SAN FRANCISCO - The fate of San Francisco's embattled Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi remains in limbo, as the city's Ethics Commission handed down its recommendation Thursday evening on the misconduct charges brought forth by Mayor Ed Lee.
In a four-to-one ruling, the body found that Mirkarimi committed official misconduct, although it did not reach a conclusion as to whether they should recommend to the Board of Supervisors that he be removed from office.
Of the six misconduct charges against the sheriff, the commissioners only found Mirkarimi guilty of one: physical violence against his wife, Eliana Lopez.
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The Board of Supervisors will have the ultimate say on removing Mirkarimi, a former member of the Board himself, from his position atop the city's Sheriff Department. For Lee to get his way, nine of the eleven Supervisors need to vote for removal.
The Ethics Commission's decision came after a full day of closing statements from both Mirkarimi's lawyers and representatives from the City Attorney's office, as well as extensive and impassioned comments from members of the public.
Around noon on Thursday, around 100 people gathered near the Civic Center to voice their opinions about Mirkarimi's fate.
About 50 women, largely domestic violence advocates, stood on the steps of City Hall denouncing him unfit for office. "The facts in this case are clear and they recommend removal," said San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium Director Beverly Upton. "[Mirkarimi] has betrayed the trust of San Francisco. There is no excuse for domestic violence and no excuse for misconduct."
Directly across the street, another group, also about 50 strong, carried signs reading "Stand with Ross," called Mayor Lee a "liar" and cheered the controversial progressive as a political hero.
"This is all political," charged Mirkarimi supporter David Grace. "They're only targeting Ross because he stands up to the corrupt machine that runs this city."
Julian Davis, a candidate running to fill the District 5 supervisor seat vacated by Mirkarimi, was also present at the event.
The entire saga, which has played itself out over the course of the past year, has devolved into nothing short of a circus.
The debacle sprung from an incident that occurred last New Year's Eve, during which Mirkarimi allegedly bruised the arm of his wife, former Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez, during an argument. Lopez confided his actions to neighbor and former political supporter Ivory Madison, who captured the confession on video to use as evidence should a custody battle follow. The video was subsequently released to the public.
At the time of the incident, Mirkarmi had been elected Sheriff but had yet to be officially sworn into office.
The former Supervisor was initially charged with domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness; however, shortly before his trial was to begin, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to new charge of misdemeanor false imprisonment and was sentenced to probation.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Lopez has stood by her husband, saying that what transpired was not domestic violence. She refused to cooperate with police or San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, fleeing to her native Venezuela for much of the year.
In the days following the guilty plea, Lee temporarily suspended Mirkarimi from office without pay and began official misconduct proceedings. This temporary suspension (without pay) was the strongest weaponry available in the mayor's silo of legal tools to remove Mirkarimi from office for good.
The largely unprecedented Ethics Commission hearings have been controversial from the start, but temporarily erupted into chaos when Lee himself took the stand and, during testimony that was interrupted by a bizarre bomb threat, possibly committed perjury.
Neither the Ethics Commission nor the city's District Attorney's office, however, has decided to pursue those allegations.
The Ethics Commission will meet again in the coming weeks to prepare a document with its recommendations for removing Mirkarimi from office.
In the meantime, interim sheriff Vicki Hennessy will continue running the Sheriff's Department, operating San Francisco's county jails and prison rehabilitation services.
Check out these photos from Thursday's protest: