestic violence cases.
Talai said the district attorney’s office “would have been confident with whatever judge this (case) was placed in front of.”
After the case was assigned in court to Wong Friday morning, Stiglich and Mirkarimi made a swift departure from the corridor through a back exit in the Hall of Justice.
For the afternoon session, Mirkarimi entered and exited through a separate entrance, out of reach of the swarm of media covering the case.
Although Stiglich declined to comment on the case Friday morning, a friend of Mirkarimi’s, former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, spoke with reporters following the trial judge assignment.
Because of the restraining order that prevents Mirkarimi from returning to the Webster Street home that he shares with his wife and son, Mirkarimi has been staying with friends, including Agnos.
Mirkarimi met the former mayor while working on the campaign of former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, whom Mirkarimi succeeded in office.
“Well, I think every politician in the long run has some kind of bump in their career that … either hurts them permanently or they get past it,” Agnos said, emphasizing that Ross is innocent until proven guilty.
“There have been politicians throughout history that, like human beings, have hit rough spots. It’s not all smooth. The question is, how do they handle it when they encounter it and what’s the result,” he said.
“In this case, I think that it’s going to be a good result because he is innocent and he’ll be able to go on with his career,” he said.
Agnos said Mirkarimi stays in a guest bedroom at his home and has been paying Agnos to stay there because some people have called the free lodging an unauthorized gift.
(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved.)