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Mirkarimi Pleads Not Guilty at Arraignment; Judge Bars Communication With Wife

| January 19, 2012
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Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi leaves the courtroom after the hearing. (Photo by: Mina Kim/KQED)

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi leaves the courtroom after the hearing. (Photo by: Mina Kim/KQED)

Update Friday The Chron has more details from yesterday’s arraignment, and an article on the legal obstacles the prosecution faces.

Update, 5 p.m.: Superior Court Judge Susan Breall has granted prosecutor’s request for a protective order that bars any direct communication between Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, and requires Mirkarimi to stay away from the couple’s home.

KQED’s Mina Kim was in the courtroom, and said Breall granted the order despite an emotional statement from Lopez. Here’s the scene as Mina related it for our 5 p.m. newscast:

“Lopez said she’s not in fear or danger of any kind from her husband, she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She pointed to the fact she is a strong woman, that she is well-traveled, that the press does not intimidate her. She said the only violence is the system trying to keep her family apart. She showed the judge a T-shirt she made with her son, and I think I was able to make out the words ‘We want Daddy back.’ That was the one time she broke down during her statement, and so did Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi at that time. They both shed tears at the mention of their son Theo.”

Lopez’s mention of not being intimidated by the press took on a little added meaning when she left the courtroom after the arraignment. She was mobbed by reporters and camera crews. Our reporter, Mina Kim, happened to be immediately in front of Lopez and had her headphones knocked off in the crush. She quoted KCBS reporter Chris Filippi as saying “that was the most violent scrum I’ve ever seen.”

Earlier: The last San Francisco sheriff, Michael Hennessey, served in that office for 32 years. His successor, Ross Mirkarimi, may yet make it that long, but he’s not off to an auspicious start.

Mirkarimi, the former San Francisco supervisor who won election in November and was sworn in as sheriff on Jan 8, has pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor charges at his arraignment at Superior Court in San Francisco. He faces one count each of domestic violence battery, dissuading a witness, and child endangerment, all in connection with an argument he had with wife, Eliana Lopez, on New Year’s Eve. If convicted of all charges, he faces a maximum of one year in prison.

Groups fighting domestic violence have called on Mirkarimi to step aside, at least temporarily, but he has said he has no intention of quitting.

Incident reported by neighbor

The incident came to light after a neighbor named Ivory Madison reported it to police. Both Mirkarimi and his wife have denied the allegations of abuse.

From the Bay Citizen yesterday:

According to a police affidavit, Lopez had gone to Madison’s home on Jan. 1 and told her about the argument, which Lopez said began when she asked Mirkarimi if she could travel with their son to Venezuela to see her family. Lopez acted in several Venezuelan soap operas before moving to the United States.

The Examiner has posted the arrest warrant for Mirkarimi, which lays out the charges, and the affidavit from the police inspector recounting the evidence against him. That includes video of a purported “large bruise on [Lopez's] right arm by her bicep.”

Also from the inspector’s affidavit:

We reviewed the video and it showed the victim crying and pointing to her right arm pointing out a bruise on the area of her right bicep. The victim stated “This happened yesterday. Two times in 2011 and this is the second time this is happening. I told Ross I want to work on the marriage, we need help. I been telling him we need help and I’m going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo [their son] away from me because he did said that he is very powerful and can do it.

The affidavit goes on to say that when Lopez was subsequently contacted by the police investigator, she declined to be interviewed and referred police to her attorney.

The case has taken a somewhat odd turn in that much attention is now being focused on the neighbor, Ivory Madison, in part because of an interview that Lopez gave to a Venezuelan radio station. In the interview, Lopez denied the allegations against her husband and questioned Madison’s motivations in reporting the incident to police.

You can listen to that interview, which is in Spanish, here. Our intern Andres Barraza has also translated some of what Lopez said:

  • “I have no complaints against my husband whatsoever.”
  • “I’m not the little indigenous woman being victimized by the gringo.”
  • “There are many angles and interests at play behind these accusations.”
  • “The wealthiest citizens in California are behind these accusations, they’re unhappy a progressive with no money has beat them. They’re also not forgiving the fact he (Mirkarimi) comes from a family of immigrants.”
  • Lopez says her neighbor Ivory Madison “has financial problems, no insurance, and that she “knows her because Madison has a baby daughter the same age as my children.”
  • “Madison and I have made a deal where she can attend the classes I give on Saturdays for free, that’s it.”
  • “My son is not in danger” from my husband, he is in “danger from everything that’s going on.”
  • “This is a campaign to degrade my husband’s image in our community.”
  • “This is political persecution, something us Venezuelans know so well.”
  • “I told her my husband and I had a discussion, like all married couples do, one that wasn’t even a fight. She then took what I said and turned it into these false accusations. Now we, the attorneys, and the investigators are trying to figure out why she came forward with these accusations, who she was talking to those four days, and why she waited so long to do so.”

Both the Bay Citizen and Examiner are running profiles of Madison.

From the Citizen:

Madison, a San Francisco native, dropped out of high school and later became president of the New Orleans chapter of the National Organization for Women in the mid-1990s. In that role, she helped pressure the Sugar Bowl committee, which oversees one of college football’s top bowl games, to elect its first female members.

She went on to enroll at the now-defunct New College of California Law School in San Francisco. In 2001, Madison had a run-in with the editor-in-chief of the school’s law review over an article that she said contained offensive material, according to Lou Lesperance, a paralegal in San Francisco, who is a longtime friend of the former editor…

Madison received a law degree from the school in May 2003. But instead of practicing law, she helped found a consulting firm and then, in 2002, started the Red Room Writers Society, named after a White House room frequently used by Eleanor Roosevelt.

The society became Redroom.com in 2007, a social networking and marketing site for authors ranging from Salman Rushdie to Barack Obama, initially backed by $1.25 million in funding from investors including Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.org. Madison’s fiancé is the site’s general counsel.

In 2009, Madison published a graphic novel, “Huntress: Year One,” about a female vigilante who fights sexist institutions.

[Lesperance said], “knowing what I know about Ivory Madison, if I were Ross Mirkarimi, this is the last person I would want involved in this…”

The Examiner is running this set of bullet points about Madison:

  • DC Comics comic book writer for The Huntress
  • Founder of Redroom.com, an online writers’ social network
  • Holder of a law degree
  • Political views: Self-described “radical feminist politico.” Donated to Ross Mirkarimi’s campaign for sheriff, along with district attorney candidate Sharmin Bock’s campaign and mayoral candidate Joanna Rees
  • Quotable: “Historical context is everything. I identify with the Huntress I grew up reading as a kid, a radical ’70s feminist who was breaking rules to fight for justice every way she could. That’s probably why I went to law school, who knows.”
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