San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón raised the possibility that his office might back out of a plea deal in the domestic-violence case against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi today, citing indications from Mirkarimi and his friends that the sheriff does not believe he is actually guilty of the misdemeanor false-imprisonment charge he agreed to accept Monday.
In an interview with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, Gascón said he is troubled by signs that have emerged in the past week that Mirkarimi struck the deal in bad faith, citing in particular a Chronicle column, published yesterday, that quoted Mirkarimi stating his six-figure legal tab was a "considerable factor" in his decision to cop a guilty plea, rather than any actual feeling of culpability.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian, which has functioned as the de facto print propaganda arm of Mirkarimi's defense team, has likewise run two stories this week asserting that Mirkarimi "didn't want to cop a plea" and "maintains his innocence."
Those articles have come back very quickly to haunt Mirkarimi, who has been enduring a storm of criticism and bad press since he was originally charged with misdemeanor counts of domestic violence, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness.
That's because, as Gascón made clear in his comments to the Chron's editorial board, prosecutors are barred by their professional code of ethics from knowingly accepting a guilty plea from a defendant who does not actually believe in his guilt. The DA said his office will bring up his concerns to a judge at Mirkarimi's sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Monday.
"We're going to address this on Monday because we're not in the custom, not in the habit, of taking a guilty plea from somebody who is not guilty," Gascón said. "If the defendant in this case believes he is not guilty, then we should go to trial and let a jury decide."
Gascón told the Chronicle, "Either he was lying to the court when he said that he was guilty or he's lying now. There's really no two ways to look at it."
Mirkarimi was originally charged in connection with an incident in which he allegedly bruised his wife's arm during a fight. Before he entered a guilty plea Monday, prosecutors had introduced into evidence a video of his wife, Eliana Lopez, displaying the bruise and tearfully describing the altercation. A second alleged victim, ex-girlfriend Christina Flores, also came forward to say she had been abused by Mirkarimi.
At the case's outset, Mirkarimi got into hot water for calling the incident that led to the domestic-violence investigation "a private matter, a family matter." Now it appears the sheriff's mouth might have got him into serious trouble, again.
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