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    SF Sheriff's actress wife adds to trial drama

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Months after moving to the United States, Latin America telenovela star Eliana Lopez blogged about her hopes and aspirations for her new, simpler life as a wife and mother, far from the bright lights of TV and movies.

    The Venezuelan actress was excited about living in San Francisco— "a beautiful and avant-garde city where millions of interesting people make things happen every day" —raising her son with then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, and teaching bilingual mother-and-baby dance classes.

    "To try to be conscious of my life whenever possible, of what scares me, of what I love and what moves me," Lopez wrote in 2010. "To try to ask questions of myself and what surrounds me, to question myself and not wake up one day and see my son as a stranger, thinking that life passed me by ... That is my goal."

    Today, Lopez is back in the spotlight. This time as an alleged victim of domestic violence as her husband, Mirkarimi — now the embattled San Francisco sheriff — faces trial this week on misdemeanor criminal charges that he grabbed and bruised her arm in front of their toddler son on New Year's Eve.

    Lopez has become a symbol, willing or not, for anti-domestic violence advocates and the central figure in a case that has already separated her family and threatens her husband's political career. A video purportedly showing her discussing what happened has emerged as key evidence.

    On Feb. 27, Judge Garrett Wong ruled the video could be used as evidence as Mirkarimi's attorneys sought a mistrial. Then Lopez's lawyers argued two days later that the video be inadmissible to no avail, after prosecutors released photo images from the video showing an emotional Lopez with a noticeable bruise on her arm.

    Lopez's lawyers appealed, and on Friday a judge put on hold using the video until he could rule on its admissibility.

    Lopez probably did not want this type of celebrity and Mirkarimi can't afford anything less than an acquittal, said Rory Little, a professor at the University of California Hastings School of Law in San Francisco.

    "It's an unfortunate cycle for some victims in that they may regret calling attention to their partner's apparent brief loss of control," said Little, a former federal prosecutor. "But then again, we don't know what happened. That's what makes these domestic violence cases difficult to prosecute because there are usually no witnesses, except for the victim and the defendant."

    Both Lopez and Mirkarimi have repeatedly denied the allegations. She went on Venezuelan radio in January declaring that prosecutors are out to get her husband.

    She also stood by Mirkarimi as he was sworn in as sheriff, just days before he was booked at his own jail. And she later tearfully told a judge that that she is not some "poor little immigrant," adding, "I'm not afraid of my husband at all."

    While the judge found Lopez to be strong and "quite charming," he said there was still a "volatile situation" at play. The sheriff is under a court order to stay away from Lopez, although he recently has been allowed to see his son.

    Lopez is dejected that the case is proceeding, said Paula Canny, one of her lawyers.

    "She feels disrespected by the government," Canny said. "She has repeatedly advised them that there was no act of domestic violence, it was an argument. As a family, they're a wreck. This isn't supposed to happen in America."

    Asked whether her client would take the witness stand, Canny initially said they were "keeping all options open." Later, though, she expressed doubts.

    "(The prosecution) are trying to squeeze her to testify," Canny said. "The irony of it is, they won't grant her immunity...I want a blanket grant of immunity that would cover anything and everything in federal court and in immigration proceedings. She's not testifying (otherwise)."

    But Bay Area defense attorney Michael Cardoza said he thinks Lopez could be compelled to testify as the alleged victim. "I highly doubt that she will be allowed to keep quiet," he said.

    Lopez, 36, has appeared in numerous TV shows and films in Latin America. She is perhaps best known as Oriana Ponce De León, a villain-turned-heroine on the Venezuelan telenovela, "Amor a Palos."

    She's scheduled to star later this year as Venezuelan Independence War heroine Luisa Caceres de Arismendi in the feature film, "The Colonel's Wife."

    Lopez met Mirkarimi in 2008 at an environmental conference in Brazil. They married after she gave birth to their son, Theo, in 2009.

    The couple kept mostly out of the public eye until Mirkarimi, 50, with his term ending as a supervisor, announced his run for sheriff last spring. Mirkarimi, a former investigator in the District Attorney's Office, won handily in November.

    During an argument at their home less than two months later, Mirkarimi grabbed Lopez and bruised her right arm, authorities say.

    The next day, Lopez turned to a neighbor, Ivory Madison, who later contacted police. They eventually confiscated video Madison had taken, along with text messages and emails between the two women. Prosecutors say Lopez recounted Mirkarimi's actions on the video.

    "I'm going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me," Lopez said on the video, according to court documents. "Because he did, he said that, that he's very powerful, and he can, he can do it."

    The video shows Lopez pointing to a bruise on her right bicep where she says Mirkarimi grabbed her, a police affidavit says.

    Mirkarimi's defense attorneys argue that Lopez's statements should be inadmissible because they were intended to help her gain custody of their son if the marriage failed. "The videotape itself was the product of a reflective and deliberate decision to create evidence for purposes of a custody proceeding," wrote Mirkarimi attorney Lidia Stiglich, calling it hearsay.

    Mirkarimi pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. He could face up to a year in jail, if convicted.

    After he was sworn in as sheriff, Mirkarimi called the alleged incident "a private matter, a family matter." And that inflamed anti-domestic violence advocates who commissioned a billboard near the Hall of Justice that reads, "Domestic violence is NEVER a private matter."

    "If that's his last word, then that's 30 to 40 years of our work down the drain and all of the gains we've desperately worked so hard for to get victims to speak up," said Kathy Black, executive director of La Casa de las Madres, the nonprofit behind the billboard.

    Black said advocates raised more than expected to put up five more billboards — in Spanish.


    Associated Press writer Garance Burke contributed to this report.

    • Gary J  •  Port Lavaca, Texas  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      The only person I want to get a hold of is the idiot at yahoo that put the bar at the bottom of my screen.
    • Randy  •  Indianapolis, Indiana  •  1 day 7 hrs ago
      I am all for victim's rights. The hard part, sometimes it is not clear who the victim is. But once someone is in the system, the judges and lawyers all want your money. They meet at the country club, and decide their cases there. Oh yeah, and divvy up your money.
    • troy  •  1 day 8 hrs ago
      here in washington state you better watch out. seen enough cases where the police arrested JUST MEN, never a woman, for the slightest incidents. last time a soldier was arrested for calming his wife with a hug, because she was upset about something else, what had nothing to do with him. it happened in the mall, the police was called and he was arrested for domestic violence. and there are so many cases like this one.
    • William  •  San Diego, California  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      i did 90 days in jail for using my open hand to spank my son..yes my hand print was on his butt...his younger sister was in the emergency room because she aspirated sand when he tried to bury her alive,,,he wanted to be a magician
    • JL  •  Sacramento, California  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      Marry a drama queen, get drama.
    • sus100  •  1 day 8 hrs ago
      "Grabbed & bruised her arm" and she's a "symbol for domestic violence"? what a joke. Can't they find a better "symbol" than that? Domestic violence is a serious issue, but it shouldn't be a vengence tool for an angry wife to use in order to punish her husband.
    • Denver Businessman  •  Denver, Colorado  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      Yes, domestic violence is very bad and should never be condoned. However, if a husband and wife are arguing and the wife calls the police and says that her husband 'hit her' when in fact, he never raised his hand to her... guess who is going to jail. It's NOT the wife!
    • VVV  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      How in the world is this woman a model for domestic violence?
      First it is not like she almost got killed or shot by her husband and survived second she had a bruised arm yet stayed with her abusive husband.Third the whole story sounds made up....
      Sorry but i do not believe her .
    • Hairy  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      I bet the day he married that woman he wishes he had gone fishing.
    • Will  •  1 day 6 hrs ago
      She makes a video acknowledging the abuse to protect her custody issue and then feels "disrespected" by law enforcement for not dropping the case as she now wants, ok, I think I got it now...
    • White DEVIL  •  Knoxville, Tennessee  •  1 day 3 hrs ago
      wow grabbing someone's arm with force is domestic violence, what a joke, this country is #$%$
    • jackd  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      Seems the definition of "domestic violence" has been watered down to mean just about anything. Just like "sexual assault" used to mean rape ... now it means "he touched me on my shoulder when I didnt' want him to, and I didn't say anything because I felt too uncomfortable". Does a disservice in my opinion to victims of real violent assaults.
    • happy  •  1 day 8 hrs ago
      Billboards in spanish? Should not billboards in the US be in english?
    • Jeremy H  •  Southfield, Michigan  •  1 day 1 hr ago
      What a tremendous waste of time and resources. Grab your wife's arm and go to prison, awesome!!
    • yogi  •  1 day 8 hrs ago
      Haven't seen the pics but it sounds like the prosecution is just out to get the Sheriff period!!!
    • Daddy O  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      ..."this isn't supposed to happen in America"..? Maybe in the 60's, welcome to the new world order where no matter where you go in the world, money hungry idiots are in power ruling and dictating with, well, idiocy! Not to mention heavy helpings of self righteous hypocrisy and malicious intent. Even in what was once the good ol' US of A.
    • Aussie McCRoc  •  1 day 8 hrs ago
      Hmm... another one of those US out of control legal dramas over nothing much ..... ho hum
    • Johnny Blaze  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      im not touching anyone ever again out of fear of being sued. hugs, out the window. could bruise someone. high five? never again, might leave a bruise. a kiss could be determined to be rape, and god forbid you play fight with a freind.... you will go to prison
    • Pamela  •  San Francisco, California  •  1 day 9 hrs ago
      Has anyone thought that as an actress she was being dramatic to her "so called friend" for a specific reason that had nothing to do with actual spousal abuse? No one but the two of them know what was going on that day, although I am not taking side I jut think all possibilities should be explored. I bruise easily and know how easy it is for someone to hold me too tight and a bruise shows up the next day-My teenaged son grabbed my arm to keep me from falling down the steps once and I ended up with a bruised upper arm. Just saying think of all possibilities
    • Gage Karsten  •  Windsor, California  •  1 day 8 hrs ago
      Of course she's denying it now....she sees her livelihood slipping away if he's convicted. If he's acquitted, they will be divorced in a year.
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