San Francisco mayor asks embattled sheriff to take break

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 24, 2012 6:28 PM
San Francisco mayor asks embattled sheriff to take break

By Laird Harrison

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said on Tuesday he would ask the local sheriff to consider taking a leave of absence, after the lawman was charged with domestic violence and another woman added fresh abuse allegations against him.

The criminal case against newly elected Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has thrown the city's politics into turmoil.

Mirkarimi pleaded not guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor counts of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness in an incident stemming from an argument with his wife on New Year's Eve.

He and his wife, Venezuelan soap opera actress Eliana Lopez, were quarreling about her plans to take their 2-year-old son Theo on a trip to Venezuela, according to both a police affidavit and Mirkarimi's attorney.

"I think it's incumbent on the sheriff to make a decision about whether the day-to-day operations of the sheriff's office can be done while you balance that with a serious distraction," Mayor Ed Lee told reporters on Tuesday.

Lee said he would meet with Mirkarimi sometime on Tuesday to suggest that Mirkarimi take a leave, but would not demand it of him. "I think it's appropriate for him to make a decision," he said.

Local newspaper SF Weekly has posted online a police report that it reported was filed by a woman named Christina Flores, who this week accused Mirkarimi of abusing her in his previous relationship with her.

"Throughout their relationship Mirkarimi displayed a 'raging pit bull aggressiveness' towards her" and once bruised her arm by grabbing it during an argument in 2007 or 2008, stated the police report posted online by SF Weekly. The woman's name was blacked out in the document, which states that it was filed with police on Sunday.

San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said the report is not public record, because it involves domestic violence, but that it had been leaked.

Lee said the report of abuse made by Flores was "a very serious matter," but did not go into details about it when speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

Police have said Mirkarimi's wife Lopez, 36, asked her neighbor, Ivory Madison, to make a video of a bruise she said Mirkarimi made on her arm by grabbing her roughly on New Year's Eve. The neighbor later shared the video with police over the objections of Lopez, who spoke out in her husband's defense in court last week.

Mirkarimi's attorney, Robert Waggener, has called the incident isolated and "overblown."

On Tuesday, Waggener confirmed his client had been involved with the woman named in the SF Weekly report. "The two did have a relationship, it ended poorly," Waggener said. "Mr. Mirkarimi denies any physical abuse that took place in that relationship or any other, he is not an abuser."

Mirkarimi will appear in court on Thursday for a hearing on the court order barring him from contact with Lopez and his son.

The 50-year-old Mirkarimi was sworn in on January 8 as the first new sheriff San Francisco has seen in three decades. The former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors narrowly won an election in November after incumbent Sheriff Michael Hennessey announced his retirement.

The investigation had already begun when he took office, and charges were filed on January 13. A judge has set a February 24 trial date in the case.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis. Editing by Paul Thomasch)