GUEST OPINION: The Mirkarimi case -- is this justice?

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The media madness has overwhelmed the question of justice. Photo by Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal

I appreciate that everyone is doing his or her best to dialogue on the very complicated, nuanced and difficult issue of domestic violence in a context where the press and politicians are doing their best to use the issue for their own agenda and making it a very polarizing issue in the media.

I know that many of us confront this issue at work, and  most encounter it in our own personal lives, so it is a very emotionally charged issue.  My heart goes out to Eliana Lopez, their son Theo, and yes, Ross.  As a practicing Buddhist, I find that people are often unwilling to forgive others, like Ross, because they are unwilling to forgive themselves for their own challenging impulses. 

We live in an emotionally and physically violent world, and demonizing Ross only externalizes the story, externalizes our own pain, denies our own impulses.  Anyone who thinks that he or she is perfect or above this seriously needs a mirror.  Bringing mindfulness to that is all that we can do and hope that we can have compassion for ourselves.  Truly, our inability to have compassion for him only exposes our inability to have compassion for ourselves.

Myrna Melgar, a survivor of domestic violence, wrote a very thoughtful piece for the SF Bay Guardian on restorative justice as an alternative to the criminal justice response to domestic violence, and if you get a chance, take a moment to read it.
http://www.sfbg.com/bruce/2012/03/27/guardian-op-ed-domestic-violence-la...

For me, the main question she poses is:   "How did it come to be that a system that was intended to empower women has evolved into a system that disempowers them so completely?"  In short, when Ross grabbed her arm, it became a media/political frenzy that destroyed Eliana's life.  Myrna posits that the increased criminalization on low-level, first offenses of domestic violence on this one immigrant woman, Eliana Lopez, meant that a long list of mostly men spent the next few months making decisions on her behalf without her input as she was treated as incompetent to make decisions.

Eliana never had a chance ever to find justice, to regain her power,  and Ross never really had the opportunity to take 100 percent responsibility for his actions, which is the goal of restorative justice.  For Ross to take 100 percent responsibility means not defending, not explaining, not evading.  Simply taking responsibility.  I haven't seen Ross do this -- but to be fair, he never had a chance.

I am a survivor of domestic violence as a child, and it has been painful to me to observe people using a family's pain for their own political agendas and missing this opportunity to do things differently, There could have been a path where the powers that be could have acted with integrity towards this family, our city, and to all the survivors of domestic violence.  Instead, the whole situation was manipulated from beginning to end.

Honestly, no "side" has been perfect.  Those that are loyal to Ross seem unwilling to hear anything beyond how people are out to "get" him, and those that are against him, well, most of the resources against Ross are from a "side" that has all the social capital, resources, media,  and political power at their disposal which leaves me frustrated with those who are supposedly holding him accountable. 

It's a disservice to survivors of domestic violence to be used a political pawns, and it's a disservice to survivors of domestic violence for the media and governmental powers to be misused like this. 

As it relates to Ross being sheriff, it's clear that the system for accountability has also broken down and no one trusts what is happening in the courts. And as one observer has written, “Are we considering the public punishment that has already been heaped on both Ross and Eliana? Was Mirkarimi’s act so vile that we don’t allow him a chance to attend domestic violence treatment and redeem himself before ruining his life?  I’m not defending domestic violence in any way, shape or form, but I do believe this situation has been badly politicized.”

It's unfortunate.  It leaves me with little hope that justice will be served. I have long been a proponent of restorative justice, and now more than ever in my life, I see the power of taking full responsibility for my actions, for our actions.  I’m so sorry the road to healing and restoration was not taken in this case.

Shanti.

Gabriel Haaland is a survivor of domestic violence, and a queer, transfeminist man who sits on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.

Comments

Do you include the Bay Guardian as part of the press that is trying to use it for their own agenda?

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 11:21 am

With the way the media pounced on this story and made it a media frenzy has already caused considerable damage to both Ross and Eliana. Yes, domestic violence is bad, but when their lives are exposed to the public and their story laid bare for others to dissect, this loss of privacy might have even great effects on Eliana's life than the domestic abuse incident.

Posted by Simon on Jun. 11, 2012 @ 11:46 pm
wow

You complain that people use this for political agenda and then blather on about Ross's wife being an immigrant woman? What in the world does that have to do with anything? I assume Ross married her knowing that, I assume when she moved to San Francisco she knew it wasn't in Venezuela? She didn't move here to bone chickens for 5.25 an hour.

Do you have any proof that things would have turned out different if she was domestic trophy wife?

Your essay is one long string of buzz words and leftist canards, move along citizens, nothing to see here, just political hackery disguised as high minded rhetoric.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 11:38 am

It is not to punish him. The Courts have taken care of that issue. It is about whether or not he is fit to be the Sheriff and whether or not he can effectively run the department. He has no right to the office other than he was elected to the office. The Mayor, rightly so, has called into question his fitness for that office based on his conduct and the facts. Now the Ethics Commission will do their thing and then the Board will vote. If he wins at that level, I am guessing that there will be a recall effort as many in SF feel as I do. He is not fit to be in office. Maybe in 5 years, after he completes probation and counseling, etc. But not now.

As for your other arguments about taking power from Eliana. Unfortunately there is a very well documented history in our system of DV being swept under the rug and the victims refusing to testify and/or recant their original statements for a variety of reasons, some emotional, some fear, some economic. That is why prosecutions happen at times, without the victims consent. Ultimately the crime is against the People of California which is why you hear the DA use that phrase.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 11:41 am

No crime of domestic violence was committed, the legal record is unambiguous on that front.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 11:56 am

He restrained his wife to prevent her from reporting an incidence of DV.

And his sentence is identical to that routinely given to DV perps. Ross is attending the 52-week DV prevention class that all DV perps have to do, and has a stayaway order again SOP.

Either crime is sufficient for his to be found unsuitable for office.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

"False Imprisonment" is not a crime of violence when it is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Many crimes share similar sentences and the commonality of punishment does not make all crimes equivalent.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

It's a matter of harm done. The same crime can be prosecuted either as a felony or as a midemeanor depending on harm done. A bruise would always be a midemeanor. A broken nose or arm would be a felony and, most likely, jail time.

The fact that Ross got the exact piunishment for DV even though the false imprisonment charge does not warrant that, says it all.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

You are grasping at straws. The elements of the two crimes are different, the felony false imprisonment has an element of violence, the misdemeanor does not.

The legal record says it all.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

prosecuted either as a felony or as a misdemeanor, depending on degree. It's not an either/or.

All Ross's counts were DV related so it's moot.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

and the Judge imposed it. The other charges were dismissed as part of the plea. Fairly common in these types of cases. You can frame it all you want. Ross plead guilty to a DV crime. The facts hold up.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

Domestic violence is its own set of crimes, misdemeanor false imprisonment is not part of that set, and as such, legally, domestic violence crimes were not part of the plea deal.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

is why Ross is happy to serve a DV punishment to the letter.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

Guest wrote, "He restrained his wife to prevent her from reporting DV" - uh that would be WRONG.

Ross momentarily grabbed his wife's arm which she had no problem freeing herself from the grasp of (her pulling away may have resulted in the bruise on her arm rather than Ross grabbing it though this is just speculation).

Interesting you could get it so wrong when you must be aware of what she did after the incident (contacting Ivory Madison for a video interview that may or may not have been to have ammo in case of a divorce to get Theo).

It's absurd to say that grabbing someone's arm in and of itself is grounds for all the punishment Ross has received.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

That is why he is doing 52 weeks of DV counseling.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:19 pm
And

Continues to have a criminal protective order barring him from contact with his wife and preventing him from possessing firearms.

Posted by Iverson on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

"False imprisonment" is an obscure NONviolent offense.

Posted by Guest Ann Garrison on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

I know you inhabit the looney fringe, but a comment such as your own must make even your warped mind ache.

Physically restraining someone, especially when it causes injury, is inherently an act of violence according to something called logic, which you seem to have thrown out the window.

If you disagree, then by all means, post your address and invite someone to come by and forcibly grab you and restrain your movement. Then, when the neighbors call the police, please kindly inform the officer that arrives that according to you "false imprisonment is an obscure nonviolence offense," and you would greatly appreciate it if the officer would lend his or her time to listen to you give a speech about empowerment. Then, the officer can leave and you can continue to be "non-violently" roughed up. Perhaps, you could even request a nominal donation from your neighbors and call it political theatre.

Nonetheless, I do thank you for the hearty laugh your comments gave me.

Posted by Chris on May. 01, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

If you really wanted to learn how DV court works in SF you can go down to Department 24 and watch the proceedings any day except Thursday. You can also talk to the defendants and ask them what they are accused of. I have been down there and lets just say that Mirkarimi's experience is the norm for DV in SF.

Posted by Iverson on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

consistent with the crime of doemstic violence. How anyone can argue that bruising your wife's arm while falsely imprisoning here is not DV doesn't understand the law and its practice.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

Lopez stated that her arm was bruised when she pulled it away from Mirkarimi.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

Of course she pulled away - Ross was acting violently towards her.

Even Ross hasn't stooped so low that he tries to blame Lopez for his crime, so why are you? That rationalization of his crime is repugnant to Eliana, to women and to justice.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Is called simple battery. Done to someone you are or have been intimate with it is DV battery.

Posted by Iverson on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

there was no DV incident here. Yet, amazingly, a few of their brain-dead acolytes are still trying that lame excuse on.

Denial, thy name is futility.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

Notice in this article the Petaluma victim originally is just grabbed, at first wants a protective order, then recants... sounds familiar, except now she is dead. Most likely Sonoma County will follow San Francisco with zero tolerance .

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/19/BANO1O5RDV.DTL

Posted by Iverson on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

Dnative, explain why an elected mayor should have the right to depose a plurality-elected sheriff on "moral" grounds. I wouldn't argue against such action in a graft and perjury case like that of Ed Jew.

Ed Lee has plenty of power acting as mayor in making appointments and signing or vetoing laws. He has no business enlarging his own portfolio by engaging in this high faluting thuggery.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 12:09 am

Lee didn't depose Ross, he suspended him. As the City Charter allowed him to do. The Same City charter that we the people approved. Now the process takes place and goes its course. The Ethics commission does their thing and then the Board does there thing. You may dispute Lee's choice to do so, but he is on solid legal ground to start the process.

Just curious- Why make the distinction- "elected mayor" vs. plurality-elected sheriff"- are you trying to imply that Ross has a better claim to his office or etc. than Lee?

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 6:45 am

The actions taken by the mayor to please the pitchfork crowds in this case will backfire.

Pandering: Is the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal. The term is most notably associated with politics.

Posted by JC Court on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 8:30 am

Because you seem to like Ross as a politician. I wonder if you would consider it pandering if it was Greg Suhr accused, or perhaps another politician that you do not like as much?

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 9:21 am

@Dnative. According to you the people of Calfornia are the ones that are responsible for Eliana Lopez predicament.

Surely the people of California did not mean to treat Eliana Lopez that way, who wrote those unfair and misguided laws? Thanks.

Posted by JC Court on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 8:17 am

That the one responsible for all of this is the one person who has had trouble accepting that responsibility- Ross himself. He lost his temper and he grabbed his wife. No one made he do all of this. How is the DA, representing the people at fault? The DA did his job, he became aware of a crime, he charged it, the person accused, eventually decided to not take it to trial and plead guilty.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 9:20 am

Your point about this not being about punishing Ross Mirkarimi needs to be repeated again and again. It's about removing someone from office who, by his behavior both before and after he was sworn in, has shown himself not to be suitable to be Sheriff.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

perp had been George Bush?

It was liberals who wrote the zero-tolerance DV laws. The reason was that, while these provisions look like overkill when it is one of our own that is caught in the web, the simply fact is that such measure save lives.

If Ross had simply been allowed to go abck to Eliana without any conviction, probation, anger class and stayaway order, he would have been even more angry with her than he already was, because now she has caused him even more trouble than she did by simply wanting to visit her sick pa.

So, yeah, DV is over-punished. But liberals are responsbile for that and, in the aggregate if not in every single case, it is a waise precaution.

Elaina is now home with her family, which is where she clearly needs to be. While Ross needs to come to terms with his actions. As a Buddhist, you should know that acceptance is the first step. Ross really hasn't convinced anyone he has taken that on board yet and, in his heart, I think he still believes he has done nothing wrong.

But he has.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 11:46 am

"to dialogue" and made me crack up laughing at "transfeminist."

Posted by Chromefields on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

Lol. Glad I made you laugh at transfeminist.

Here is a definition of transfeminism from a blog on msmagazine
Transfeminism is simply one of numerous third-wave feminisms that take an intersectional approach to challenging sexism and oppression. The only thing different about trans feminism is that it extends this feminist analysis to transgender issues, which have been largely overlooked or misinterpreted by feminists in the past."
http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/04/18/trans-feminism-theres-no-conu...

I think it's useful in the current context. Third wave feminism has, imho, a more complex, nuanced approach and has a much deeper analysis around race and immigrant status than the older feminist approach of some "universal women's experience of domestic violence.

"The myth that there is some kind of universal women experience was debunked by women of color, among others, long ago. All of us have different life histories, sexism impacts each of our lives somewhat differently and each of us is privileged in some ways but not others."

Agreed, and this case is a prime example of this.

Posted by Gabriel Haaland on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

How is it a prime example?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

Interesting that a transgendered person would see that (and most likely, everything) like that.

Could I appeal for a little less self-absorbtion here?

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

Well, transfeminism is not about being transgender, although I can see why you would make that assumption. It's a lens through which one can look, just like men can be feminists, non trans people can be transfeminists.

Posted by Gabriel Haaland on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

abusing his wife? You're making a law that protects women from abusers like Ross into a law that exploits women.

Eliana is now back in Caracas. safe from violence, with her family, and she will seek a divorce. The law has protected her and ensured her safe passage home. Problem?

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

At the end of the day, Gabriel is right about this:

""Honestly, no "side" has been perfect. Those that are loyal to Ross seem unwilling to hear anything beyond how people are out to "get" him, and ...most of the resources against Ross are from a "side" that has all the social capital"""

Posted by Troll the XIV on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

I was getting worried, I got this far and hadn't read "at the end of the day" one time.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 12:03 am

I appreciate what you're trying to accomplish here, and I've posted repeatedly that I would be willing to give Mirk another chance as long as he finished anger management and other counseling, but I have a problem with some of the assertions in your piece.

"...demonizing Ross only externalizes the story, externalizes our own pain, denies our own impulses. Anyone who thinks that he or she is perfect or above this seriously needs a mirror."

This reads a little bit like you're saying we all have impulses to commit violence towards women. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt though.

"Myrna Melgar, a survivor of domestic violence, wrote a very thoughtful piece for the SF Bay Guardian on restorative justice as an alternative to the criminal justice response to domestic violence... How did it come to be that a system that was intended to empower women has evolved into a system that disempowers them so completely?"

The intentions behind our criminal justice system aren't about striving to "empower women", they're about discouraging crime and/or removing criminals from society. The intentions behind investigating ethical violations is to identify and stop corruption and misuse of power. Now, whether or not our system is proving successful in those goals, or if this is even the real motivation behind this specific investigation, is a different discussion. I do understand, however, that one of the aims of advocates for DV victims is to empower those victims, and that is a very noble goal. But Myrna was talking about changes to our criminal justice system, not about DV counseling.

"Myrna posits that the increased criminalization on low-level, first offenses of domestic violence on this one immigrant woman, Eliana Lopez, meant that a long list of mostly men spent the next few months making decisions on her behalf without her input as she was treated as incompetent to make decisions."

If I instigate aggressive physical action against someone and it is reported to authorities by a third party, the DA's office would be well within their rights to charge me with a crime, whether or not my victim cooperated. It's just that they usually don't because it's hard to prove without the victim's testimony. In Ross' case, they had the video Eliana made. So the "long list of men" weren't making decisions for Eliana, they were making decisions for the citizens of SF. Which is their job. It's "the People vs Mirkarimi", not "Eliana vs Ross". You're thinking of the divorce they'll be getting in the very near future. And another thing, insinuating that some sort of racism is at play here is distasteful, offensive, and, quite frankly, just plain tired.

"Ross never really had the opportunity to take 100 percent responsibility for his actions, which is the goal of restorative justice. For Ross to take 100 percent responsibility means not defending, not explaining, not evading. Simply taking responsibility. I haven't seen Ross do this -- but to be fair, he never had a chance.

Ridiculous. Ross has had every single moment of the last 4 months to take 100% responsibility. Are you arguing that the potential consequences he'd face from such an admission have made it impossible for him to be completely candid? Wrong. It's not impossible, it just takes backbone. If admitting guilt completely mitigated all legal consequences, people would admit everything, every time, without hesitation. But, without repercussions, would taking responsibility for one's own actions have any real meaning or value at all? It is the man who takes responsibility for his actions, despite the consequences of his admission, who deserves some portion of respect.

Posted by RamRod on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

This article is embarrassingly bad. I can't believe I wasted a couple minutes of my life reading it. While I am not a Budhist, a transfeminist (whatever that means; the definition above is obtuse), a domestic violence survivor or any other status the author tries to insert about himself to lend the article credibility (backfiring in the process), I can usually identify stupid bullshit when i read it. And this is stupid, poorly-written bullshit.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

The commish you say: "this is stupid, poorly-written bullshit."

Move along the commish, your attempt at belittling the writer of this fair article have failed. Thanks.

Posted by JC Court on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 8:03 am

only your opinion that this was a fair article huh JC? Move along JC Court, your attempt at belittling the writer of this post have failed. Thanks

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 9:29 am

which we all thought had died and buried after the 1990s, has reemerged like a zombie from its slumber. The effort to change the conversation to transfeminist and third-world person-of-color issues in what is really a cut-and-dried case of DV is really incredible. The thing about DV law is - it's not designed to allow one victim to be treated differently because they're Latina or because they're a transman - it treats all victims the same. That's because there was a long legacy of police and prosecutors NOT taking it seriously - especially in minority communities.

Ross didn't serve a jail term. He attends some classes and does interviews where he explains how sorry he is. That seems like restorative justice to me Gabs.

Anyway - the point of Gab's article is not to present a Buddhist, transfeminist perspective. It's to signal to the progressive community, of which Gabs is a self-proclaimed leader, to circle the wagons around Ross and keep him from being removed from office. The question is - are the three progressives on the Board towards whom this piece is aimed - Mar, Avalos and Campos - going to fall in line or are they going to try and save their own skins? Time will tell but either way Ross is facing a recall election which he's sure to lose.

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

When the left is under attack, even when due solely to their own stupidity as with Ross, the usual suspects play every identity card like it's 1999. The left never met a stereotype it didn't fall in love with and try and leverage.

Somehow Gabs morphed a lefty pol who got caught abusing his wife (and philandering left, right and center) into a victim of prejudice against trannies and non-whites, even though Ross is a privileged straight white "powerful man". Outstanding piece of role reversal.

How low will Mirk's apologists go? It's not clear yet as they keep surprising me.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

and then quiting when he couldn't monkey with the evidence before the trial, maybe Ross should have accepted responsibility someplace in the time line.

This apologia to progressive paranoia and salute to racialism is so strange.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

I couldn't agree with you more, and I really appreciate your perceptive and compassionate analysis. As you said, "We live in an emotionally and physically violent world, and demonizing Ross only externalizes the story, externalizes our own pain, denies our own impulses." Most of those who are bent on demonizing Ross Mirkarimi have little awareness of just how violent we are/ have become as a society. Look at the evidence. We now torture our fellow human beings; we drop cluster bombs on innocent children and innocent civilians; we shoot to kill with little or no accountability (Trayvon Martin), etc. Most parents I know are guilty of spanking or even beating their kids. And we get away with all this. When do we begin the process of taking responsibility for ourselves and the society we have created?

How convenient to have someone like Ross Mirkarimi come along to take the onus off ourselves. As Peter Gabel put it, "...by demonization of other groupings who become the repository of our fear of nonrecognition and humiliation that our own longing for love, acceptance, and recognition will be rejected rather than reciprocated. In this way, the liberal paradigm actually tends to create and recreate the very forms of unfreedom and inequality that in its conscious aspect it seeks to delegitimize and eradicate."

http://asitoughttobe.com/2012/03/14/peter-gabel-2/

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

I thought this poem by Kahlil Gibran was apropos

On Crime and Punishment

"The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,
And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.
Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured,
And still more often the condemned is the burden bearer for the guiltless and unblamed.
You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;
For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together.
And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also."

~Kahlil Gibran (excerpt from The Prophet)

Posted by lp on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

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