D.A. to Charge Mirkarimi With 3 Misdemeanor Counts: Domestic Violence, Child Endangerment, Dissuading a Witness

Update 5:05 p.m. From Bay City News:

Ross Mirkarimi (Mina Kim/KQED)
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has been charged with three misdemeanor charges in connection with an alleged domestic violence incident involving his wife on New Year’s Eve, prosecutors said today.

Mirkarimi will face one count each of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, District Attorney George Gascon said at a news conference at the Hall of Justice this afternoon.

Gascon said, “While we do not relish having to bring charges against a San Francisco elected official … it is my solemn duty to bring charges when there is evidence for such action.”

The case was reported by a neighbor after Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, allegedly showed her a bruise on her arm, according to a search warrant affidavit. During a police search, investigators seized a video camera and iPhone used to exchange text messages about the injury.

Minutes after Gascon’s news conference, Mirkarimi and Lopez held a news conference of their own at the sheriff’s office at San Francisco City Hall.

“I believe these charges are very unfounded,” Mirkarimi said. “We will fight these charges.”

He said he was making plans to be booked on the charges.

“I will of course be booked, I’m not above the law like anyone else,” Mirkarimi said.

He also said he has no intention of stepping down from his post.

“I have no intention of leaving,” Mirkarimi said.

Lopez also spoke to reporters, saying “This is unbelievable, I don’t have any complaints against my husband.”

Prosecutors say that if Mirkarimi is convicted of a domestic violence charge, even a misdemeanor, he would have to give up his department-issued gun and could be subject to searches as terms of probation.

More from the Chronicle and Examiner.

Update 5:00 p.m.

Gascon: “We have looked at the extent of the injuries and determined it’s necessary to charge 3 misdemeanors.”

  • One count of domestic violence battery
  • One count of child endangerment
  • One count of dissuading a witness

From ABC7:

Update 4:35 p.m. Still waiting on Gascon.

Update 4 p.m. ABC7 is reporting that police have asked Mirkarimi to surrender immediately.

San Francisco D.A. George Gascon has called a press conference for 4:15 p.m.

Update 3:10 p.m. Mirkarimi spokeswoman Susan Fahey told Mina Kim that the sheriff has not yet heard from the DA’s office and thus has no plans as of yet to hold a press conference. She said several members of the media are camped outside the sheriff’s office.

Update 3 p.m. SF Weekly reports the following:

Newly elected sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is expected to hold a press conference today, responding to domestic violence charges leveled against him.

A source tells SF Weekly that the District Attorney will file three charges against Mirkarimi, including domestic violence, battery, and child endangerment. The Associated Press is reporting that he will face an additional charge of dissuading a witness. Sources inform SF Weekly that authorities are working on registering a warrant for his arrest and making arrangements for Mirkarimi to turn himself in.

Per the source, if the sheriff fails to turn himself in within the hour., police will actively begin searching for him.

Original post

From AP:

Prosecutors are planning to charge San Francisco’s newly sworn-in sheriff with three misdemeanors, including domestic violence, related to a New Year’s Eve incident with his wife, a law enforcement source close to the investigation said Friday.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi will face one count each of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, said the source, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity.

A police affidavit says a neighbor reported that Mirkarimi grabbed and bruised Eliana Lopez’s arm during a heated argument at their home.

Mirkarimi has denied the allegations. Lopez, a former Venezuelan telenovela star, has defended her husband, saying the incident was taken out of context.

The couple was married after having their first child in 2009.

If convicted of the charges, Mirkarimi would have to give up his department-issued firearm and possibly be subjected to searches as conditions of probation.

We — along with every other news organization in this city — have calls out now to try to get some more info.

Jim Stearns, Mirkarimi’s campaign manager, told the Examiner this afternoon that, “if [Mirkarimi's] charged, he’s going to fight it. And he’s not going to leave office, and he plans to be exonerated.”

Yesterday, a coalition of domestic violence groups called for Mirkarimi to step down, at least temporarily, while police investigate the allegations.

Minouche Kandel, an attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid, asserted Mirkarimi’s poor handling of the incident could have a chilling effect on victims reporting domestic violence.

“As one of our chief law enforcement officers, he should have come forward and said whatever happened in my family, I want to make sure that it is clear that domestic violence is not a family matter, it’s not a private matter,” Kandel said.

Mirkarimi’s attorney Robert Waggener told our reporter Mina Kim yesterday that Mirkarimi’s words have been misinterpreted.

“By no means are those words meant to imply that the commission of a crime shouldn’t be investigated, particularly domestic violence. That’s what the police should do.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Waggener said. “But he’s confident in the criminal justice system. I’m confident of his innocence and I have a firm understanding of what’s happened here. And I don’t think charges should be filed. If they are, we’re ready to deal with that.”

Yesterday, on KQED Radio’s Forum program, Peter Keane, dean emeritus and professor of law at Golden Gate University Law School, explained the factors law enforcement considers when deciding whether to charge someone with felony or misdemeanor crimes in a domestic abuse case.

“Generally, it would be the extent of the injury. If someone really engaged in a vicious attack on a spouse and really hurt them badly, that would be a felony. If something is quite minor, and it’s a one-time out of character type situation and there are other factors involved that might mitigate it, then those are the things that a district attorney might [consider in charging a misdemeanor].”

When asked how the fact of Mirkarimi’s wife denying the incident might affect the legal case against her husband, Keane said, “a wife cannot be made to testify against her husband nor reveal spousal communications. But there’s an exception to that privilege in the California evidence code: If there’s a crime committed against the spouse, then the spouse can be made to testify against the spouse that’s charged with the crime, and can be also forced under threat of contempt to be forced to testify and reveal spousal discussions.”

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