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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ross Mirkarimi Hearing: Eliana Lopez Video Allowed, Judge Rules

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez.
  • Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez.

The now-infamous Eliana Lopez video may be used as evidence in suspended-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's ethics hearing, Judge Garrett Wong ruled.

The video, in which Lopez tearfully showed a bruise she said her husband gave her, could also eventually become public, as Wong did not tie any restrictions to the tape. The judge ordered for the tape to be released to Mayor Ed Lee and his legal team.

The ruling is perhaps Lee's most significant victory yet on his path to remove Mirkarimi from office. Lopez has defended her husband in the months since the Dec. 31 domestic dispute, so the footage will likely be the hearing's only instance where the victim speaks out against Mirkarimi, who pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.

The judge disagreed with Lopez's lawyer's argument that releasing the video would violate the Victim's Bill of Rights, as well as Lopez's right to privacy. He noted that the owner of the video, the couple's neighbor, Ivory Madison, allowed the mayor's attorneys access to the video.

Madison, filmed the video when Lopez came to her house after she and Mirkarimi had an argument about Lopez taking their son on a trip to Venezuela. Lopez, in the video, explained that she was creating the tape in case a custody battle ensued. According to court documents, Lopez went on to say, "This is the second time this is happening.... We need help and I'm going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me because he ... said he is very powerful and can do it."

Lopez claims that Madison, who has a law degree but is not a licensed attorney, violated a confidentiality agreement by handing the tape over to the cops. The video was admitted as evidence in Mirkarimi's criminal case, but Mirkarimi pleaded guilty before the trial. In addition to defending Mirkarimi over the past few months, Lopez has pleaded that the video remain private. She has also accused city officials of going after her husband for political reasons.

In an April Op-Ed in the Chronicle, Lopez, a Venezuela native, wrote:

I know how the media can create and influence public opinion to justify political actions. I saw that from the inside in 2002, when the privileged class used the media to justify a takeover of a democratically elected president and appointed one of their own to lead our country. I am shocked to witness the same formula being applied to my husband.

Public statements like that, argued deputy city attorney Peter Kieth, have eroded Lopez's privacy rights in regards to this case.

"Ms. Lopez made repeated public statements about the videotape," Keith told to the Chron. "She's attacked its credibility. She's attacked the motives of the prosecution. ... We think the court was correct in deciding a person can't speak publicly on a matter, but then turn around and use the right to privacy to keep information that tends to support the opposite view from the public."

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Albert Samaha


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