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SF Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi Pleads Guilty To False Imprisonment

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Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez

Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez speak to reporters in January. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, facing trial over domestic violence charges, pleaded guilty to one count of false imprisonment Monday under a deal with prosecutors.

Mirkarimi, 50, appeared in court after agreeing to the plea deal, which resulted in three other misdemeanors being dropped — including a domestic violence battery count that would have permanently banned the sheriff from carrying a gun if he was convicted.

“For the last two months, this case has caused my family, the sheriff’s department, and the city great turmoil, pain and disappointment,” Mirkarimi said outside of court. “This plea allows us to move forward.”

The case stemmed from a New Year’s Eve argument in which he allegedly grabbed and bruised the arm of his wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez, in front of their young son. He was initially charged with battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness and could have faced up to a year in prison if convicted at trial of all counts.

Mirkarimi opted for a plea deal after a Superior Court ruling on Friday that a 55-second video in which Lopez displayed bruises on her arm while tearfully describing the incident could be used as evidence. The videotape was taken by neighbor Ivory Madison, and although Lopez refused to cooperate with authorities and denied she had been abused, prosecutors proceeded with the case against Mirkarimi because of the videotaped evidence.

In court on Monday, Mirkarimi apologized to Madison for enduring some criticism for contacting the police, and told the judge presiding over this case that he realized that Madison’s action were done “out of desire to help my family.”

KCBS Team Coverage:

Mirkarimi will be sentenced on March 19; the plea deal calls for him to be fined $400, given three years probation and undergo a year of domestic violence counseling. He will also be required to take parenting classes and perform 100 hours of community service.

Still looming, however, is the possibility that San Francisco’s mayor and Board of Supervisors could act to remove Mirkarimi from office because of his conviction.

“The Sheriff, one of our top law enforcement officials, has now pleaded guilty to an unexpected and very serious charge… I understand the troubling nature that this guilty plea raises, given the Sheriff’s role in overseeing and incarcerating criminals in our county jails,” reacted Mayor Ed Lee.

Lee said he was reviewing legal options under the City Charter and would make a decision soon on whether to take action, but City Hall observers questioned whether there would be enough support among the supervisors to remove Mirkarimi.

“I intend to return to the business of running one of the finest sheriff’s departments in the nation, of mending my family and raising my son Theo in a safe and happy home,” Mirkarimi told reporters, indicating that he would not comment further until after sentencing.

For now though, Mirkarimi must continue to stay-away from his wife and 2-year-old son until a family court judge lifts the prohibition, which has been in effect since prosecutors first brought charges in the incident. Mirkarimi also is not be allowed to carry a weapon while that protective order remains in effect, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Paula Canny, the lawyer for Mirkarimi’s wife, said she believed the order would be lifted in the near future and said her client just wants to get her family’s life to get back to normal.

Following Mirkarimi’s guilty plea, prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi told reporters simply: “We wish the victim and her family the best.”

Later, her boss, District Attorney George Gascon elaborated in a brief statement that read in part: “I am confident today’s plea and mandated counseling will help this family.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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