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Vote to restore SF sheriff brings further division

Associated Press Modified: October 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm •  Published: October 11, 2012
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"It's a new day," Mirkarimi told reporters on Wednesday in City Hall. "I asked for a clean, effective transition."

After his election last fall, the sheriff was mired in controversy before his swearing-in ceremony. In March, Mayor Ed Lee suspended him without pay after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge related to the argument with his wife, Eliana Lopez, who suffered a bruised bicep.

Mirkarimi was sentenced to three years of probation and fined. He is undergoing court-ordered counseling and parenting classes.

Lee then took the unprecedented step of trying to remove Mirkarimi permanently as sheriff. In August, the city's Ethics Commission voted 4-1 that Mirkarimi committed official misconduct, setting the stage for the supervisors' long-awaited vote.

On Tuesday, after the board vote restored him as sheriff, Mirkarimi said the ordeal has been both agonizing and humbling. He said he plans to mend fences within the city and anti-domestic violence advocates.

But high emotions continued Wednesday as Lee lambasted Avalos, Campos, Kim and Olague over their decisions.

"I believe they sought out an excuse for an inexcusable act that was confirmed by the criminal courts," the mayor told reporters.

Lee said Mirkarimi's return to office tarnishes the city's nationally recognized programs designed to combat domestic violence.

One of Mirkarimi's attorneys, Shepard Kopp, said Wednesday that it appears Lee and Gascon did not hear what the board said during Tuesday's hearing. "Almost every one of them said that no matter the vote, the city needed to come together and move past this unsettling course of events," Kopp said.

San Francisco's sheriff does not have broad law enforcement powers as sheriffs do in other jurisdictions. The position mostly entails overseeing an organization of more than 800 sworn officers and a civilian staff of about 100.

Mirkarimi's case unfolded from a Dec. 31 argument between Mirkarimi and Lopez, over whether she could travel to her native Venezuela with their toddler son. During the dispute, Mirkarimi grabbed and bruised Lopez's arm.

Lopez turned to a neighbor who later contacted police after videotaping Lopez's tearful account of the incident.