SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office has released an emotional video showing the wife of embattled San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi discussing a confrontation between the couple on New Year’s Eve.
The 45-second video shows Eliana Lopez pointing to a bruise on her right arm and saying it was caused by Mirkarimi. Fighting back tears, she said in the video that her husband had told her he is powerful and had threatened to take custody of the couple’s young son.
“I’m going to use this in case he wants to take Theo away from me,” Lopez said.
The video was recorded by a neighbor, Ivory Madison, on Jan. 1, the day after Mirkarimi grabbed her during an argument. Police obtained the video via a search warrant after Madison called police on Jan. 4 to report the incident.
It was the central piece of evidence in the criminal case against Mirkarimi, who pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge.
He was sentenced to three years’ probation and other penalties and was subsequently suspended without pay by Mayor Ed Lee on official misconduct charges.
Mirkarimi is awaiting a hearing on the administrative charges before the city’s Ethics Commission, which will then make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to uphold the charges and remove him from office or reinstate him as sheriff. Nine of the 11 supervisors would have to uphold the charges to remove Mirkarimi, who served on the board for seven years before being elected sheriff last November.
The mayor spoke to reporters briefly about the video’s release at City Hall Thursday morning.
“All the evidence has to be weighed,” Lee said. “We’re seeking as much transparency as possible because the Ethics Commission demands it.”
He said, “I want everything to be released to them so they have that basis to make a decision.”
Lee admitted that he had not yet watched the video, saying, “I haven’t felt the necessity to do that,” but added that he would probably view it before testifying at the Ethics Commission hearing.
The attorneys for Mirkarimi and Lopez fought to have the video barred from public view at the Ethics Commission, but a San Francisco Superior Court judge denied their request on May 15, and the state Court of Appeal two days later upheld that decision.
A representative of Lopez released the following statement on her behalf:
“I am sad and hurt by the elected officials of the City of San Francisco: Mayor Lee, City Attorney Herrera, District Attorney Gascon and Judge Wong. They each have contributed to the release of the video against my wishes and allowed it to go viral. Because of their actions the images on that video will exist forever for anyone to see — including my son Theo, now and for ever. My grandchildren will see the video, as well as my great grandchildren. I believe what Judge Wong, the District Attorney, the City Attorney, and Mayor Lee have done to me is far worse than anything they accuse Ross of doing. I hope they realize after reflection that what they have done is irreparable and perpetually damaging to me and my family.”
Paula Canny, Lopez’s attorney, said after the May 15 hearing that the city’s effort to use the video in Mirkarimi’s suspension hearing would serve to further humiliate her client.
“They don’t want to protect Eliana, they don’t want to protect her rights,” Canny said. “They’re so out of their minds to get Ross Mirkarimi that they don’t care who they step on.”
Mirkarimi also issued a statement Thursday, saying the release of the video “utterly violates my wife’s rights and serves no public good. It is the politics of destruction at its worst, and those who advocated its release should be ashamed.”
The suspension proceedings will continue before the Ethics Commission on June 19.
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