San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, walk together… (Jeff Chiu, Associated Press )
SAN FRANCISCO — A judge Friday refused to reinstate suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, paving the way for a city ethics commission and the Board of Supervisors to determine whether the elected sheriff should be removed for a domestic violence-related conviction.
Mirkarimi, 50, elected keeper of San Francisco's jails in November, argued that Mayor Ed Lee did not have authority to suspend him for an action that occurred before Mirkarimi was sworn in as sheriff in January.
Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a false imprisonment misdemeanor rather than go to trial on charges stemming from a New Year's Eve quarrel with his wife, Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez. Lopez suffered a bruise on her arm after Mirkarimi grabbed her during an argument about whether she could take their son to Venezuela.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold E. Kahn, presiding over Friday's court hearing, said Mirkarimi should try to win his case before the city's ethics panel and the Board of Supervisors before resorting to the courts. The judge observed that there was a long tradition of elected officials being judged by other elected lawmakers and noted that presidents can be impeached.
San Francisco's process for removing public officials "may be a peculiar proceeding set up by the charter but I don't think it is so far afield that I should pull the plug before it starts," Kahn told the court. He also denied Mirkarimi's attempt to be paid his $199,000 annual salary during his suspension, noting the sheriff will be entitled to back pay if he wins reinstatement.
Mirkarimi will go before the San Francisco Ethics Commission on Monday. The panel of five political appointees will recommend to the Board of Supervisors whether Mirkarimi should be reinstated. Mirkarimi was an elected supervisor before becoming sheriff.
Mirkarimi said he would continue fighting and suggested that politics may have influenced his case. "I accept responsibility completely for grabbing my wife's arm," he told reporters after the hearing. "I am so terribly sorry for that."
Mirkarimi was sentenced last month to a three years of probation, 100 hours of public service and 52 weeks of domestic violence classes and was ordered to pay $590 in fines and fees.