Debra J. Saunders
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Everything is political in San Francisco. In January, police arrested Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on domestic violence charges after an argument in which he apparently bruised the right arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez. Mirkarimi's supporters tried to frame the prosecution as an effort by the city's political establishment to pick on a rebellious progressive.

That tack turned out to be a mistake. The real battle was between the anti-domestic violence community and a man who can be his own worst enemy. Last week, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment.

At a news conference after sentencing Monday, Mirkarimi finally recognized his own role in his situation. He admitted to his "arrogance" and "anger issues." A contrite Mirkarimi announced, "There are no excuses, and I accept full responsibility."

Should Mayor Ed Lee try to remove Mirkarimi from office? If I believed that Mirkarimi harmed his wife, I would say yes. I still think, however, that a bruised arm doesn't a batterer make. If there's proof he tried to suppress evidence, that's a different story.

But the anti-domestic violence community has argued with some force that the city's top lawman cannot be an abuser of women. As Bay Area Legal Aid staff attorney Minouche Kandel explained, "it's problematic for a man who's been convicted of false imprisonment to lead a department whose purpose is imprisonment."

The false imprisonment charge sounds serious, but when I asked District Attorney George Gascon to explain what the charge involved, Gascon answered, "Using fear or intimidation in order to keep someone from moving freely." And: "He told her not to leave, and he grabbed her."

Grabbing is wrong. Grabbing is what put Mirkarimi in this situation. But Mirkarimi's biggest mistake was not recognizing the landscape into which his temper had delivered him. He enraged feminists when he dismissed the New Year's Eve fight as a "private matter." When Lopez said that her husband did not hurt her, activists took those remarks as further confirmation of his guilt.

And it didn't help when Mirkarimi claimed he wasn't guilty even as his lawyers tried to suppress evidence against him. In terms of politics, Mirkarimi's biggest mistake was not being nimble. He didn't realize that once a domestic quarrel jumped from his home to the neighbors and then to police, no amount of finessing could make the story go away.

Then it took Mirkarimi two tortured months and $125,000 to figure out that he had a problem best addressed with an admission of lesser guilt and a heartfelt apology.

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Debra J. Saunders


 
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