San Francisco sheriff challenges suspension

March 27, 2012 - 3:25 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on Tuesday formally challenged his suspension as he faces a misconduct charge stemming from a domestic violence case.

Mirkarimi's attorneys filed a request in San Francisco Superior Court for a judge to review the suspension ordered by Mayor Ed Lee last week. They argue he can't be suspended over the alleged incident that triggered the criminal case because it happened before Mirkarimi took office.

"The courts have also held that an elected official can only be removed for conduct that is directly related to the performance of his official duties," the attorneys said in a statement. "The conduct in question did not occur at work and does not prevent the sheriff from being able carry out his job."

The decision to challenge his suspension is the latest show of defiance from the 50-year-old ex-member of the city's Board of Supervisors.

He originally pleaded not guilty to multiple domestic violence charges and a charge of child endangerment filed following an alleged New Year's Eve dispute that left his wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez, with a bruised arm.

His attorneys tried and ultimately failed to convince judges not to allow prosecutors to introduce as evidence a video in which Lopez displays the bruise and tearfully describes the incident.

Rather than go to trial, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor false imprisonment for a New Year's Eve dispute during which his wife's arm got bruised. More serious domestic violence charges were dropped in a plea deal with prosecutors.

Shortly after the plea, Lee demanded Mirkarimi's resignation. He filed official misconduct charges and suspended Mirkarimi after he refused to leave office.

The suspension denies Mirkarimi due process, his attorneys said, adding that the city's definition of official misconduct is unconstitutionally vague.

"We expected him to. He said he would fight this," Lee told reporters Tuesday while attending an event to mark the city's one-year anniversary of a local jobs hiring program.

Lee said he expects the Ethics Commission to hold a hearing on the misconduct charges in a few weeks.

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Associated Press writer Terry Collins contributed to this report.

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Marcus Wohlsen can be reached on Twitter: http://twitter.com/marcuswohlsen