Ross Mirkarimi's wife acts to block use of video
The original article can be found on sfgate.com here.
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
by John Coté
The wife of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi sought Monday to prevent San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee from obtaining a video of her crying while discussing two alleged incidents of domestic violence by her husband, court documents show.
Attorneys for the mayor are seeking a court order releasing the video to them so they can use it as evidence in Lee's effort to remove Mirkarimi from office for official misconduct.
The video, which police obtained with a search warrant, was admitted as evidence in a criminal case against the sheriff. He pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor false imprisonment in a Dec. 31 incident where he grabbed his wife's arm hard enough to bruise it.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong was set to hold a hearing Tuesday on whether the video would be turned over to the mayor, but an attorney for Eliana Lopez, the sheriff's wife, requested a delay, saying she needed more time to present evidence that "dissemination of photos and videos ... after a criminal case is concluded is detrimental to the crime victim."
Lopez, who denies her husband is abusive and who filed unsuccessful legal challenges to prevent the video from being used in his criminal case, does not want the videotape released, wrote her attorney, Paula Canny.
She cited Lopez's constitutional right to privacy and the state's voter-approved Victims' Bill of Rights Act, also known as Marsy's Law, which gives crime victims the right to restitution and appear at sentencing, among other things.
"The only function that video tape serves is to humiliate and embarrass Eliana Lopez," Canny wrote to the city attorney's office in a letter dated May 2. "Is that really how the City of San Francisco wants to treat crime victims?"
The mayor, represented by City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office, maintains the video is "valuable evidence" of Mirkarimi's conduct, showing the victim's injury, demeanor and statements all relatively soon after the incident.
"There is a compelling public interest in the tribunal considering all evidence in its official proceedings on this important question whether to remove an elected official from office," Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith wrote.
The video was shot by Lopez's neighbor, Ivory Madison, the morning after the couple argued about Lopez taking their young son, Theo, to visit her family in her native Venezuela, according to documents filed in the criminal case.
Lopez went to Madison's home, showed her a bruise on her bicep, and tearfully told her Mirkarimi had caused it, the affidavit for Mirkarimi's arrest states.
Madison then videotaped the injury, with Lopez tearfully saying: "This is the second time this is happening ... we need help and I'm going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me because he did said (sic) that he is very powerful and can do it," according to the affidavit.
Madison called police but refused to turn over the video until inspectors produced a search warrant for it.
Lopez maintains she believed that she was confiding in Madison as an attorney and that their communication was protected by attorney-client privilege. Madison has a law degree but is not a licensed attorney.
A trial court and appellate division both rejected Lopez's effort to keep the video private on attorney-client grounds in the criminal case.
Lee contends that Mirkarimi's plea deal and alleged efforts to cover up the incident make him unsuitable to perform his job.
Mirkarimi denies any cover-up, says he has taken responsibility for his actions, is embracing rehabilitation and is fully capable of being sheriff. One of his attorneys, Shepard Kopp, has described Lee's effort to oust Mirkarimi as "gross overreaching."
On Monday, the mayor's attorneys filed a list of six expert witnesses likely to be called during removal proceedings before the city's Ethics Commission.
They include San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, to testify about the ethical and professional obligations of top law enforcement officers; UC Berkeley law school domestic violence expert Nancy Lemon, who wrote "Domestic Violence Law," a law school textbook on the topic; and Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Aguilar Tarchi, the prosecutor in Mirkarimi's criminal case.
The list also includes domestic violence victims advocate Beverly Upton, the executive director of San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium. Upton had been outspoken in calling for the sheriff to take a leave of absence and later for the mayor to suspend him and seek his removal.
Mirkarimi was forced to move out of his Western Addition home in January after a court ordered him to stay away from his wife.
He was allowed to temporarily move back in last month while Lopez and Theo visit her family in Venezuela. On Friday, Mirkarimi was granted permission to extend his stay should Lopez remain in Venezuela beyond June 16, her scheduled return date.
John Coté is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. firstname.lastname@example.org San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Rachel Gordon contributed to this report.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/07/BADR1OEMKH.DTL#ixzz1uOXlVDNi