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Friday, January 20, 2012

Analysis: Damning Text Messages Emerge in Ross Mirkarimi Spouse Abuse Case

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after yesterday's arraignment - PETER JAMISON
  • Peter Jamison
  • Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after yesterday's arraignment

One of the major missing pieces in the domestic-violence case against newly elected Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi emerged during his arraignment on three misdemeanor counts yesterday: Text messages and e-mails, allegedly sent by his wife, that prosecutors say demonstrate her concerns that Mirkarimi was physically abusing her.

The content of those messages forms a significant piece of the evidence against Mirkarimi, along with the testimony of neighbors and videotaped statements his wife, Eliana Lopez, made to a confidante. Yet few media outlets other than SF Weekly and the San Francisco Examiner seemed to pay attention to the revelation of some of the texts and e-mails, which cast a further shadow on the embattled sheriff and former supervisor.

This might simply be because of the unusually high drama that attended Mirkarimi's not-guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of battery, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness after he allegedly left a bruise on his wife's arm during a fight on New Year's Eve. At one point, Lopez made an impassioned plea to San Francisco Superior Court Judge Susan Breall, sobbing and asserting that "the violence against me is that I don't have my family together."

But in an effort to get Breall to issue a more long-lasting protective order barring Mirkarimi from making contact with his family, veteran Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi read what she said were text messages and e-mails that Lopez had sent to neighbor Ivory Madison. Among them, as we reported yesterday:

-- "Will the police arrest him, or will they just talk to him?"

-- "We're leaving Monterey. The aquarium was so nice and Ross fed us regularly."

-- "Hello, Ivory. I'm not going to call the police. I'm going to open a record with my doctor."

Aguilar-Tarchi said Lopez also asked Madison in general terms what would happen if she complained to the police, and that Madison responded saying she did not know the answers to her questions but would look into it.

It is unclear when the messages were sent, or whether they were texts or e-mails. District Attorney's office spokesman Omid Talai declined to comment in detail on the messages or release them, saying only, "There's a mix of text messages and e-mails, and we anticipate presenting more evidence on the record in court" beyond what was read aloud yesterday.

Robert Waggener, Mirkarimi's defense lawyer, and Cheryl Wallace, Lopez' attorney, did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The texts, as read by Aguilar-Tarchi, appear to buttress the claims made by police and prosecutors that Lopez, while ambivalent about involving law-enforcement authorities, feared for her physical safety.

The unusual mention of food in the text that appears to describe a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium also echoes information in the arrest warrant affidavit filed in Mirkarimi's case. The argument that precipitated the alleged abuse on New Year's Eve began, according to the affidavit, while the couple and their son, Theo, were on the way to a restaurant. Mirkarimi "stated something to the effect that [Lopez] didn't deserve to eat," the affidavit states.

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Peter Jamison


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