Before the vote, lawyers for the mayor's office and the sheriff stated their cases. Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser said Mirkarimi committed an act of domestic violence that should not be ignored.
"It wasn't a mistake on Dec. 31. It was a crime, a very serious crime," Kaiser said, bringing a chorus of boos from the crowd.
Mirkarimi's attorneys, David Waggoner and Shepard Kopp, said the city continues to give ambiguous interpretations of official misconduct.
"The punishment doesn't fit the crime," Waggoner said.
After the hearing, Waggoner said, "The mayor was not able to convince the board that Ross Mirkarimi should be removed as sheriff. Ultimately, the mayor and the sheriff are going to have to work together."
Mirkarimi was elected sheriff in November after serving seven years as one of the city's more liberal supervisors. Lopez, who starred in TV shows and films in Latin America, seemingly put her budding career on hold and became a mother after marrying Mirkarimi, then a rising political figure in San Francisco. The couple met in 2008 at an environmental conference in Brazil.
Mirkarimi's woes began on Dec. 31 when he got into an argument with Lopez over whether she could travel to her native Venezuela with their toddler son. Mirkarimi later acknowledged — at times tearfully — bruising his wife's arm with an overly firm grip.
The next day, Lopez turned to a neighbor, Ivory Madison, who later contacted police. Authorities eventually confiscated video Madison had taken, along with text messages and emails between the two women.
The video shows Lopez tearfully pointing to a bruise on her right bicep, where she said Mirkarimi had grabbed her.
When Mirkarimi appeared at his Jan. 8 swearing-in ceremony with his wife and son, he called the incident a "private matter, a family matter" — a comment that led many anti-domestic violence groups to urge Mirkarimi to step down.
The couple has since reunited and said attempts to remove Mirkarimi are a political witch hunt.
Relatively few at the hearing called for the sheriff's ouster. Beverly Upton, executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium, told board members that Mirkarimi's crime requires disciplinary action on their behalf. "I know today will take leadership and courage," said Upton, the anti-domestic violence advocate. "The facts matter. The world is watching."
However, Brenda Barros of San Francisco said many people don't entirely agree with the anti-domestic violence advocacy groups regarding Mirkarimi. "Don't make the assumption that all women agree with these women, because we don't," Barros said to loud applause.
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