Mirkarimi claims Lee didn't care what really happened

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Ross Mirkarimi is beginning to tell his story after months of resistance to giving a full accounting of what happened.
Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

UPDATED BELOW Did Mayor Ed Lee ask Ross Mirkarimi what really happened in the conflict with his wife before removing him as sheriff? That question is not only important to understanding Lee and whether he was interested in the truth, but it could also be central to next week's court hearing on whether Mirkarimi was denied due process before being suspended without pay.

In an interview published today in the New York Times, and in statements made today to the Guardian, Mirkarimi maintains that he sought to tell Lee the full story but that the mayor wasn't interested. “He was clear that he was not interested in events or details, which were represented by me, even when I encouraged him,” Mirkarimi told The Bay Citizen, whose content the Times runs. “It was more than one occasion I offered to tell him my side of the story. If I had, it could have dramatically changed the mayor’s understanding of the situation.”

Yet the affidavit by Lee that was submitted to the court this week – which is written under penalty of perjury – paints a very different picture: one of the two men sitting in uncomfortable silence rather than Mirkarimi seizing the chance to shape Lee's understanding of the situation.

“I asked Sheriff Mirkarimi to meet with me, because I felt that I needed to hear from him and consider what he had to say,” Lee wrote of the March 19 meeting where he gave Mirkarimi 24 hours to resign or be suspended, noting that he had reviewed the court records and “it appeared to me that he had engaged in official misconduct.”

“I explained to Sheriff Mirkarimi that I wanted to give him an opportunity to talk to me about this issue. It was a free flowing conversation with no time constraints. Sheriff Mirkarimi told me that he has not yet told his side of the story. I said, Okay, and waited for him to tell me his side of the story. He did not. Instead, after pausing, he asked me whether the suspension was based on his conduct as Sheriff. I responded that it was based on his conduct as a public official. I paused again and waited for Sheriff Mirkarimi to give me whatever information he thought important. He did not. Instead, Sheriff Mirkarimi asked me whether the suspension would be with or without pay. I told him it would be without pay. After giving him another chance to ask questions or give more information, I told Mr. Mirkarimi to consider my instruction to resign over the next 24 hours,” Lee wrote.

In an exchange of text messages with the Guardian, Mirkarimi maintains that Lee wasn't interested in hearing from him or his wife, Eliana Lopez, what happened during the New Year's Eve altercation or in its aftermath.

“On more than one occasion I offered details to Lee. He was either mute or changed the subject. Think about it – why else would they have DHR Miki Callahan [the city's deputy human resources director] try to depose me after I was suspended without pay – they shoot first, then realize they better ask questions,” Mirkarimi wrote.

We asked why he didn't use the opportunity of his meeting with Lee to tell his story.

“As I said, I did try. More than once. He wasn't interested. In fact I told him how painful it's been to not have contact [with Lopez, whom the court has barred him from contacting] since January 13, and encouraged him to get an independent account from my wife, Eliana; offered her phone number. Lee didn't take it,” Mirkarimi said.

Paula Canny, Lopez's attorney, has also said that Lee never tried to reach her and didn't seem interested in what really happened. But the city's official misconduct complaint makes a number of unsubstantiated allegations about that incident and what happened since that Mirkarimi and Lopez deny.

For example, the complaint claims that Mirkarimi “or his agents” asked Ivory Madison, the neighbor who helped Lopez make a videotape of her showing a bruise on her arm inflicted by Mirkarimi, to “destroy evidence,” a charge her husband, Abraham Mertens, made in a Chronicle op-ed. But in her own subsequent op-ed, Lopez says that wasn't true and that Mirkarimi wasn't even aware of the existence of the tape until after Madison had called the police and told them about it.

In the Times article, Mirkarimi also disputed another key allegation from the formal charges against him: “Sheriff Mirkarimi misused his office, and the status and authority it carries, for personal advantage when he stated to Ms. Lopez that he could win custody of their child because he was very powerful.”

That allegation also came from Madison, who hasn't responded to calls from the Guardian, the Times, or other media outlets. But Mirkarimi told the Times that what he really told his wife was that California has “powerful” child custody laws that would make it difficult for her to take their son back to Venezuela if they divorced.

“I never said, ever, that I’m a powerful person,” he said. “It’s not even my style. I was quoting in the context of what had been a very familiar and painful reminder that, six months earlier, Eliana had been out of the country with Theo for two and a half months. I was referencing family law.”

Other news broken in the Times story was Mirkarimi disputing that he called the case a “private matter, a family matter,” saying that statement that so outraged domestic violence groups was “distorted by the press.” The article also quotes journalist Phil Bronstein minimizing the phone conversation he had with Madison before she decided to report the Mirkarimi-Lopez incident to the police, saying he only helped Madison contact “three people who Ross was close to” for reasons that weren't clear. Bronstein, who hasn't returned our calls on the issue [SEE UPDATE BELOW], was on the witness list for Mirkarimi's domestic violence trial before Mirkarimi pled guilty to the lesser charge of false imprisonment.

The City Attorney's Office isn't commenting on the case, and when we asked the mayor's Press Secretary Christine Falvey why Lee didn't seek an account of what happened from Lopez or Mirkarimi, she told us simply, “The Mayor met with Ross Mirkarimi twice to discuss this.”

In the city's response to Mirkarimi's lawsuit seeking reinstatement of his pay and position until the official conduct hearings are resolved, which will be heard in Superior Court on April 20, they claim, “The Mayor met personally with Petitioner to discuss his intentions and has repeatedly invited Petitioner to tell his side of the story, an invitation Petitioner has repeatedly declined. But even more fundamentally, the due process claim fails as a matter of law. The constitutional right to due process is triggered only when the government works a deprivation of a legally recognized liberty or property interest.”

The city says caselaw is clear that elected officials can't claim their office belongs to them. “A public office is always a public trust,” the city argues. But Mirkarimi's attorneys say all employees have a clear property interest in their salaries, and they say it was illegal, coercive, and unfair to deprive Mirkarimi of his while he goes through the months-long official misconduct process. Police officers are almost always paid during their suspensions.

UPDATE 4/16: The message that I left for Bronstein seeking to speak with him about his conversation with Madison was nearly two weeks ago, and he called to take issue with my statement that he didn't call back and with my characterization that he "minimized" his conversation with Madison in the New York Times article, although he did characterize their conversation as brief and fairly insignificant.

"Ivory Madison called me to say there were three people that Ross trusts and Eliana might want to get ahold of them, do you have their contact information, and I said I could probably get it," Bronstein told us, noting that he never contacted any of them on her behalf. Sources tell us the three people were Aaron Peskin, Art Agnos, and Michael Hennessey. "No one was contacted, no information was passed, that was the extent of the conversation."

Bronstein left those comments in a voicemail. I'm still waiting to talk to him about whether the conversation included talk of the incident and whether police should be involved, and I'll update this post when I hear back.

Comments

He should have been saying this at least three months ago - or really as soon as it developed into something. If what he is saying is true, he was foolish to listen to ppl telling him to not talk. Even Willie Brown basically told him (indirectly, via his Sunday Chron column) that not talking might make sense as a legal strategy but not for public officials who answer to voters. Yet he stayed silent (as did his wife until very recently).

I'm sure Phil Bronstein's hands are all over the hyperactive Chron editorials calling for Mirk to be fired immediately and urging him to just resign. That Phil Bronstein is now not answering questions - same thing goes for Ivory Madison - is troubling as he (and her) were the ones that pushed so hard for this story to go OJ Simpson level media crazy so fast.

It's too bad a tape doesn't exist of the mtg betwn Mirk and Mayor Lee so one could find out who's telling the trush.

But how Mirk could think not talking until, not only have the horses left the barn but have died of old age, shows that, love him or hate him (I don't know him, but liked what he did as a supe), he has no political pr skills (or he got really really really bad advice that he believed or he's now BS'ing bigtime which I don't believe, maybe BS'ing a little but I believe he mostly got horrible advice and went with it for far far far too long). The guy was pummeled by the Chron editorial bd, by CW Devius (Chron opinion writer), by all the rightwing dummies here, and the commenters on Chron articles, by the DV groups, and it's just now that he thinks, "ya know maybe I better break my silence." Huh??? Uh, kinda late now Ross.

(Speaking of rightwing dummies here, damn you guys have a lot of them! It must trip you guys out that you have a crowd of dummies here that can't wait to rip you and Tim and the BG in general as soon as any of you utter a word here. No doubt by the time this is posted, they'll be here or very soon. If it was me, I'd tell them to go fuck themselves and don't post ever again here but obviously this opinion isn't shared by everyone at the BG.)

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

His first lawyer even acknowledged that Ross Mirkarimi is a tyrant -- and he is. Mirkarimi does not listen to the advice of other people very well, and he treats the people around him like dirt. He's in a pickle of his own making, and unfortunately he's taking the democratic process down with him. If it weren't for what is happening to democracy, I'd be saying, "Sayonara, Mr. Mirkarimi. You are sucking too much energy out of progressives that we need to invest elsewhere." But I support the democratic process and his right to a hearing on his suspension without pay.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 11:59 am

the Guardian will support Ross. Has there been one story, or even one sentence, where the Guardian has seriously question Ross comments or his actions? NO!

Has there been one story or even one sentence, where the Guardian agreed with the actions of Mayor Lee or the D.A.? NO!

The fact is that the Guardian is predisposed to support any action a progressive might take. (Thank God Ross didn't kill anyone). Just as any action by Mayor Lee or the D.A. is questioned.

The Guardian is no longer an alternative newspaper, it is a tabloid practicing yellow journalism. William Randolph Herst would be so proud.

There is no thoughful jounalism at the Guardian, just bias reporting trying to influence people opinons.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

...and he would have the Guardian's full support.

Mirk dug his own grave - don't understand the support for him at all.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

Way to wallow in the slime of malicious taunts while you pile on the hyperbole. It's what you trolls do best, yes? Just recognize that that putrid smell is your own shit, no one else's.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

Yes Republicans beat and cheat on their wife and brag about it. But it's ok...they are good 'ol boys right? Glad this pos got suspended.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 11:01 am

Which was on the Bay Citizen/NYT. Basically Matt Smith handed the mic to Ross and let him talk. It didn't appear to me that he asked any decisive or probing questions. For example- When Ross asserts that he tried to tell the Mayor his side of things, Ross leaves out when this was. If it was while the case was pending, I would side with the Mayor on not letting him as that could cause the Mayor to get called as a witness.

Further, Smith totally failed to ask the big questions- "Ross, how did the bruise get on your wife's arm?" Ross, in the tape, your wife claims this is the second time this happened, care to comment on that?" Instead you get a big fan of Ross helping him sell his story.

If Ross really wants to get things out there, call KPIX, KGO, KTVU, etc., and agree to sit down for a taped interview, I have no doubt they would be happy to do it, however, I am sure they will ask the questions that Ross doesn't want to deal with.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

Well, that finally happened yesterday with Michael Krasny, who pretty much softballed the whole interview. Ross's story about how Eliana "was bruised" (nice responsibility-deflecting use of the passive voice) made little sense, of course.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2012 @ 8:08 am

Mayor Lee, the story reads true. Where do you get off?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

The crows are coming home to roost for the anti-Mirkarimi set and all they can do is lamely carry on bloviating on whatever of their tired old talking points can still hold a bit of air.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 11:42 pm
Posted by Matlock on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 12:08 am

Matlock, I didn't expect you to be thanking me -- or referring me to a link I might enjoy -- mistake? I saw this live at the Stone in '86 or so.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 1:31 am
and

The talking points of the pro-Ross crowd are not tired and worn out?

Posted by DNative on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 8:26 am

then accept that their guy has self-destructed. They'll be the last two people in San Francisco to accept Ross' self-imposed fate.

Meanwhile, eliana has decided to stay longer in Caracas. Can anyone blame here? She may be supporting Ross - after all, she wants his paycheck - but she sure as hell doesn't want to hang out with him.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 8:52 am

The anti Mirkarimi gang pushed it too far. Now Mirkarimi gets his say and nothing is to stop him. The SF machine may have a lock on some local papers but not on the national scene. More who hear about this more light that shows what really happened.

To those who claim "he beat his wife". Stop lying and using talking points. He did not beat anyone. He did not use a bat. Facts are there and no amount of lies will change them.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 2:40 am

Not by any account I have seen. However:

FACT: He has plead guilty to false imprisonment.

FACT: He has not provided a credible explanation as to how his wife got the bruise on her arm

FACT: He has not stated anything about the alleged previous incident mentioned by his wife on the video.

FACT: He has lost the support of his department.

Opinion: HE cannot be an effective Sheriff now. He has lost all credibility and he should resign.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 8:25 am

probation. Think about it, Ross would be setting the salary of his own probation officer.

"Beating" his wife is a vague term. You can be guilty of DV even if you don't "beat" your wife. Verbal abuse, threats and restraint are all valid cases of DV. One case was successfully prosecuted when a guy spat at his wife.

"Beating" is emotive and not a helpful term here.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 8:50 am

The Probation Department has their own Chief. Two totally different departments

Posted by DNative on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

"He has not stated anything about the alleged..."

Priceless

"He has lost the support of his department."

Lost? Really? I thought the story was they didn't support him ever?

You anti-Mirkarimi haters trip over your own lies constantly.

Of course your capitalization of both letters of the word "he" tells of your -- and Mayor Lee's -- cynical exploitation of gender politics to further corrupt political objectives.

Vile and reprehensible.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 9:05 am

Why bo you blame everybody except Ross when he's already admitted his crimes and apologized to those he has let down?

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 9:58 am

"Crime("s")": its becoming trite.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 10:31 am

It didn't really matter which one ross pleaded to. The charges were dropped against the others but they were all related.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 11:51 am

That's a common thread among rightists and their fellow travelers on the Mirkarimi hate-wagon. Saying the Mirkarimi is guilty of all charges because he plead guilty to one charge negates logic and fairness. People like you also brainlessly vote to convict when serving on juries because you feel that the accused wouldn't be in court unless they had done something wrong. Pathetic, simpering, un-American bootlicker.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 7:36 am

"Of course your capitalization of both letters of the word "he" tells of your -- and Mayor Lee's -- cynical exploitation of gender politics to further corrupt political objectives."

It was a typo. Shift key got stuck.

Good point about the support fo the department. They never did like him. Thanks

Posted by DNative on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

I personally believe this prosecution is politically motivated. Mirkarimi won a citywide election to become sheriff. I do believe he and his wife had an argument as most couples have. I do not believe he tried to hurt her by her own admission and her efforts to be heard. The "tainted truth" has been told by a next door neighbor who is promoting her website and for personal recognition. the sad part of all this their family is being destroyed by this whole media frenzy. There is no doubt that this prosecution was not at all common no matter how the DA's office tries to spin it. Here is a 911 call that was completely disregarded and there was NO charges brought. Tell me if there is any doubt that a double standard doe not apply to this case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o7zFRuwNUsE

Posted by Guest Concerned Resigtered SF Voter on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 6:52 am

No matter what the outcome of the current course he is still subject to recall - and guess what! At the least, he will be voted out of office if necessary.

The guy screwed up - and the more he denies and lies, the deeper he digs his political grave. Doesn't make any difference what party or persuasion he is. If the Bay Gardian wants to go down with him, fine. But bottom line, it's over. Ross has already admitted his guilt, all the rest is just sour grapes and fluff.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o7zFRuwNUsE You tell me if this case is being treated like all reported DV cases?

Posted by Guest Concerned Resigtered SF Voter on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 6:55 am

The video regarding Fire Chief Haynes-White is particularly powerful because the exact phrase "it's a family matter" which was blandly repeated by the media at the time in that case -- which has been falsely attributed to the sheriff in his case -- were emphasized by the videos creator... *several* *years* *ago.*

Prescient much?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

1. The "victim" recanted his story in writing. Eliana put her story on video tape and has never actually recanted what she put on tape. She dances around it etc. But she has NEVER come out and stated that what was on the tape is not accurate. Ross has never come forward with how his wife got a bruise on her arm. Not once or denied what was on the tapes.

2. The Fire Chief passed a lie detector test. Ross didn't offer to take one, to my knowledge and then he ended up pleading guilty to a crime.

3. The Fire Chief is not a sworn law enforcement officer. The Sheriff is.

4. The Fire Chief never claimed it was a family matter. Newsom did that. So did Ross.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

"Eliana put her story on video tape".... and tried to keep it from becoming a public record.

"Fire Chief passed a lie detector test"... citation?

"The Fire Chief is not a sworn law enforcement officer."... that is a red herring. The point is that when law enforcement turns into political enforcement, then we have lost our freedom.

"The Fire Chief never claimed it was a family matter. Newsom did that. So did Ross." Citation?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 12:05 am

And they never lie, right? "Passed with flying colors!" Her husband -- according to her -- *hit* *himself* on the back of his head. Sure.

I don't have a NYT subscription, and I yet believe the words attributed to Mirkarimi were reported in a skewed manner. Where did he say those words and to whom?

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 8:30 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 8:53 am

The legal process determined that what happened WAS a private, family matter after all, and was not domestic violence.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 9:30 am

If it were simply a private legal dispute, it would have been settled in civil court, not criminal court.

Even Ross admits he was wrong to call it a private family matter so you're way off base there.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 10:08 am

Under the original charges, when there were accusations of violence, it was a matter between the state and the accused.

None of those charges stuck, therefore it was, after all was said and done legally, not a matter of domestic violence, it was a private and personal family matter.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 10:31 am

The charges didn't stick. Ross plead out. He lost several rulings. My opinion is that he took the plea as he didn't see a way to win the case.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

Exactly. Few seem to remember that he only pled when it became obvious the videotape would be used at trial.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2012 @ 8:05 am

Really, Marcos?

On what planet do bruises not signify violence?

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

The City Family cloistered around the Fire Chief and in one coherent voice declared that it was a private, family matter by their courses of action, political and legal.

The Fire Chief is one of the three public safety officers in the City. Apparently it is possible to have a perpetrator of real domestic violence as a sitting public safety officer, just so long as she stands in good stead with the corrupt City Family.

This is not about the substance of the law, this is about politics pure and simple.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 8:36 am
Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 10:06 am

Do you want your house to be in jeopardy when a fire strikes and a fire chief who was indisputably violent to her husband in front of their kids is running the show?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 10:33 am

There was no trial. No evidence was entered in the trial that didn't happen. There were no photographs, no medical records of bumps on the back of the head, no testimony from children. There was a 911 call, and that should have been the start of an investigation. But the powers-that-be closed in around one of their anointed ones. Marcos, you cannot say that the fire chief was indisputably violent to her husband any more than you can say that Ross Mirkarimi has been treating people horrifically for years and years and years and have that be true out in public without a trial, and without evidence being submitted. Even though you and I know that to be true on a professional and personal level. Ross Mirkarimi has been awful to people for years, but acknowledging that in comments is just hearsay. It doesn't make it indisputably true.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

Right, believe everyone but the abused spouse who left Hayes-White after the incident of violence. He phoned it in as she was coming at him, and the cops gave him a pass!

The matters have not been disputed, they are therefore undisputed incidents of violence.

In any event, progressives did not pile on when that personal, private, family matter went down.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

"The matters have not been disputed, they are therefore undisputed incidents of violence."

What fantasy world do you live in? She completely disputed those facts, he then recanted the original statement in writing and she passed a lie detector test.

Not once has Ross denied causing the Bruise, same with his wife. He has now admitted to a crime. I would LOVE to see him take a lie detector test. Two completely different circumstances.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

Such a fantasy:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&q=joanne+hayes-white+l....

No substantive hits on this, you're making up unsubstantiated crap.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

Marcos- "Google doesn't have it so it must not be true."

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/06/21/BAGASDBM771.DTL

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

in cases where the victim recants in writing accusations of domestic battery in misdemeanor cases.

So how can you hope to maintain the fiction that this prosecution wasn't a political hatchet job from day 1?

And I'm sure you think some "former FBI officer" administering a lie-detector test on behalf of Haynes-White and her lawyer is above reproach, but I guess that just goes with the territory of being a bootlicker.

It's okay, I think former FBI chief J-Edgar was into some off-beat practices himself.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 19, 2012 @ 10:34 am

There was no trial. No evidence was entered in the trial that didn't happen. There were no photographs, no medical records of bumps on the back of the head, no testimony from children. There was a 911 call, and that should have been the start of an investigation. But the powers-that-be closed in around one of their anointed ones. Marcos, you cannot say that the fire chief was indisputably violent to her husband any more than you can say that Ross Mirkarimi has been treating people horrifically for years and years and years and have that be indisputably true out in public without a trial, and without evidence being submitted. I can say that Ross Mirkarimi has been awful to people for years, based on my own experiences and based on what others have told me, but acknowledging that in comments is just hearsay. It doesn't make it indisputably true.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

The facts as presented in the media have not been disputed. Hayes-White is a violent spousal abuser whose husband left her rather than be subject to her drunken attacks. And she is one of the top public safety officers of the City and County of San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 1:30 pm