Mission residents have little sympathy for San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, whose domestic violence case ended Monday with an agreement in which the sheriff pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment.
In exchange, San Francisco prosecutors dropped a domestic violence charge and two other misdemeanor counts that were filed in January. The charges stemmed from a New Year’s Eve dispute between Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez. Lopez declined to cooperate with prosecutors.
Instead of buying her argument that the charges were politically motivated, Mission residents saw the trauma of abuse.
“This case represents everything that is wrong with the criminal justice system,” said Page Thady, a 30-year-old Mission District resident. “We are creating a culture of victim-blaming.”
Although Lopez declined to press charges, Ivory Madison, a neighbor, videotaped Lopez after the alleged abuse occurred. The video, which Madison turned over to prosecutors, showed a teary-eyed Lopez pointing to a bruised arm, where Mirkarimi allegedly grabbed her.
“This reinforces that it’s OK for men in power to abuse women,” said Tara Dorabji as she sat in Mission Creek Café. “His wife’s silence speaks really loudly to so many women who live in fear.”
Thady, a former victim of domestic violence, added that it is very common for victims to come to the defense of their abuser.
“It seems like there is a lot of threatening on his behalf because he has such power,” Thady said. “A better investigation needs to be held.”
The guilty plea does not disqualify Mirkarimi from retaining his job, and the sheriff, who had denied all charges up until his guilty plea, has shown no indication of stepping aside now.
“I intend to return to the business of running one of the finest sheriff’s departments in this nation, of mending my family and raising my son, Theo, in a safe and happy home,” Mirkarimi told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I think that’s pretty hypocritical for him to act like some kind of role model,” said Vanessa Bachik, who lives in the East Bay but commutes to San Francisco for work. “If he stays on as sheriff, how is anybody going to trust him?”
Mayor Ed Lee has the authority to file misconduct charges against Mirkarimi, which could lead to his forcible removal from office.
“I am working with legal counsel to review the facts and determine what options are available to me under the city charter,” Lee said in a statement. He plans to “make a decision based on all of the facts as quickly as possible.”
Mission residents said they could no longer trust the sherriff. Mirkarimi has lost his credibility, said Noe Bonilla, an employee of Bi-Rite Market & Creamery.
“I’m not a judge and I don’t completely understand how this system works, but I don’t trust him anymore,” Bonilla said.
“I think he needs to be held accountable,” Bachik added. “If he refuses to step down, then the mayor should take action.”
Matt, who declined to give his full name due to his probation status, argued that if he were to run for sheriff while on probation, he would be disqualified.
Only 24-year-old Sammy Franco was skeptical about the charges.
“I don’t know exactly what happened between Mirkarimi and his wife,” Franco said. “There is not enough proof to prove that Mirkarimi is guilty. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”
Mirkarimi’s plea agreement already includes up to three years probation, 100 hours of community service, 52 weeks of domestic violence classes, a $400 domestic violence fine and parenting or family counseling, depending on the Adult Probation Department’s recommendation. And despite the conclusion of the trial, the order for him to stay away from Lopez will remain in effect until lifted by the Superior Court.
“Today’s guilty plea clearly reflects the seriousness of the incident and my commitment to prosecuting domestic violence cases,” said District Attorney George Gascón in a press release. “I am confident today’s plea and mandated counseling will help this family.”
Dorabji said that the plea bargain was an admission of at least some guilt by the sheriff and will set an unacceptable standard of behavior if Mirkarimi keeps his job. However, she added that if Mirkarimi were to formally apologize for his actions during the New Year’s Eve incident, he might gain back some credibility.
“I guess if there was some kind of acknowledgement of the situation and that he’s working on it, I’d trust him more in a leadership role,” she said. “But right now he’s trying to sweep it under the rug.”