Debra J. Saunders
Former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Brown is appalled. He didn't vote for Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and he isn't his biggest fan. But when he considers the prosecution of Mirkarimi for bruising his wife's arm during a New Year's Eve argument, he is appalled. People lose sight of what types of cases should be prosecuted, Brown told me Tuesday, and Mirkarimi's case is not one of them.

"Sometimes you have to break it off," Brown said, as "Cyrus Vance did in New York City." The Manhattan district attorney dropped rape charges against former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn last year because prosecutors didn't have a solid case.

San Francisco City Hall does not have a solid case against Mirkarimi, either.

For those of you who missed it, on New Year's Day, Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, got in a fight. He grabbed her arm and bruised it. Lopez complained to a neighbor, who videotaped her. Days later, the neighbor contacted police.

The episode unleashed the hounds of political correctness in San Francisco. Domestic violence advocates saw an opportunity to strike a blow for female empowerment. San Francisco police and City Hall didn't want to appear soft on domestic abuse by an elected official. A city that doesn't let government into the bedroom watched, even applauded, as the criminal justice system divided a family that wanted to stay together.

(Mirkarimi didn't help his situation by not cooperating with a police investigation. Then again, as a gung-ho progressive, he never has been a favorite of local law enforcement.)

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon charged the sheriff with three misdemeanor counts: domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. To my mind, Gascon should have dropped the charges. Grabbing your wife's arm and bruising her does not constitute domestic violence -- especially when the wife never pressed charges and denied that her husband abused her. The child endangerment count was ludicrous -- based on the fact that the couple's son was in the car during the fateful fight. Ditto the dissuading a witness charge -- because Mirkarimi allegedly tried to stifle Lopez.

Gascon also filed a court order that forced Mirkarimi to move out and not speak to his wife. Eventually, the court allowed Mirkarimi visitation with his son.

In the meantime, as Mirkarimi's reputation eroded and his legal bills mounted, he did what smart people do. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment. He believed the plea would allow him to keep his gun (and his job) and, if he stuck to a counseling regimen, reunite with his family.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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