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Lopez Returns To SF, Begins Testimony In Mirkarimi Ethics Hearing

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF / AP) -- The wife of suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi took the stand Wednesday night at her husband's hearing before the city's Ethics Commission.

Eliana Lopez was called to testify a little before 9 p.m. Wednesday.

She took the stand after Mirkarimi's former campaign manager, Linnette Peralta Haynes, testified for most of the hearing, which began around 5 p.m.

San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith had just directed his questions to the New Year's Eve argument that started a series of events that resulted in Mirkarimi's suspension when the hearing was continued to Thursday.

Lopez has supported her husband even though he bruised her arm during a New Year's Eve confrontation. The bruise was later documented in a  publicly released video.

Lopez arrived at City Hall shortly before 5 p.m. to a chaotic scene where more than 100 raucous supporters greeted her. She has said the effort to remove Mirkarimi from office has been a political witch hunt.

Her return to the U.S. occurred earlier this week when she flew in from her native Venezuela. Lopez had been living with the couple's young son Theo, and members of her family.

Lopez's primary challenge is to reconcile the tearful video showing the bruise on her arm with her recent statements that she does not believe she has been the victim of domestic abuse.

Attorney Paula Canny, who represents Lopez, now said she wasn't crying about the bruise at all.

"In her mind, she wasn't talking about abuse. In her mind, what she was talking about is her concern where Theo goes in the event of a divorce."

"What makes her cry is Theo," said Canny. "This was not about domestic violence. What she's going to say is this was about Theo."

"That's a bit of a stretch," said Melissa Griffin, an attorney and San Francisco Examiner columnist who has been closely following the proceedings. "In the video she's clearly pointing to the bruise, crying at the same time."

Griffin said the video is compelling evidence, so the sheriff's attorneys can only hope to minimize its effect by saying Eliana was actually crying about something other than the domestic violence.

"They can't deny that the event happened … that Ross Mirkarimi did cause the bruise," said Griffin. "In light of that, the best they can hope for is to say 'Yes, it did happen, but it's not that big of a deal.'"

Mayor Ed Lee has stood by his decision to suspend the sheriff back in March, after Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment in his domestic violence case.

"This is not a conspiracy. It is straightforward determination with my own moral conviction of what that office should stand for," Lee said to a flock of reporters before Wednesday's hearing.

The mayor said he feels bad for Lopez and Mirkarimi.

"I strongly believe that one who has pleaded, who has been found guilty and is now on probation for domestic violence ought not to have that top job," Lee continued.

The Ethics Commission may also decide whether to issue subpoenas for four witnesses who Mirkarimi's laywers are saying could speak to allegations the mayor perjured himself during his testimony. Lee has denied those claims, saying his testimony was truthful.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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