The next-door neighbors of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife Eliana Lopez sued the couple for defamation in San Francisco Superior Court late last week.
The suit, filed by Ivory Madison and her husband Abraham Mertens, alleges that, over the course of the domestic violence scandal that nearly cost the sheriff his job last year, Mirkarimi and Lopez falsely claimed that Madison and Martens were part of a "political conspiracy" that involved lying to law enforcement authorities.
Madison has been a central figure in the embattled sheriff's maelstrom since she turned over video showing a distraught Lopez, sporting a bruise on her arm given by Mirkarimi, to police. The video's release set off a chain of events that led to the sheriff pleading guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment and being suspended without pay while San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee perused his (ultimately unsuccessful) removal from office.
KTVU reports that the suit seeks unspecified damages, a retraction of previous "defamatory" statements and a prohibition on making any new similar statements going forward.
In the months after Madison turned the video over to police, Mirkarimi and Lopez spoke out against their neighbor for contacting the police.
In an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle last year, Mertens wrote that Mirkarimi should resign from his position for waging what he charged was a campaign of harassment:
The last time I spoke to Eliana was when she called me on Jan. 4. I recognized what I thought was Ross' voice in the background as Eliana pressured me to destroy evidence and lie to the police. Then she repeatedly called Ivory, demanding that Ivory destroy the video, e-mail and texts from Eliana about the incident. I'm an attorney, but even if I were not, I would not destroy evidence, obstruct justice or lie to the police, and neither would my wife. Our criminal justice system can work only if most people follow the law and tell the truth to law enforcement.
After we refused to lie, Ross, Eliana and attorneys working for them attacked Ivory's character and motives. This included falsely accusing her of implausible criminal activity, such as being part of a vast political conspiracy to frame Ross, and practicing law without a license. They subpoenaed our confidential business and personal correspondence and the phone records of our friends. Reporters told us that Ross's attorneys were trying to feed them stories almost every day.
Mirkarimi's attorney, Shepard Kopp, dismissed the suit while speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's sad that these plaintiffs cannot just move on with their lives," he said. "This attention-seeking lawsuit will just drain more resources from the already overburdened Superior Court, which recently was forced to lay off 14 court commissioners. Eventually, it will be dismissed."