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Monday, March 19, 2012

Ross Mirkarimi Apologizes for "Arrogance and Anger Issues"

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM

Ross Mirkarimi addresses the press after his sentencing hearing. - ALBERT SAMAHA
  • Albert Samaha
  • Ross Mirkarimi addresses the press after his sentencing hearing.
It was a strange and imposing sight for unsuspecting passersby making a hard left out of the Hall of Justice's third floor elevator: A throng of reporters three rows deep blockading the corridor.

Reporters and photographers aimed their gazes and lenses squarely on the elevator entrance-way, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who has become the spectacle of San Francisco ever since his Jan. 13 arrest in connection with a New Year's Eve dispute with his wife, Eliana Lopez. 

They jockeyed to capture the progressive darling-turned-criminal in the immediate moments before he was sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours community service, 52 weeks of domestic violence classes, and a $400 domestic violence fine. He was also sentenced to one day in county jail, time he has already served.

Several minutes after he learned his sentence from the judge, Mirkarimi exited the courtroom and read a statement to the press. Taking on a self-depreciating tone, the sheriff expressed the contrition and humility that many would say is long overdue.

There was no mention of political conspiracies out to get him and no suggestion that he pleaded guilty only because he could not financially sustain a prolonged trial.  Instead, he apologized to his wife (whom he still isn't allowed to see), his 2-year-old son, Theo, the city, the Sheriff's Office, and a few others. He called this experience "a very public reminder that I am not the person I thought I was."

He went on, saying he has already started counseling "to address my arrogance and anger issues." He said that "for what happened on December 31st, there is no excuse and I accept full responsibility."

And then he attempted to clear his most infamous misstep over the last two months.

"There is something I've wanted to address that I haven't been able to address since the beginning of this nightmare," he said. "Something I wish I had from the very beginning and I apologize I have not: I do not believe domestic violence is a private matter. I never thought it was, and if I ever had suggested, it was a misstatement."

He said he was "advised" and "recommended" to say otherwise. "I so regret not intervening earlier to correct that statement," he added.

Toward the end of his statement, as he talked about how much he wanted to reunite with his family and return to serving as sheriff, he choked up and tears welled behind his glasses.

The apology did him at least one favor: District Attorney George Gascón said that he no longer questions the legitimacy of Mirkarimi's guilty plea.

After Mirkarimi suggested to the Chronicle last week that he pleaded guilty, not because he did anything wrong, but because he couldn't afford to keep paying his legal defense, Gascón accused the sheriff of "political posturing" and declared, "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."

Today, citing Mirkarimi's public statement, Gascón said, "I feel comfortable now after he spoke today that Mr. Mirkarimi is taking responsibility for his action."

Gascón asserted that "false imprisonment is a domestic violence charge" and not "a lesser charge." In exchange for Mirkarimi pleading guilty to false imprisonment, the DA's office dropped three other charges, including battery, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness.

When pressed on the details of the New Year's Eve incident -- and the specific factual basis for the false imprisonment charge -- all Gascón would say is "we know that there was an argument, and he grabbed her, and he bruised her."

At one point, a reporter asked Gascón why Mirkarimi had been able to avoid many of the cameras throughout his legal proceedings. Earlier in the day, for instance, he eluded the media horde by entering in the courthouse hallway from a side door labelled "restricted" and secured by a keypad under the handle.

"What gives someone the right to be able to come into court in a way where they don't face the media and the public?" she asked. "We cover a lot of cases and the defendants and whoever have to walk right by us, but Mirkarimi often didn't do that."

"We don't handle security for the courts," replied Gascón. "That is handled by the Sheriff's Office."

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Albert Samaha


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