New San Francisco sheriff Ross Mirkarimi charged with battering his wife

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, and his wife Eliana Lopez walk away after speaking to reporters at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. A prosecutor says he has charged San Francisco's newly sworn-in sheriff with misdemeanors, including domestic violence, related to a New Year's Eve incident with his wife.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, center, and his wife Eliana Lopez, walk away after speaking to reporters at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

(CBS/AP) SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco's new sheriff was on the job less than a week before he was charged with battering his wife during a New Year's Eve incident.

Ross Mirkarimi, the city's first new sheriff in more than 30 years, was charged with domestic battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, all misdemeanors. Mirkarimi, 50, disputes all the charges.

If convicted, he would be prohibited from carrying a gun, fined, and receive probation or up to a year in jail.

On New Year's Eve, Mirkarimi allegedly grabbed his wife, former Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez, bruising her upper arm in their San Francisco home.

After the alleged domestic violence incident on Dec. 31, Mirkarimi's wife turned to a neighbor, who contacted police. Authorities confiscated video the neighbor had taken of Lopez's arm and text messages between the two women.

Lopez later said in a written statement that the episode was "completely taken out of context." Moments after he was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 8, Mirkarimi called the incident "a private matter, a family matter."

But on Friday, the sheriff appeared outside his City Hall office, telling gathered reporters that he would fight the charges and would not resign. "The charges are very unfounded," he said.

Lopez, by his side, appeared dazed by the turn of events. "I don't have any complaint against my husband," she said. "This is unbelievable."

Mirkarimi, who graduated from the San Francisco Police Academy and served nine years as an investigator for the district attorney, had been a member of the city's Board of Supervisors since 2004. He won a close election in November to replace longtime progressive sheriff Michael Hennessey. He was not backed by the deputies' union, but his name recognition and liberal politics helped him win the seat.

As a county supervisor, representing a district that includes Haight-Ashbury, Mirkarimi led efforts to introduce the nation's first ban on plastic bags in grocery stores. He also advocated legalizing medical marijuana and co-founded the California Green Party.

"It may be hard for (Mirkarimi) to stay in office if this case goes to trial," said Weisberg, the director of Stanford's Criminal Justice Center. "You've got to assume that the police and the DA's office are being incredibly careful about this and really vetted this before going through. This just has great significance and sensitivity. These are not frivolous charges."