Suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi visited SF State with his family on Thursday, Oct. 4 in an attempt to gather supporters before a city Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9 that will decide the fate of his job.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi in March after the sheriff pled guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment of his wife, Eliana Lopez. The plea bargain settled a criminal case originating from a New Year’s Eve dispute between Mirkarimi and Lopez, in which Mirkarimi allegedly grabbed and bruised his wife’s arm. But the end of the criminal trial was only one chapter of a political melodrama that has played out since January and could end on Tuesday.
Lopez has repeatedly recanted the most damning evidence against Mirkarimi: a tearful video shot by the couple’s neighbor on Jan. 1, in which she displays a bruise on her arm and talks about the altercation. She insisted on Thursday that she has been used by people with political motivations against Mirkarimi.
“I cannot believe they are claiming they are protecting me,” Lopez said as she wrangled the couple’s 3-year-old son, Theo, during their visit to SF State. “Coming from Venezuela, from Latin America, I never expected something like this could happen in San Francisco.”
Mayor Lee and advocates for victims of domestic violence argue that Mirkarimi’s actions on New Years Eve amount to official misconduct. Mirkarimi, his family and a vocal group of supporters calling themselves Friends of Ross Mirkarimi cast the beleaguered sheriff as the victim of a political witch hunt and an attempt by the mayor to overrule the will of voters.
“If people don’t want me to be sheriff, then let the voters decide. You could do that through a recall,” Mirkarimi said to students at SF State, adding that removing and replacing him would effectively hand power over the two largest criminal justice departments in the city to the mayor.
“That’s very dangerous,” Mirkarimi said.
Mirkarimi and his wife insisted that the campaign to remove him from office is politically motivated.
“This isn’t about domestic violence. This is about politics,” Mirkarimi said. “Nobody from the police department, the mayor’s office, domestic violence, or social justice organizations has ever spoken to my wife, even when we were forced separated. There was no support.”
SF State comparative literature major Liana Gasparyan said she does not think Mirkarimi should be removed from office.
“I think his wife is the one person that really matters in this scenario,” Gasparyan said. “If she did not give consent to use the video against him, that’s what really matters. These kinds of things are easily misconstrued.”
SF State mathematics major Ruth Le Beau said she thinks Mirkarimi should lose his job.
“If he was charged with a crime and he’s supposed to be the top law enforcement officer, he should be removed,” she said.