EXCLUSIVE: Mirkarimi, Lopez discuss scandal's impact on family
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, are firing back at city officials who are pushing for Mirkarimi to be removed from office. They've both given exclusive interviews to the ABC7 News I-Team.
It was a case Lopez did not want to pursue, and that her husband says should not be an issue for his job as San Francisco sheriff. In part three of our series, we hear from them both about the terrible impact the scandal is having on their family.
When I met Lopez in her hometown of Caracas, Venezuela on Saturday, she told me leaving San Francisco and the spotlight of the domestic violence scandal was like having a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.
Noyes: A lot of people think you aren't coming back.
Lopez: Well, I think San Francisco has not been nice with me.
Lopez struggled as a new mother with a workaholic husband, a San Francisco supervisor who became sheriff this year. She longed for her hometown and the security of her family. The tensions bubbled over New Year's Eve; Mirkarimi cut short a drive to get pizza because of an argument. "I grabbed her arm, I caused a bruise, and I will always regret that and always be sorry for that," Mirkarimi said.
"In the moment, I said, 'Stop,'" Lopez said. "He immediately apologized and he realized that was wrong and then I said, we were talking and I said, 'We need therapy, we need help.'"
Before the couple could go for counseling, the scandal exploded. Lopez says her big mistake was trusting her neighbor, Ivory Madison, with the story.
Noyes: Who's idea was it to make the video?
Lopez: Her idea.
Noyes: It was her idea?
Through an attorney, Madison says Lopez never asked for it to remain confidential. Madison called police and turned over the video showing a bruise on Lopez's arm in response to a search warrant.
"When the police call me, they ask me, 'Are you afraid?' Of course, no, I am here making lunch for Theo," Lopez said laughingly. "I'm not afraid of anything, actually if I want to go, I can go. If I want to call the police, I will call the police."
Still, prosecutors charged Mirkarimi with domestic violence battery. He pleaded down to misdemeanor false imprisonment. Then, Mayor Ed Lee suspended the sheriff without pay and asked the Ethics Commission to fire him. Mirkarimi is preparing his defense. "With that conviction for a low-level misdemeanor, that does not at all inhibit me from being an effective sheriff," he said.
Mirkarimi and Lopez are also dealing with a remnant of the criminal case -- the judge imposed a restraining order that neither of them wanted.
"Is it painful? Yes, but I want them to be happy," Mirkarimi said.
So, Lopez and their 3-year-old son, Theo, are in Caracas, but he misses Mirkarimi badly and cries for him often. "Last night he said, 'One day, I'm going to open the door and daddy's going to be there,'" Lopez said.
When the scandal first broke and the judge had not yet allowed visitation for Mirkarimi and little Theo, his mom says the boy broke out in a rash.
Lopez: And I run to the hospital, I called the doctor and they told me this is allergy, and this is an emotional thing for him.
Noyes: An emotional thing.
Lopez: This is emotional.
Noyes: Because of the separation?
Lopez: I think so, and that's why I went to the family court to ask Theo needs to see his dad.
Now, Theo has daily visits from his dad by Skype. "It's my lifeline, I regulate my whole day in anticipation of having that contact with our son, with Theo," Mirkarimi said.
The family is bracing for the next blow -- Lee is pressing the district attorney to release the bruise video to the Ethics Commission and to the public. Lopez can't imagine it being on the Internet.
"Is it really right to release the video, don't think about my son or my career, my life, my family?" she said. "It looks like it's right for them."
Lopez tells me she can't even think about repairing her marriage until the Ethics Comission plays out and the restraining order gets lifted.
Noyes: The big question that everybody wants to know is, are you coming back to San Francisco?
Lopez: I don't know yet, we don't. I think how I tell you, we are daddy and mommy, that is going to be forever.
Noyes: Do you see a future with Ross [Mirkarimi]?
Lopez: It's hard to tell, now we are living-- we don't know if he's going to get back his job.
Noyes: But, do you still love him?
Lopez: I think I love my family. I'm going to do whatever I can to help my family.
If you have a tip for the I-Team, send us an e-mail here or call 1-888-40-I-TEAM.
ross mirkarimi, domestic violence, eliana lopez, i-team, dan noyes
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