Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi went on KQED's Forum this morning to finally give the public what they want: a detailed account of what happened between him and his wife, Eliana Lopez, on the morning of Dec. 31, 2011.
In an emotional interview with Michael Krasny, Mirkarimi, who was suspended last month without pay, calmly recounted how a verbal argument between him and his wife on their way to lunch exploded into a "runaway train" that landed the sheriff-in-limbo with a conviction.
"While silently and privately dealing with it ... I have finally mustered the reserve to tell the story that has not been told," Mirkarimi said.
He set the scene, explaining that the couple and their 2-year-old son, Theo, were on their way to Delfina Pizza in Pacific Heights at around 11:45 a.m. on New Year's Eve when a "horrible quarrel" started about a familiar topic in their family: Lopez's impending trip to her native Venezuela. Mirkarimi explains that his wife had already taken a trip there six months before, and stayed, with their son, for more than two months. He didn't want them to go again.
But what made this argument even more intense was that Lopez also mentioned she'd been talking to a lawyer -- which became his first clue that they were no longer just talking about a trip to South America, but custody issues.
That's when Mirkarimi says he turned their minivan around -- against his wife's wishes -- because he was afraid they would argue about this emotionally charged subject in public.
"I was seriously misrepresented when I saw [in news reports] that I said I was powerful and 'You can't take my son away,'" Mirkarimi says.
It was this act of turning the van around that ultimately led to his conviction of
false imprisonment of his wife, Mirkarimi says. They arrived home, and he
parked the car.
"I swore at my wife in front of my son, I was angry that
she wasn't hearing me, and I regret this terribly, " Mirakimi said. "She
was also extremely upset in a way I had never seen her before where it
made my son extremely upset -- he was panicked."
Lopez got out of the car, and went to unharness Theo from his car seat.
That's when Mirkarimi says he reached over the driver's seat where he
was sitting and put his hand underneath her right arm, attempting to
"guide her back to passenger seat" to talk things through.
"That's how she got bruised," Mirkarimi said, choking up.
He explained that he thought he was attempting to deescalate an intense
argument. But Lopez went into the house while Mirkarimi sat inside the
car, trying to "decompress." "There was no sequestering my wife. She
came and went as she pleased," Mirkarimi says. "The characterization that she was imprisoned is false."
The next morning, Lopez went to visit their neighbor, attorney Ivory Madison.
Mirkarimi knew nothing of this until the afternoon of Jan. 4, when Madison informed Lopez that she planned to report this alleged domestic violence to police. Mirkarimi says that Lopez ran all the way down Grove Street to City Hall in a panic, and told her husband the whole story right there on the steps of City Hall. "I did not know about any of this. I did not about her level of contact with the neighbor, I didn't know about the video, I did not know about what has become a runaway train,"Mirkarimi said.
Five days after he was sworn in as sheriff, Mirkarimi was arrested on Friday, Jan. 13, and charged with three misdemeanor counts, including battery, endangering a child, and dissuading a witness. A judge barred him from having contact with his wife and son until after the trial. But last month, in effort to avoid further public dissection, Mirkarimi negotiated a deal, pleading guilty to false imprisonment. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the other three domestic violence charges.
Now, Mirkarimi is having to work out his political career. After the plea deal, Mayor Ed Lee asked Mirkarimi to resign, or face being pushed out; Mirkarimi refused to step down, and Lee has since started the process of removing Mirkarimi from his post.
The Ethics Commission is expected to hear the case in the next week. Meanwhile, Mirkarimi, who has admitted publicly that he can be hot-heated and angry, has sought therapy and anger management, an experience that he characterized as "humbling."
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