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SF sheriff faces sentencing for false imprisonment

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[March 19, 2012]  SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Embattled San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi faces sentencing for false imprisonment in a closely watched domestic violence case involving his Venezuelan actress wife, in a dramatic saga that has gripped his city for nearly three months.

The sentencing Monday for the misdemeanor comes a week after he pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal with prosecutors to likely avoid embarrassing testimony and jurors possibly seeing a video of his wife, Eliana Lopez, tearfully discussing the alleged incident during a trial.

However, District Attorney George Gascon has expressed concern that he's not convinced Mirkarimi really believes he is guilty of the crime.

Under the agreement, Mirkarimi will pay a $400 fine, receive three years of probation, a mandatory year in a domestic violence intervention program, community service and counseling.

He was initially charged with misdemeanor domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. He could have faced a year in prison if convicted of those charges.

"For the last two months, this case has caused my family, my department -the Sheriff's Department -- and this city, great turmoil, pain and disappointment," Mirkarimi told reporters last week. "This plea allows us to move forward.

"As I have, and I intend to return to the business of running one of the finest sheriff's departments in the nation, of mending my family and raising my son, Theo, in a safe and happy home."

But Gascon told the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board late last week that statements Mirkarimi has made to reporters about his mounting legal bills -- $125,000 and counting -- along with intense media coverage had been taking a toll on his family and was a considerable factor to take the plea deal.

Mirkarimi originally asked for a speedy trial.

"There is a guilty plea here, and I know there's almost an attempt to deny that this has occurred: 'I didn't really do this.' 'I'm being forced to do this.' That's very concerning to me, to be very honest with you," Gascon told the newspaper.

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Mirkarimi's attorney, Lidia Stiglich, said her client has unconditionally accepted responsibility for the incident.

Prosecutors say Mirkarimi, 50, bruised the arm of Lopez, 36, during an argument in front of their toddler son at their San Francisco home on New Year's Eve.

The next day, Lopez told her neighbor, Ivory Madision, who recorded a video in which Lopez, a former telenovela star, tearfully describes the alleged incident and a bruise on her right bicep.

Lopez's lawyers argued to no avail that the video should be withdrawn as evidence because she thought Madison was a lawyer and it was made under the assumption of attorney-client privilege. Madison graduated from law school, but is not a licensed attorney.

Anti-domestic violence advocates are calling for Mayor Ed Lee and the board of supervisors to remove Mirkarimi, a former supervisor, from office.

"This is a national embarrassment," Kathy Black, executive director of the nonprofit La Casa de las Madres, said about Mirkarimi. "I don't see how he can 'move forward' without first taking real responsibility."

[Associated Press; By TERRY COLLINS]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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