San Francisco News

Mirkarimi pleads guilty to false imprisonment

Monday, March 12, 2012
Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez Dean Johnson

In a surprise move, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced a plea deal that erases a domestic violence charge and allows him to return to his duties as sheriff. Monday's development came on the day jurors would have been selected to hear the case. Instead, the sheriff pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.

"For the last two months, this has caused my family, my department, the sheriff's department and the city great turmoil, pain and disappointment," Mirkarimi said. "The plea, this plea allows us to move forward."

Mirkarimi's wife Eliana Lopez issued a statement through her attorney.

"Ms. Lopez is grateful that this stressful public spectacle will soon be over and that she and her family can heal," Paula Canny said.

The plea deal ended a two and a half month nightmare for Mirkarimi, an embarrassing ordeal for the newly elected sheriff that began in the wee hours of New Year's Eve when he allegedly grabbed and bruised Lopez's arm during an argument.

Had it gone to trial, Ivory Madison, the next door neighbor who shot a video showing the bruise, would have testified as to what Lopez told her. Since Lopez refused to testify against her husband, the video became the prosecution's critical piece of evidence.

Lawyers for Mirkarimi and Lopez tried everything to block the video but Judge Garrett Wong, and even appeals division judges, denied their legal attempts to stop the damning piece of evidence. There also may have been testimony from an ex-girlfriend charging she too was abused.

The legal wrangling seemed endless.

"There was still a very real possibility that this case would be tried in another county; I think you just couple all that with these difficulties and how long it would take," defense attorney Lidia Stiglich said.

So, Sunday night they reached a deal. Monday, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to false imprisonment. The more serious domestic violence charges of battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness were dropped. He will get three years probation, 100 hours of community service, and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling and parenting classes.

Prosecutors said they were pleased with the outcome.

"The district attorney's office thanks all the witnesses that were very courageous and willing to step forward and we wish the victim and her family some closure," prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi said.

Since Mirkarimi was convicted of the lesser charge, he will not have to turn over his gun. But the previous court order banning him from staying with his wife but allowing supervised visits with his young son remains in place. Mirkarimi says he will try to get the order lifted after he is sentenced.

Still at question is what the plea deal means for Mirkarimi's future. Monday afternoon, Mayor Ed Lee indicated he is troubled by the surprising guilty plea to a charge of false imprisonment. The city was expecting a trial on the domestic abuse charges, now the mayor says he is reviewing his options but isn't likely to make a decision on whether to try to force the sheriff from office until after Mirkarimi's sentencing next week.

Lee has the option of suspending Mirkarimi as the first step toward trying to kick him out of office. The city charter allows removal for official misconduct, described as any wrongful behavior by a public officer in relation to the duties of his or her office or conduct that falls below the standard of decency.

Mirkarimi says he plans to move forward.

"I intend to return to the business of running one of the finest sheriff's departments in the nation," he said.

The head of the Deputy Sheriff's Association sent ABC7 statement late Monday afternoon, saying the rank and file stands behind their chief law enforcement officer and will continue to follow Mirkarimi's lead.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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ross mirkarimi, crime, trials, san francisco news
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