Video shows SF sheriff's wife detailing dispute

May 31, 2012 - 5:15 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The city attorney's office released an emotional video Thursday showing the actress-wife of suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi tearfully recounting a confrontation between the couple on New Year's Eve.

Obtained through a public records request, the 45-second clip features Eliana Lopez candidly discussing the dispute that remains a highly charged subject of debate in courtrooms and inside City Hall as Mirkarimi fights an ethics case against him.

In the video shot by a neighbor, Lopez says Mirkarimi mistreated her on two separate occasions last year and told her that he was a "very powerful" man who could take away their toddler son Theo.

"And I tell Ross I want to work on the marriage — we need help," Lopez says. "I have been telling him we need help."

She goes on to say, "I'm going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me. Because he did, he said that, that he's very powerful, and he can, he can do it."

Lopez also points to a purplish bruise on her right bicep where she says Mirkarimi grabbed her during the altercation.

The video was shot by neighbor Ivory Madison, whose call to police on Jan. 4 prompted an investigation. Authorities eventually confiscated the footage, along with text messages and emails exchanged between the two women.

Prosecutors previously released a transcript and still images from the video.

Mirkarimi was initially charged with domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. He eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in March and was suspended without pay as Mayor Ed Lee launched the ethics probe.

Lopez, who has returned to Venezuela with her son to tend to her ailing father, said in a written statement Thursday that she is saddened that city officials chose to make the video "viral" against her wishes.

"Because of their actions the images on that video will exist forever for anyone to see — including my son, Theo, now and forever. My grandchildren will see the video, as well as my great grandchildren," Lopez said. "I believe what (they) have done to me is far worse than anything they accuse Ross of doing."

Lee said that the video is a key piece of evidence needed to remove Mirkarimi from his job for official misconduct. Lawyers for the couple have argued that showing it would only embarrass and humiliate the family.

"The release of the video utterly violates my wife's rights and serves no public good," Mirkarimi said in a written statement Thursday. "It is the politics of destruction at its worst, and those who advocated its release should be ashamed."

Mirkarimi has said he inadvertently bruised Lopez's arm during an argument in their car in an effort to shield their son from her and guide her back into the passenger's seat. He said the dispute occurred after Lopez asked if she could take their son to her native Venezuela for an extended stay.

With a team of lawyers, Mirkarimi has vowed to fight for his job as the city Ethics Commission prepares to hold a lengthy hearing on the matter starting next month. The five-member panel will then issue a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to permanently remove Mirkarimi from office.