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.
"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," Gascon said.
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.
"While this case involves an elected official, it should be noted that my office is treating this case as we would any of the 771 domestic violence cases that were tried last year," Gascon said. "No one is above the law."
Gascon said that his office has "heard that there have been other incidents" involving the same victim.
The district attorney's office also requested the issuance of an emergency protective order that would prohibit Mirkarimi from returning to his Webster Street home or from having contact with Lopez or their son.
"My first priority in this case is the safety of Ms. Lopez and her child," he said. "This type of behavior is inexcusable, criminal and will be prosecuted."
Gascon did not indicate the exact date that the restraining order would expire but indicated it might be in effect for as long as a month or as long as it is upheld by the court.
A warrant was issued for Mirkarimi's arrest, and Gascon said that warrant was in the possession of the police.
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.
Shortly after he spoke with reporters, Mirkarimi's office confirmed he was in the process of being booked this evening.
Mirkarimi 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."
Lopez has retained an attorney, and Gascon said Lopez has not cooperated in the district attorney's office's attempts to contact her although they have briefly spoken with her attorney.
"The case is always stronger if the victim is willing to testify," he said, noting that victims of domestic violence are often uncooperative for fear of retaliation or fear of consequences.
Prosecutors say that if Mirkarimi is convicted of a domestic violence charge, even a misdemeanor, he would have to return his department-issued gun and could be subject to searches as terms of probation.
Gascon said that he and his office were confident that the evidence would support the allegations.
"We have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges that are being presented," he said. Gascon would not disclose details of the evidence.
Mirkarimi could face a year in prison and three years' probation in addition to being required to undergo counseling and other requirements, such as surrendering all firearms -- not just his service weapon.
Gascon said that he expects Mirkarimi will be arraigned on Tuesday. The bail associated with the charges is $35,000, according to the district attorney's office.
Mirkarimi's attorney, Bog Waggener, had not returned a call for comment before this story went to print.
Bay City News