Audio, Transcript: Ross Mirkarimi Tells His Side of Story in Hour-Long Interview
Ross Mirkarimi appeared on KQED Public Radio’s Forum show this morning. In an emotional hour-long segment, Mirkarimi gave his account of the New Year’s Eve fight with his wife, Eliana Lopez, which led to his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment, his suspension as sheriff by Mayor Ed Lee, and the current attempt by Lee to remove him permanently from office for official misconduct.
The San Francisco Ethics Commission is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Apr 23 to decide whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the charges against Mirkarimi be sustained. Mirkarimi would be removed from office if 9 of 11 supervisors vote to do so. Mirkarimi is also challenging the suspension and the misconduct charges in court.
You can also read or leave comments on today’s Forum segment on the show’s website.
Here’s our audio archive of some key events in the case.
Michael Krasny: What’s the story you want people to know?
Ross Mirkarimi: Well I absolutely appreciate this opportunity to be here with you. This has been quite a nightmare, an ordeal, and the story that I would have told Mayor Lee on more than one occasion in which I had offered, is frankly, a story that has been eating at me for nearly four months that I haven’t been able to tell.
I believe my silence, and until recently my wife’s silence, had allowed this story to be narrated by a lot of innuendo, rumor, and distortion…
When I entered the office the second and last time with Mayor Ed Lee, there was very little preliminary discussion except just seconds where Mayor Lee simply told me that he has offered me an ultimatum to either resign or be suspended. The meeting would have ended right there if I did not ask him how he arrived at that decision and, again, offering him the details of the story of what happened and offering him the phone number of my wife so he could get an independent account by talking with her, since I had not seen Eliana or had contact with her since January 13th
MK: You were prohibited under court orders.
RM: I am, and that’s been excruciating. But for the mayor, and anyone who is rendering a decision of this magnitude, I certainly had hoped he would take me up on the offer.
What this is about is that I made a terrible mistake on December 31st. It was at 11:45am. We were on our way to lunch from our house, in our van. We were on our way to Delfina’s Pizza on California and Fillmore, and a horrible quarrel had started between my wife and I.
What I did was turn our car around…against my wife’s wishes… which was the basis for the plea on false imprisonment.
It was a somewhat familiar subject, about an impending trip she was going to take to Venezuela. She’d taken one six months earlier where she and my son Theo had been away, out of the country for over two months. That was excruciating to be apart from my family, and we had agreed that there would be a plan because my wife, who hadn’t had her green card at that time, there had been some immigration issues, and my insistence that there be at least an agreement and a plan.
And in the car on our way to lunch we began to argue about that, where I was seriously misrepresented, when I heard somewhere somebody said that I said I was powerful and you cant take my son away. That was a complete distortion. What I had been quoting was California law and how strong our laws are in California about parental rights. And that escalated in the discussion.
The characterization that she was, in essence, imprisoned in any kind of way is completely false.
So what I did was turn our car around, our minivan, our Dodge minivan, turned it around against my wife’s wishes. I decided not to go to lunch because I didn’t want us to be arguing in public about a very sensitive subject like that — and turn the car home, which incidentally was the basis for the plea on false imprisonment. It’s based on the fact that I turned the car around.
MK: It sounds very innocuous, as opposed to what false imprisonment sounds like.
RM: Well I’ll leave the interpretation to anybody, but you’re right, the false imprisonment analysis that I’ve been hearing from people has just been excruciating to hear.
The rest of the story is when I parked our car, I had already vented what I had to say, and so, it was off my chest and I had acted inappropriately. I swore at my wife in front of my son, I was angry that she wasn’t hearing me and I regret this terribly, but she was also extremely upset to a point where I had never seen her agitated before, in a way where it made my son extremely upset.
I was incredibly ashamed. I still am. I’m trying to muster the energy to tell the story but that’s why I’m here, because I owe the people an explanation
So as she was getting out of her passenger seat to unharness our son, who is nearly three, he was panicked, you could see the panic, and she was screaming and I reached over from the driver’s seat – still with my seatbelt on, to put my hand underneath her arm to try to guide her back into the passenger seat so we could just de-escalate this and talk this through.
It was when I put my hand underneath her arm that she got bruised, in that process. I was instinctively just inserting myself because I saw my wife upset in a way I hadn’t seen her upset, my son was just…
I thought I was being a father in a moment where I had not any premeditated thought. And I thought I was coming to – I was trying to remedy the situation.
She then goes into our house. There had been no incident outside, as what news reports had indicated, and when I just tried to decompress for a moment or two in the car, I took my seatbelt off, locked the car up, and proceeded to go in the house.
The door was locked, I knocked on the door. Eliana, with our son, unlocks the door and opens it. And the day, although strained, there was also no sequestering of my wife. She came and went as she pleased. There was no argument inside the house, there was nothing outside the house.
Do I think politics is involved? You cant deny it.
The characterization that she was, in essence, imprisoned in any kind of way is completely false. There were stops at the grocery store or going to a local falafel restaurant for her, for me, alternating care of Theo that day, and on the next day as well. And she decided on the next morning to go see our neighbor.
What she had informed me of, which was part of the quarrel in the car, on the late morning of December 31st, is that she had been seeing an attorney. and when I thought our conversation was about an extended stay in Venezuela, what I realized, not until the next morning, is that this was potentially a custody issue. Because it just hit me almost in an ambush kind of way is why is my wife seeing an attorney? And I had no idea who that attorney was.
MK: The irony is that now she is in Venezuela, and she’s extended her stay in Venezuela, although, as you said, she published an article really talking about her love – it was a love letter to you and to your marriage.
RM: It was a love letter and it’s the best thing I’ve received since January 13th, but you have to understand is her stay in Venezuela is something that I fully support, because to be suspended without pay, to try to break a person so that they can’t provide for their family…
MK: Well her father is ill, too, isn’t he?
RM: He has cancer, and I want them to be protected and that also goes to part of why I was so concerned and stressing my concern to her during the argument.
She’s high-profile in her own right in Venezuela, in Caracas, I’d just been elected Sheriff, there had been some very high-profile stories of kidnappings of Americans in Venezuela and of other people. I’ve been in Caracas, in Venezuela a few times and I’ve seen what security conditions are like for people in the middle-class or even above. I felt that we were being lax in not having a conversation about her taking trips to Venezuela and not thinking through the kind of, well, maybe its paranoid, maybe not, but I was doing what I thought was the right thing.
MK: But the bruise, of course, became the center of focus here and it became the center of focus in large part because a former girlfriend came forward and said that you were rough with her and that exacerbated things, and so did your statement for which you apologized in which you also said that it was taken out of context about this being a private family matter.
RM: I never said that this was a private family matter and there were so many distortions early on that that became the branding. And I have to say, you and I have talked on this program before on air as well as off and I’ve never really been that shy to the media. But the tsunami that had hit me and my family before I was even charged was so overwhelming that frankly I just shut down. It was a wipe-out.
MK: And you were ashamed, too.
No incident like this has ever happened before.
RM: I was incredibly ashamed. I still am. I’m trying to muster the energy to tell the story but that’s why I’m here, because I owe the people an explanation. I’ve been a public servant seven years, proudly, of an incredible organ of government in the board of supervisors, one of the greatest districts – District 5 – I think it was a great relationship what we had.
And then I was elected Sheriff, much to the surprise of many when I was outspent by one of my chief rival by more than two-to-one, and that we won. And so I owe it.
And that’s whats been eating at me, is that while silently and privately and through the mechanics of dealing with the legal and now political administrative process, it’s finally, sort of, mustering that reserve of telling that story that hasn’t been told.
MK: Let me ask you, though. I want to get back to the ex-girlfriend. I know you have something, perhaps, to say about that that might clarify because there were two girlfriends. One that came forward and said that he’s a good guy and gentle…
RM: In fact, that was from Evelyn Nieves, where we were in a relationship for seven years…she, who I hadn’t even talked to in a while, offered that herself, which was published in the New York Times Bay Citizen, but it was never, ever, captured in the local press…
MK: What was captured was the woman who came up from Los Angeles to testify…
RM: Which I was looking forward to in the trial to really disspell. I thought it was a piling on, there was so much fabrication that had come up in this piling on that that in itself made me that much more motivated and looking forward to the trial because this piling on became so insurmountable that I had no choice but to look forward to a process, to either validate or to demystify what the truth was. And, quite frankly, allegations like that are things I take very seriously.
MK: Your wife said this is the second time this is happening and I tell Ross I want to work on this marriage, we need help. This is in the video that was released. Both of you feel at this point wanting to move forward and, well, make this marriage work.
RM: My wife has been a champion, both here and abroad, 5,000 miles away in Venezuela in wanting to repair and rebuild our repair our relationship. And I thank God and thank the heavens that every night when I go to bed and pray to be a better man and wake up i the morning to hope to aspire to that change that’s what motivates. Because I believe that through an experience like this, to go through an ordeal like this, to be turned inside out for public dissection in the court of public opinion, I can only hope that I either just completely evaporate as a person or just better myself as a father, as a man, as a husband, as a sheriff…
MK: Its all about restorative justice in a way, I suppose, is what you’ve been saying implicitly all along, which you’ve been a strong advocate of. But what does your wife mean when she says this is the second time this has happened?
RM: No incident like this has ever happened before. She is referring to a quarrel that has been familiar and intense – verbally – about the extended trips to Venezuela. There had been three, and it’s a personal matter where I failed, in the last trip that she had taken, to not go to counseling, when we both agreed that counseling was the right way to sort through our misunderstandings and differences…
MK: She kind of said in the article that you were not all that willing to go to counseling because you were caught up in the electioneering for Sheriff…
RM: True. I procrastinated. I didn’t put the priorities of my marriage and my family in a way I should have, and that culminated into what I think became an avoidable situation on December 31st.
And to be honest with you, as soon as this happened, before i was even charged, I immediately sought a therapist hoping, and not knowing that I was going to be charged, that we could begin couples counseling because the flag, obviously, was a 2 x 4 across my forehead, and yet, even though we tried unsuccessfully through the district attorney and the courts to go to couples counseling during this ordeal, where we had been rejected, I decided to use that therapist myself to go over some of these issues – issues I refer to in my statement, in my apology that I made after my plea…
MK: You’ve also been doing anger management, haven’t you?
RM: Well, its part of that.
MK: Is it helpful?
RM: Its incredibly humbling to be part of a larger caucus of men of all different ages, many who have committed very severe offenses, and not so severe. This provides a very rare perspective, whether I’m part of law enforcement, or sheriff, or not, it raises a lot of questions about how effective is our system in helping change behavior in a forward-thinking place like San Francisco.
MK: Your wife says this is a political conspiracy. She said that publicly on a couple of occasions, in fact she called it a coup d’etat or golpe de estado. Do you agree?
RM: My wife is incredibly passionate. and the tonal quality of politics in Venezuela and Caracas is a bit different. But that’s what I love about her.
From the moment she discovered on January 4th when the neighbor, without Eliana’s consent, had decided to call the police and my wife panicked trying to reach me while I was at work at City Hall, and she ran down Grove Street, to meet me late in the afternoon outside of city hall to tell me in person what happened… I did not know about any of this, about her level of contact with the neighbor, I had no idea about a video, I had no idea about what became a runaway train and she was so panicked and so scared that she was asking me, telling me, begging me to do something about this because it’s a system she’s not familiar with, and she felt there had been an orchestration.
And over the last four months, the more we have learned in our own investigation and I think just in the subpoenaing of documents and everything else, my wife has arrived at a conclusion that it’s more than just the merits of a legal case.
MK: Do you concur or agree with that? Do you say you found new things that make you inclined to believe that?
RM: Do I think politics is involved? You cant deny it. This morphed from, in some respect, what was in the Hall of Justice to City Hall now to an administrative process. But as sheriff and as a member of the Board of Supervisors, and as a former member of law enforcement working with the district attorney for nine years, carrying a weapon, graduate of the San Francisco Police Academy, class president…I’ve always said from second one that I have to believe on the system, which is why I would never interfere with the system, whether i like or dislike what the outcome of the system is, I’ve held to the point that I have to believe in the system.
MK: Well let me jump in there for a moment because there is supposed to be a hearing today on whether or not the suspension should be overturned, scheduled for Friday. Today is an initial hearing on whether Dennis Herrera, the City Attorney, ought to be involved in this. Are you going ahead with that? Because its my understanding that Dennis Herrera has brought in different counsel for the ethics committee. That would change the whole landscape.
RM: This is completely unchartered territory. This has never happened before in San Francisco, and I apologize to San Franciscans for really helping cause this unprecedented and very painful kind of event. It is subscripted and unknown. So the Ethic Commission, which constitutes a panel of five political appointees, the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the City Attorney, the District Attorney, and the Assessor Recorder — they each have an appointee in the ethics commission — they will hear and make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
It does beg question initially that when the city attorney was assigned to guide both the Ethics Commission and represent the Mayor against me, where is that firewall of ethics and what is just and fair? And I’ll give you another example, the City Attorney has been conducting an investigation, they have the power of subpoena, whereas my attorneys and me do not. So in the question of a criminal case, in the proceedings in the Hall of Justice where there is an investigation by the district attorney, where evidence that is collected is made discoverable, in this particular case, that has not been the case.
MK: So you’re going ahead against the district attorney…
MK: San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi…is in studio talking with us about the incident and talking about, really, the, well, he used the word tsunami. At first it was described by you, Ross, as a runaway train of innuendo and now it’s become nothing less than a tsunami…
RM: That was weeks ago, by the way. In fact it was one think tank that had calculated the number of stories that reported on me in a seven week, six week period. That was 302 stories just in the local press, compared to, say, another high-profile incident involving one of our former mayors or something else where the number was compared to 48.
So when you deal with that level of fact, and our story wasn’t being presented, that sculpts in the court of public opinion a very different scenario that we had to contend with.
MK: A couple of things that I mentioned have sculpted the story and made the narrative go a certain way also have to do with the charge of you and your wife apparently trying to convince Ivory Madison, and her husband made the charge — that the evidence should be destroyed.
RM: Yeah, I think that that was a complete fabrication and fiction. I was frankly just blown away that I saw that in an op-ed. And I know Eliana’s attorney as well as my attorney were shocked. And I looked forward to take that head-on. I believe in the process. And I believe that before I was sworn in as Sheriff and interrupted I was informed later in the day on January 4th about the existence of this, I was in such a state of shock that the only thing I could think of was “holy cow, we need some legal representation, we need an attorney.” That was my level of thinking. And my wife was panicked because she felt completely betrayed by the woman next door, who turned out, in my wife’s opinion, that I discovered not until January 1st that this was her attorney…
MK: Not a friend or neighbor that she was confiding in, she went to her in mind that I’m going to an attorney…
RM: Yes, and this had been a developing conversation that had to do with, which I did not know about…
MK: Because they said the opposite of this. They said essentially…
RM: And I’m not surprised considering the fact of how this all mushroomed without my wife’s consent and in a way that really begs the question of what happened between what happened in conversation with the next door neighbor between January 1st and January 4th. What happened in those four days when there was no call to the authorities, no call to an advocacy organization out of concern for my wife or care for her condition.
The characterization that was wrongly reported that I had whisked my wife away on a trip to Monterey was completely false. We had pre-planned that trip before December 31st. Everybody that was close to me, preparing for the inauguration, knew that we were either going to go to San Diego or go to Monterey. And then I saw in a report that when we took that trip I was trying to sequester my wife. Going to trial, we would have been able to show the reservations that had been made and the preparations but none of this was accurately reported.
MK: Well, there was an article in The Guardian that I wanted to cite by Myrna Melgar who herself was a victim of domestic abuse, who said your wife was disempowered by your neighbor, by the police, by the media, even by those who oppose domestic abuse in many ways because everybody was offering help on no level except prosecuting you. Do you agree with that assessment?
RM: I absolutely do, because in the very moment of that panic that my wife exhibited when this all erupted, that I did not know about until some time later in the day on January 4th, it was clear that she had been betrayed by the neighbor and that she was absolutely scared. I will never forget her running down Grove street, where she ran many blocks to come see me to tell me what had happened. And then it just hit me like a thunderbolt because it was hard for me to fathom just what was occurring. I’d never been on the wrong side of the law, I’ve never needed an attorney before, I’d never committed a level that I was being accused of, of this kind of act.
MK: Let me go back to this interview with Christina Flores where she says there were three incidents of verbal abuse and a fourth of physical – your former girlfriend when you allegedly grabbed her arm during an argument. Do you want to go on record on that?
RM: Sure, I think it was a fabrication and fiction. Do I think we had an argument of verbal abuse? Yes, I do. I believe that that was well reported about her contention and, as you referenced earlier, a relationship that came to a natural end before I saw Ms. Flores, Christina Marie Flores, was with Evelyn Nieves for seven years, who took it upon herself to say there had never been any kind of unwanted contact by me at all. And nobody local accentuated that.
I was looking forward to the trial, looking forward to the emails by Ms. Flores who, in essence, was trying to get across a way of getting even, trying to settle a score, that also had been reported when those emails were released. And I was looking forward to having that day. (Update: See Christina Flores’ response here.)
But, we put that case behind us and it was moving forward. Nonetheless, I walk away from any of these experiences and lessons wanting to really self-check myself making sure that nothing like this could ever happen again. So, that’s an important…
MK: It almost begins to sound, though, from some perspectives as your wife has said, that this begins to sound like some sort of conspiracy. But you have to say – Ivory Madison fabricating, her husband fabricating, Christina Flores fabricating- but these are people without political involvement in this at all.
RM: Well, I cant speak to that and you can deduce as well as anyone else what they would like. Coming to the core of what we’re talking about is that I made a terrible mistake and I took responsibility for that as it relates to me and my wife. And I did so with the plea that I did, and that plea, by the way, if for a non-violent, low-level resolution of a misdemeanor that did not inhibit my ability to be Sheriff or possess a weapon, and I entered into that with the express purpose that I would retain my position, of course, only to be confronted with another challenge as instigated by the mayor.
MK: I should also mention that the challenge that’s going forward is based on the fact that the episode occurred before assumed office, so, the idea legally is that it cant be the basis for a suspension, but also, a suspension for a misdemeanor is being argued that it does not constitute moral turpitude and is a denial of due process.
There is also a question of the language of the city charter defining official misconduct and whether that’s constitutional. I just want to get all that out there for listeners.
I also want to go to one of our listeners, here is Michael from Oakland who says “if he did not falsely imprison her, then why did he plea to it? I’m not buying this emotional minivan-driving soccer-dad act. that’s not the character of a top-cop.”
RM: Well, that is exactly the facts of what happened, and that is also the facts of what my wife speaks to, too. This isn’t a story that is just coming from me, that is part of the 15 minute experience that occurred from when our argument – did only occur in our van as we left for lunch and me turning it around. And the plea of 236 False Imprisonment on a non-violent measure is exactly what characterizes how we arrived at that. I also take responsibility for the bruise that I caused. So that is all part of that whole 15-minute ordeal and nightmare.
MK: Let me read another e-mail from Ron who says the story that Ross tells is quite different than what has been reported in the press. If Ross’ story is true, then the City Attorney, the DA, and the Mayor have been overzealous in their prosecution of Ross. The false imprisonment plea is a joke. What else I find troubling is the horrible legal representation Ross has received. Why not just come forward earlier and explain your side of the story than hide behind legal maneuvers? This seems more honest and I think more people would understand. If Ross and Eliana wish to see each other and work on their marriage, who are we to interfere?”
I’m sure you’ll agree with that last sentiment but what about his point about why not come forward from the beginning?
RM: I wish I had. I gotta tell you. One of the things that really ate at me was the notion that I said domestic violence was a private family matter. I never said that. And that became a branding that just blew me away.
And as you said in your opening, as a supervisor, and even before being supervisor, I’d been an ardent champion, enthusiastically. I think people who are elected are allies of the domestic violence advocacy community and making sure that domestic violence is extinguished in this city. I took that to heart at my seven years at the budget committee, staying late at many budget committees to fight for add-backs. I never ceased to trumpet the needs of the community, especially as chair of public safety.
So, I wish I had spoke earlier. And as I was trying to describe with you earlier, I’ve never been that insecure or shy with the press, where I grew at a comfort level to speak to the press, this walloped me to the point where I was just down. And that, on top of the advice of my attorney at the time, and I tend to agree that it was a bad decision to not speak to the press, we should have, and I regret that it didn’t happen earlier.
MK: when you did come forward and make that apology, though, publicly, and spoke about your shame and spoke about the cost that this has had on you personally, you said I’m not the person I thought I was and this is a dark world now and admitted you had anger and arrogance issues…what did you mean by saying ‘I’m not the person I thought I was’?
RM: Oh, my god. I’m destroyed inside out…
MK: You thought you were tougher, more elastic, resilient?
RM: No. I thought I was more tender, more caring, not as gruff or abrasive, not as testosterone-packed. I think that people understand who I am, I’ve never been part of any kind of machine, per se. I’ve always been a guy driven by my tenacity and determination. I’m what people call tenacious and some think that is just maybe overbearing…
MK: A euphemistic word for arrogance, perhaps? Here is one commenter who says “both Ross and his supporters suggest and continue to suggest that the sole motive for his persecution is political, what Ross believes to be political is just people’s spite towards him”. People love you or hate you, and if they hate you its because of tenacity, arrogance, and maybe those personal qualities more than political.
RM: For me it’s a survival strategy as it related to me trying to succeed in politics. I failed as a member of the Board of Supervisors in trying to cultivate relationships in a way that I think others had made it a priority with other elected and fellow supervisors. I was there to do a job. And this is a speech that I would give to staffers and interns, talking about how government doesn’t work and that it’s my determination and our opportunity to show government can work better for the people and their cause.
MK: What would be the political motivation of those who you surmise to be your political enemies? Because, really, Mike Hennessy gave you his full support and said you were allied politically….
RM: And he’s right…
MK: So why would they see you as a political enemy?
RM: Well, I don’t think the ember stopped smoldering for many who fought to support another candidate after the November election. It was a hard-fought race. We had a strong grassroots effort, under-resourced in many ways, and we had to muster the kind of energy that was people-driven. And so others that expected a different turnout…
MK: So your political enemies would be those who were defeated?
RM: Not necessarily. I can’t speak to other people’s motivations or what’s catalyzed this. Some people may just be reacting to what they read in the press, what they think is the truth, how they may feel about me even before this happened on December 31st, and others may have drawn different conclusions. So I can’t really say that there’s a smoking gun right then and there.
And that’s why when you asked me the question about the coup d’etat — everything is bubbled-up in such a way that this has been a nightmare for me and my family. But does that deter my ability from being an effective sheriff, from realizing the dream and vision that Sheriff Mike Hennessy put forward for over 30 years. And that is that we are about tpublic safety, but we’re about the power of redemption, and that’s what the criminal justice system should be in California…
MK: This is a city, though, that is known for that. Known for its liberal views on criminal justice…
RM: we could do a better job, to be honest with you.
MK: Its also known for cracking down hard on domestic violence.
RM: As it completely should, which is why I want to continue to be that champion and come with that voice and perspective that I think gives me even greater value in doing so.
MK: Let me bring in some callers and we’ll begin with Casey, good morning.
CASEY: I’m more interested in why the state is bringing forward the charges without his wife, the injured party, bringing the charges. I think it’s something the police do on a regular basis, in probably 75% of the things they prosecute and I think it’s immoral. And I wonder what the sheriff thinks about that after his case.
RM: Well, my wife never did want to bring charges. As a matter of fact, I believe it was the day after on January 5th when an inspector, or somebody from the police department had contacted her to see if everything was okay. And she took it upon herself to say everything was fine, I never wanted this to happen. She didn’t call 911. She told the inspector she would if she thought that there was any kind of danger.
What was reported by the neighbors is diametrically, profoundly different than what had been shared between Eliana and the neighbor and what Eliana then told somebody over the phone from law enforcement, or on behalf of a domestic violence advocacy organization.
MK: I think we have a neighbor of yours on here. Roy, join us.
ROY: I think he should pursue a career as a fiction writer. He sounds like a pathological liar.
RM: Just based on the severity of that comment, what can I say? And I’m sorry I’m emotional, but when it comes to my family, my son, the way they have been leveraged against me, I am emotional about it. It’s not easy for me to tell this story. I haven’t told it in four months.
When my son who was kept away from me for no reason – when one night when I was staying at Mayor Agnos’ house, he and his wife had been amazing to me allowing me to camp out there for a little bit, my wife called in a complete panic because my son had broken out in a complete rash and had respiratory problems and thought that she was going to have to rush him to the hospital to Kaiser. My immediate instinct was that I was going to help her but I had to be pulled back because of the stay-away.
It turned out to be, based on the testimony of the day-care provider the next day that due to the separation of my son and I, my son was manifesting that separation in allergic reaction. And when we went to family court, despite the interference by the DA to try to block me from seeing my son, where eventually we won and I was able to see him for two hours a day, all that reaction and the allergy and rash disappeared completely. And so, it was so painstaking that I’m still living it.
I apologize that if I’m sounding emotional and I’m not the tough guy sheriff you want me to be, I don’t think there is another way to pause
MK: You don’t have to apologize for being emotional. Let me get another caller on the line. Scott, you’re on.
SCOTT: I just wanted to thank Mr. Mirkarimi for coming on air and talking about what is going on. You have nothing to apologize about, a real man shows his emotions and is able to do that.
I just want to tell you that I’m going through the same thing and it is extremely excruciating to be away from your family. And I do think that you’re being sabotaged by the neighbor and maybe your wife was just emotional when they talked to her. And the neighbor went and called the newspaper before she even called the police. If she had real concern for your wife…
MK: Let me thank the caller for that. Here is another listener who says that ‘listening to Mr. Mirkarimi has been very triggering to me. I’m in the process of divorcing a man who to hear tell the story of our marriage sounds eerily like your guest this morning. He, too had many incidents in the car, he too paints me as being hysterical and out of control when he retells the story. It’s a common tactic for men who are emotionally and verbally abusive to start arguments in the car. It’s a confined space in which the victim is truly imprisoned. I am struck by the skill with which Mr. Mirkarimi suddenly shifts blame to his wife. He was wrong and all I heard in his telling of the story were justifications for his actions. Sir, placing your hand on your wife’s arm does not cause a bruise, violently trying to restrain somebody does. Mr. Mirkarimi does not need anger management classes, abuse is not an anger problem, abuse is a problem of entitlement, entitlement to control the actions of another. Couples counseling does not help in these situations and can only make the situations worse. Counseling focuses on communication between a couple, abuse is not communication problem, it is an entitlement problem.’
RM: I agree. I completely agree with that. And again, I’m not making any justification, I’m telling you the story as it happened.
And i think that the stream where my wife is coming from, it is consistent where shes coming from. And it is an entitlement question that i abused and was wrong for that. but i also want to explain that there was somebody else in the car. It was my son. And I’m not going to dismiss the fact the fact the i was scared and panicked for him and he was agitated as was my wife at that moment in that short period of time. May i remind you that this only lasted 15 minutes. And I made a mistake terrible as it is. i cannot say if couples counseling could help or not, that’s a projection.
MK: I think that depends on the couple…
RM: I think it does depend on the couple and that’s what I mean. It is something my wife wanted and something I failed to participate in.
MK: Can I ask you what’s in your heart right now? I know you’ve made it clear that you love your wife but she set all this in motion by taking this case next…..do you resent her for doing that? It would be naturally human if you did.
RM: No, I don’t. This is all my responsibility and I take accountability to it. she made a tremendous sacrifice coming from Venezuela to this city and a lifestyle that was unfamiliar to her. I think to expect her to mold into a lifestyle. I don’t expect her to come into a relationship where there hadn’t been too much pre-courting, and so we’ve been married about three years.
MK: How long was the courtship? It was pretty short as I recall.
RM: It was less than six months, and yet we were absolutely determined to make it work and celebrating the fact that we had our first child at home, we had a home birth. and the meaning of what we had at our house is something that we still cherish a great deal. Being part of a process when you have a home birth like that is something you never forget
MK: Let me read a web comment. It says, “this is nothing than a typical family process of learning how to cope with powerful feelings, which is being exploited by powerful people. I’m so sorry to Ross and his family, I cannot imagine having my children taken away from me and I suspect all the Ross haters share this essential emotion and would have been just as emotionally charged as when the argument in the family car occurred.”
Here is a caller, Joanne, join us.
JOANNE. I liked your politics a lot and I’m not sure how i feel about the case but my feeling is that Ed Lee kind of had given everything that was going on had no choice but to suspend you.
RM: I think it would have been more prudent and professional had he taken me up on my offer to hear my side of the story and the independent account of my wife before he arrived at his decision. So, I understand that the mayor has to do what he has to. I don’t have an ill will about that. but as it relates to process as somebody who is a fellow elected on a city-wide stage, and somebody who has been part of law enforcement and part of the legislative body of the city, what they have done and how they’ve done it, in my opinion is unlawful.
MK: Let me read some responses. Tony says, “I’ve heard enough, apology accepted. New York made a mistake drumming out Elliot Spitzer when he was Governor and Wall street really needed policing. while Oakland turned its cops against its people, I remember Ross standing with the occupiers to prevent violence. We need someone like him to be Sheriff.”
Another listener, Steve, says, “I voted to Ross because of his promise to continue Sheriff Mike Hennessy’s legacy of rehabilitation over retribution, when the news first broke that he was charged with domestic violence i was heartbroken, and wanted to hear from him, not the media, what happened, but I understood the criminal justice system and that he was being advised not to speak. Thank you for sharing your side and thank you Sheriff for taking responsibility, let’s move on.”
That’s your feeling isn’t it?
RM: I cannot tell you what its been like in this climate, the press, and how people have arrived to certain places. Maybe I’m projecting but it made me pretty much scared of my own shadow as I was going out in public. But people kept encouraging me to fight.
One person who didn’t appreciate Ross Mirkarimi’s hour-long interview on KQED yesterday was Christina Flores.
As mentioned in the segment, Flores is the ex-girlfriend of Mirkarimi who, a few weeks after Mirkarimi’s arrest on domestic violence charges, filed a police report about a similar-sounding 2008 incident that she said involved Mirkarimi grabbing her arm and leaving a bruise.
Prosecutors wanted Flores to testify against Mirkarimi in the trial; Mirkarimi’s lawyer not so much. After a hearing, Judge Garrett Wong ruled that Flores’ testimony was admissible. “The evidence is extremely probative” and “shows a propensity” for violence by Mirkarimi, the Bay Citizen reported Wong as saying.
The case, however, never went to trial, as Mirkarimi pled on a lesser charge of False Imprisonment, for which he was sentenced to three years of probation, ordered to take domestic violence classes, and ordered to perform community service.
Here again is what Mirkarimi said about Flores in the inteview:
Host Michael Krasny: Let me go back to this interview with Christina Flores where she says there were three incidents of verbal abuse and a fourth of physical – your former girlfriend when you allegedly grabbed her arm during an argument. Do you want to go on record on that?
Ross Mirkarimi: Sure, I think it was a fabrication and fiction. Do I think we had an argument of verbal abuse? Yes, I do. I believe that that was well reported about her contention and, as you referenced earlier, a relationship that came to a natural end before I saw Ms. Flores, Christina Marie Flores, was with Evelyn Nieves for seven years, who took it upon herself to say there had never been any kind of unwanted contact by me at all. And nobody local accentuated that.
I was looking forward to the trial, looking forward to the emails by Ms. Flores who, in essence, was trying to get across a way of getting even, trying to settle a score. That also had been reported when those emails were released. And I was looking forward to having that day.
Upon hearing that, Ms. Flores left a comment on this blog objecting to Mirkarimi’s characterization of her. In order to verify that the comment was really posted by her, we contacted her, and she had this to say about Mirkarimi’s comments about her testimony:
I was shocked. I really was appalled that he was calling me basically a liar and saying that I fabricated this story…
He sat there and said that I fabricated this, I lied about this, but I was the only one in court under oath in front of the judge, and for two days they went back and forth at me, trying to hear the story, and…after that the judge deemed that not only was my testimony important in the case, but it would show a history of what’s going on. [The judge] made a judgment that it’s important to show a history of abuse of female romantic partners…
So as far as [Mirkarimi] saying on your show he was looking forward to it, that’s not true.
Flores says she has also talked to former romantic partners of Mirkarimi who have stories about his temper, but that they don’t want to come forward publicly. She does say, however, that a woman she cited in the comment she left as being a disgruntled ex of Mirkarimi’s is now talking to the press…We’ll let you Google that on your own…
Whether any of this has any legal relevance at this point — the case was ended when Mirkarimi was sentenced — is doubtful. Politically, however, who knows? The Ethics Commission hearing is slated for next week…