By Paul Elias
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco mayor says he's suspending the city's embattled sheriff and intends to permanently remove him from office following a domestic violence conviction involving the law enforcement official's Venezuelan actress wife.
Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday that Ross Mirkarimi rejected his suggestion to resign after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge. Lee said he will file official misconduct charges Wednesday and the matter will be referred to the city's Ethics Commission.
"He has chosen not to resign, and now I must act," Lee said. "Sheriff Mirkarimi's actions and confession of guilt clearly fall below the below the standards of decency and good faith rightly required of all public officials."
If Lee succeeds in removing Mirkarimi as sheriff, the mayor will need the votes from nine of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors.
Earlier, a defiant Mirkarimi said he would fight to keep his job because he believes he didn't "official misconduct." The New Year's Eve dispute with his wife, Eliana Lopez, at their home in front of their toddler son left her with a bruise on her arm.
Mirkarimi was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 8.
"I wanted to and have taken full responsibility," a sweat-drenched Mirkarimi told reporters outside his office in City Hall. "At this time, I do not plan to resign."
Mirkarimi said he hasn't spoken to his wife in nine weeks and is allowed to visit his son for about two hours each day because of an order issued by a judge. A separate order also prohibits the sheriff from carrying a gun.
He said his chief aim is reconciling with his family. "It's been cruel. It's been crushing," he said.
Mirkarimi also called a neighbor's accusation that he and his Lopez pressured him to destroy evidence and lie to the police a "complete fabrication." The claims were published Tuesday on the San Francisco Chronicle's opinion page, leading Lopez to cancel an appearance at a press conference to discuss the case.
Lopez' attorney, Paula Canny, said she advised the sheriff's wife to refrain from public comments because lawsuits were threatened.
Attorney Lidia Stiglich told The Associated Press that Mirkarimi will hire another attorney with more City Hall experience to represent him before the city's Ethics Commission and the Board of Supervisors.
Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in exchange for the dropping of three other misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. The plea deal was struck as a jury was being picked for a trial that promised to embarrass the sheriff with testimony about infidelity, his temper and other intimate details.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said the false imprisonment charge was a domestic violence plea and the conviction was just as serious as the three charges that were dropped.
On Monday, a judge sentenced Mirkarimi to three years of probation and a year of counseling. Under the plea agreement, Mirkarimi must pay $590 in fines, serve probation, spend a year in a domestic violence intervention program, take parenting classes and do community service.
The district attorney said Mirkarimi will be barred from carrying a gun until a judge lifts a stay-away order that prevents the sheriff from seeing his wife without court permission. Gascon said that order could stay in place for the entire three years of probation.
Mirkarimi said he was undergoing counseling to address "my arrogance and anger management issues" and reiterated his advocacy against domestic violence during his time as a board supervisor.
Meanwhile, Lee has named a retired chief deputy, Vicki Hennessy, to serve as interim sheriff.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press