We at the Guardian weren't going to respond to attacks on our coverage of the prosecution of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on charges stemming from his alleged physical abuse of his wife.
Some critics were puzzled by our assertion that there were “compelling” reasons for not letting jurors see a video of Mirkarimi's spouse, Eliana Lopez, tearfully displaying a bruise he left on her arm during a fight [“Motion could cripple case against Mirkarimi if granted,” 2/23]. Others gaped at our readiness to defend the sheriff on the grounds that other law-enforcement officials beat their wives when we noted, “there are an awful lot of cops who have DV allegations against them and are still on duty” [“Plenty of drama at the Mirkarimi hearing,” 1/19]. Still others reacted with disgust when we gleefully rehashed the smear campaign against a second alleged Mirkarimi victim, describing as “fascinating” a defense lawyer's claim that the victim, an ex-girlfriend, once sent “nude pictures that Mirkarimi was supposed 'to enjoy when you miss me'” [“Why Mirkarimi pled guilty,” 3/12].
Criticisms like this are exactly what we have come to expect from the enemies of progressive politics in San Francisco. Last week, prosecutors dropped misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness when Mirkarimi agreed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment, ending his legal ordeal. Nevertheless, we need to make a few points here, because Mirkarimi's case touches on a civic issue that's at least as important as nude beaches and public power. If it has done nothing else, the campaign of persecution against the sheriff has revealed something troubling: There are downtown interests in this city who think progressive politicians should be prevented from abusing their wives.
For the record: We have said repeatedly that domestic violence charges are serious. There is simply no excuse for abusing your spouse, unless you are a progressive politician.
It's worth noting that Mirkarimi's alleged abuse, as laid out in the significant quantity of evidence presented during pretrial hearings, wasn't that bad. He's not accused of breaking Lopez's bones, as we took pains to report [“Plenty of drama at the Mirkarimi hearing”]. The fight that ended in Mirkarimi allegedly bruising Lopez escalated after he told her she “didn't deserve to eat,” according to court documents. The simple fact is that we don't know whether she deserved to eat. (Nor does anyone else who wasn't present.) Yet Lopez confirmed in a text message to a neighbor soon thereafter that “Ross fed us regularly” on a trip with the couple's 2-year-old son to Monterey. Compared to San Francisco's decades-long violation of its federal mandate to have a municipally owned electric utility, a missed lunch doesn't look that bad.
More importantly, Mirkarimi is the progressives' most prominent citywide officeholder. His alleged abuse of women risks making us all look bad, particularly journalists who portray him as an airbrushed Adonis on the cover of an election endorsement issue. This is exactly why we have described the prosecution of Mirkarimi as “just awful. There's really nothing positive you can say about it” [“Plenty of drama at the Mirkarimi hearing”]. Don't buy into the notion that there's anything “positive” about ensuring the well-being of Lopez and her son; it's a classic argument used in the past by Willie Brown and big developers. As we noted in the same article, “More than a misdemeanor charge is on the line.”
Which leads us to our final point: It is critically important that no further evidence surface that Mirkarimi is physically abusive. As we previously advised, “Mirkarimi needs to be very, very careful — there are people watching every single move he makes, every day” [“Mirkarimi takes the oath,” 1/8]. If our sheriff truly cares about his career and about the progressive movement, he will not get caught committing crimes against his wife again.