It's looking more and more like the Ethics Commission hearing for suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is going to be an ersatz trial for the domestic abuse charges for which he almost but wasn't tried albeit one that goes on for months with lengthy breaks and with the added drama of more charges from the mayor's side. Proceedings kicked off Monday with a lot of back and forth between Mayor Ed Lee and the "prosecution" and Mirkarimi's new attorney Shepard Kopp, with both sides presenting arguments about what the standard of proof will be, and what the Mayor and City Attorney's legal authority is in the "trial."
The commission is also being asked to weigh in on the legal question of whether Mirkarimi will have to submit to an investigative interview and hand over phone records (as evidence of dissuading a witness) if he is compelled to by the mayor. Some of the audience in the courtroom yesterday erupted into "incredulous laughter" when the mayor's team announced that they would be adding breach of duty charges to the list if Mirkarimi declines the interview and the phone record request.
Kopp was quick to rebut claims that Mirkarimi may have tried to dissuade witnesses (neighbor Ivory Madison and her husband) or urged them to destroy evidence (the video of Eliana Lopez's bruise), saying, "The sheriff did no such thing. We want that to be known to the public of San Francisco."
If the city brings in Madison's husband, Abraham Mertens, as a witness, he might say something different, given the angry editorial he penned in the Chron last month.
Mirkarimi told reporters after the hearing, "Because I made a mistake with my wife does not detract from my ability ... of being a very capable sheriff."
At least one Mirkarimi supporter, Tammy Bryant, told the AP that Mirkarimi is "a gentle soul," and that the whole case was based on hearsay. (And we should note, the AP story is currently running on the Boston Globe site, so this story has officially gone national.)
The hearing is expected to last months, and the panel will not convene again until May 29 to decide if, when, and how testimony will be heard. FYI, the members of the Ethics Commission are Benedict Y. Hur, Chairperson; Jamienne Studley, Vice-Chairperson; Beverly Hayon; Dorothy S. Liu; and Paul A. Renne. One member each was appointed by the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the city attorney, the district attorney and the county assessor. Following the hearing, the commission will forward a recommendation on to the Supes, and it will be up to them to decide Mirkarimi's fate by a super-majority of nine votes out of eleven.