Sheriff pleads guilty to reduced charge in spousal-abuse case

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 12, 2012 5:54 PM
Sheriff pleads guilty to reduced charge in spousal-abuse case

By Laird Harrison

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi pleaded guilty on Monday to a reduced charge of restraint on liberty stemming from the spousal-abuse case brought against him by prosecutors over a quarrel with his estranged wife, her lawyer said.

Under terms of his plea deal, which would allow the sheriff to keep his post and his gun, prosecutors agreed to recommend that Mirkarimi serve three years on probation, attend 104 hours of domestic-violence counseling and perform 100 hours of community service, attorney Paula Canny said.

He also would pay a fine of $510, according to Canny, who represents Mirkarimi's spouse, Venezuelan television actress Eliana Lopez.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge is expected to formally approve terms of the agreement at a hearing set for next Monday, she said.

Mirkarimi, 50, had pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness in a case that has stirred a local political uproar and drawn intense media coverage, especially in the San Francisco Bay area.

Mirkarimi, a co-founder of the California Green Party and a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was charged on January 13, five days after he was sworn in as the city's first new sheriff in three decades.

The case grew out of a New Year's Eve argument between Mirkarimi and Lopez, 36, who were fighting over her plans to take their 2-year-old son, Theo, on a trip to her home country.

Lopez claimed in a videotape shot by her neighbor the day after the incident that Mirkarimi had grabbed Lopez with such force that he left a bruise on her arm. Lopez later said she did not wish to press charges and sought, unsuccessfully, to keep the video clip from being admitted as evidence.

Mirkarimi's guilty plea on Monday morning to a misdemeanor count of restraint on liberty came as jury selection was set to resume in his trial.

In addition to presenting the videotape as evidence, prosecutors were expected to call a former girlfriend, Christina Flores, who has claimed that Mirkarimi bruised her arm in the same way during a quarrel several years ago.

"I arrived at a point where I wanted to get this behind me," Mirkarimi said of his plea as he was leaving his office later in the day. "This has been a nightmare. It's been tortuous."

Officials for the District Attorney's Office were not immediately available for comment.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff, Susan Fahey, said the plea deal would allow her boss to keep his gun and his badge.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)