It's safe to say 2012 has not been kind to Ross Mirkarimi.
In the past four weeks, San Francisco's newly-elected sheriff has gone from a celebrated local politician with an army of loyal constituents to a national disgrace. He's been publicly shamed, ripped to shreds by pundits and barred -- twice -- from seeing his wife and young child. And the man takes a perplexingly terrible mug shot.
As a longtime resident of the Haight, I've been a fan of Mirkarimi, my progressive former District 5 Supervisor, for ages. The gregarious politico champions causes like marijuana legalization and equal rights for homeless people; issues near and dear to my heart. I met him one Sunday morning as he shook hands with residents along the panhandle, and I felt more than a little starstruck by my supe's booming presence. Sure, he wasn't the best listener I'd ever encountered (I had to repeat my job title at least three times even after we'd discussed a recent HuffPost profile of his sheriff's campaign), but his enthusiasm, charisma and Crest White Strips grin made up for it. I mean, the man never once averted his bespectacled eyes from my admiring gaze. The sign of a true politician.
And now, sadly, I count myself among the ranks of San Franciscans who believe the time has come for our sheriff to step aside. At least until this whole mess resolves itself.
A brief recap, for those of you who haven't been hanging onto every juicy detail as it unfolds:
Earlier this year, the sheriff's lovely wife, former Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez (of "Amor a Palos" fame), visited neighbor and family friend Ivory Madison, who helped coordinate campaign events for Mirkarimi last fall. During their conversation, Lopez confided in Madison that her husband forcefully grabbed her arm during a violent argument, creating a big bruise ("Daddy made a boo-boo on Mommy's arm," their two-year-old son, Theo, allegedly said at the time). Though Lopez swore her friend to secrecy, Madison videotaped the entire encounter to use as evidence should a custody battle ever ensue between the couple.
Then Madison made one phone call to the local police department, the media latched onto the story, and Mirkarimi's reputation went down the self-composting toilet.
First came a police investigation. Next an awkward swearing-in ceremony during which the officiator, Judge Katherine Feinstein (yes, that Feinstein), refused to parktake. Then the District Attorney's office formally charged the sheriff with three misdemeanor counts, including domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. Then another former lover came forward alleging abuse, with rumors of a third on the way. Then Mirkarimi's lawyer went on record calling the sheriff a "tyrant" and the pair parted ways. Finally, during his arraignment, the court barred him from making contact with his wife and his son until the trial resolved, despite tearful pleas from Lopez herself to reverse the order.
Local and national commentators weren't shy with their opinions, and the chorus of cries for Mirkarimi's resignation grew louder and louder until it completely drowned out his steadfast claims of innocence.
Meanwhile, a series of bizarre tidbits have emerged along the way, making the plot thicker than an episode of "Amor a Palos." Before Mirkarimi was formally charged, a group of anti-domestic violence activists staged a rally outside City Hall calling for his immediate resignation. Spotted among the crowd, otherwise incognito behind a pair of huge sunglasses? Lopez herself, who has publicly maintained her husband's innocence throughout the entire debacle despite a mounting wealth of evidence, including pages of personal emails and text messages with confidantes, that suggests the contrary.
The second alleged victim to come forward, Christina Flores, also raised a few eyebrows when SF Weekly revealed she used to be married to the SFPD domestic violence response team inspector. According to Flores, Mirkarimi bruised her arm during an argument as well. The sheriff ultimately ended their relationship after Lopez, whom he was involved with at the same time, became pregnant with their son.
Sobbing through an interview with Venezuelan radio station Noticias 24, Lopez claimed her husband was a victim of "very dirty politics." Indeed, the sheriff's long record as a progressive often placed him at odds with California's most powerful legislators. And Mirkarimi and San Francisco's more conservative DA George Gascon, who's leading the charges, have a history of political animosity. His takedown has played out in an almost pitch-perfect symphony of events, should his rivals actually be out to get him.
So what to make of all this?
At worst, our newly-elected sheriff subjected his wife to ongoing physical and psychological abuse, including particularly disturbing revelations that suggest he controlled her access to food and kept her in isolation. At best, my former favorite supervisor has a tendency to be hot-tempered with his subordinates.
I rarely agree with resident Chronicle curmudgeon C.W. Nevius, but I must join him in saying the best thing for both Mirkarimi and his family would be for the sheriff to take a leave of absence until the storm passes. At the very least, San Francisco will have less of a reason to hate him if he's ultimately proven innocent.
The whole thing ultimately just makes me want to take a long shower. I feel dirty being privy to the intimate details of Mirkarimi's dark personal life. Shouldn't the man be entitled to at least a little bit of privacy when slapped with such loaded charges, despite his stubborn refusal to step aside? A young child's well-being is at stake.
And yet as HuffPost SF's editor, it's my job to amplify the important parts of the tale to a much larger audience. So I'll continue to comb the Internet for every nugget between now and February 24, when his trial begins.
I'm having an existential crisis, Sheriff, and it's all your fault. (Or is it?)
Yes, these allegations are extremely troubling. No, a criminal certainly shouldn't serve as a city's top law enforcement official. Yes, politicians automatically expose themselves to public scrutiny the day they decide to run for office.
Maybe it's my District Five loyalty talking, but I have to admit I feel kinda bad for the guy.
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