Former girlfriend defends Mirkarimi

Evelyn Nieves spend eight years with Ross

By Evelyn Nieves

For months, I’ve watched as Ross Mirkarimi has been slandered as a “wife beater”—by the mayor of San Francisco, no less—and vilified in the press based on lies, half-truths and innuendo.  It has been heart-breaking, nauseating, to witness.

I know for a fact that Ross is no abuser. He and I were a couple for eight years. For most of that time, we lived together. Not once did Ross even come close to making me feel unsafe in his presence. He never threatened me. He would walk away or cry “uncle” rather than argue. He simply had no stomach for it.

When the news broke last January that Ross, newly elected as San Francisco’s Sheriff but not yet sworn in, might be arrested on domestic violence charges, I was sure the accusation wouldn’t stick. Not once people knew the facts.

I was naïve.

By now, everyone knows that Ross and his wife, Eliana Lopez, got in an argument in their car on New Year’s Eve. She wanted to take their toddler to her native Venezuela, and Ross, bereft the last time a one-month trip to Venezuela stretched into several, balked. Eliana moved to exit the car and Ross held her, a second too long, causing a bruise. Eliana called a friend and made a videotape of the bruise the next day in case she and Ross ended up in a custody battle. Four days later, without Ross’s wife knowing, the friend called police.

The hell that broke loose is worthy of an Errol Morris documentary. The San Francisco District Attorney, a political opponent, sent four investigators to interview all of Ross’s neighbors. That never happens in a misdemeanor case--it costs too much time and money. Anti-domestic violence advocates began calling for Ross’s head even before he was charged.

We all want to stop abusers in their tracks. But let’s make sure we are properly identifying the abuser.

Early on, in January, the Bay Citizen interviewed me. I expected the other local newspapers to contact me or pick up my quotes, which essentially said that Ross never, ever came close to abusing me. But no reporter from the local dailies that were splashing all kinds of hearsay on their front pages ever contacted me. This even after I contacted them to try to correct falsehoods being reported as fact.

I was fully prepared to testify had Ross’s case gone to trial. I knew facts that would contradict lies made to condemn him.  I still wish the case had gone to trial. But at the time that Ross pled guilty to “false imprisonment”--for turning his car around to go home when the argument threatened to spill out into a restaurant he and his wife planned to enter--his lawyer told me she believed that Ross could not get a fair trial. The last straw was when the judge refused a change of venue.

So Ross pleaded guilty so he could have his wife and son back, end the hysteria and try to go and do his job.

Instead, the mayor used Ross’s guilty plea as an excuse to suspend him without pay—without any due process—starting several more months’ of investigation, interrogation and character assassination at Ethics Commission hearings. And for what? In the end, the five-member Ethics Commission, three of whom are appointed by the Mayor, found Ross guilty of only one charge: grabbing his wife’s arm. One member wondered what the people would say if they decided not to uphold the Mayor’s rash suspension and declaration of “official misconduct.” Well, in the few times that I’ve met with Ross in the last few months, he was stopped everywhere by people of every demographic group. Old, young, progressive, moderate, and of every ethnicity. All wanted to express their support and their contempt for what has happened to him. All blamed politics.

I had not seen Ross much in the years since we parted. I moved to another side of the city, moved in different circles. But, in essence, he has not changed much.

The last time I saw him before this case exploded was before Christmas. On a Saturday morning, Ross was in his District Five supervisor uniform—gray suit, white shirt, wingtips. He had already gone to one neighborhood meeting and was on his way to another, even though his official duties as supervisor were over and he was supposed to be on vacation. I kidded him about this, and he shrugged and said, “Well, you know me.”

I do.  And so I’ll say with confidence that Ross does not deserve what he has endured. He deserves vindication, and the chance to do the job he was elected to do.

Evelyn Nieves is a longtime journalist and former New York Times bureau chief.


Will this drama ever end?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

in just a few hours. Do you usually give up right before the climax?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

for what they are: irresponsible sensationalism at best, grotesquely skewed Lee/Brown machine propaganda at worst. I never wished a newspaper to go out of business before this. The Chronicle has been disgusting.

Read the early stories. Unbelievable.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

While if another "friend" knew Ross to be a serial abuser, would the SFBG print it.

Pure unadulterated bias.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

Evelyn Nieves was Ross' live-in partner "for the better part of a decade", as she said. She was not just a friend but someone who knew Ross intimately over a period of years. Contrast this with the Christine Flores, who did not live with Ross, had merely dated him casually for a year and a half, and had an axe to grind when he decided to break it off. Not to mention that she has strong connections with Cunnie supporters in the SFPD. Who is more credible? To me, there's no question. Nieves, who is also a highly respected journalist, is the one person that the DA, the EC, and the courts should have listened to. The fact that they didn't want to hear from her just goes to show how highly politicized this case has become.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:38 am
Posted by jccourt on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:05 am

claims to have this inside knowledge of what really happened.

Worthless crap.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 08, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

After an 8 years relationship, which included living together, you can be assured that Ms Nieves is better placed than you to provide accurate information about the Sheriff's character. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:19 am

I bet you wouldn't say that if she weren't being supportive of the Sheriff.

Posted by Hortencia on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:34 am

She is telling the truth, that is what is important. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

but of course you ignore that, ChrisCraft.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

Domestic violence is a VERY serious problem, with many women hiding the abuse for years before having the courage to extricate themselves from the situation or confronting their abuser in a public process (or both).

Like child abuse, the victim often feels powerless, and endures much psychological damage that lasts for years, well beyond the physical scars.

When I first heard of Ross' charges, I thought "Oh no, a true fighter for real reform in the criminal justice system is being taken off the political stage," a thought that remains valid, even today. Sheriffs in far too many of our counties seem beholden to the REPUBLICAN "tough on crime" mantra that fills our jails and prisons with black and Latino men - most on non-violent drug offenses. But Ross was one of the "good guys" who sees the excessive incarceration and punishment of non violent and non-serious offenders in its true light, and was determined to do something about it as our new sheriff.

It is therefore SHAMEFUL to hide behind good women and men who fight on the front lines against domestic violence every day in an effort to try to remove Ross from office.

Yes, he grabbed his wife's arm when she was trying to get out of the car and go into a restaurant, and maybe he should have just sat in the car until she got the message that he was not going to continue the argument in a public restaurant which would have encouraged her to get back in the car or eat alone. But is this the kind of "domestic violence" that rises to the level of removing a sheriff from office? No.

We have to stop this tendency to convert minor offenses into MAJOR CRIMES AND MAJOR PUNISHMENT, as this serves no useful purpose in our community. A minor offense is a minor offense, and should ALWAYS be distinguished from a major offense, or law enforcement becomes arbitrary and meaningless.

Let's give Ross a chance to do his job. This is just pure nonsense that domestic violence advocates cannot work with Ross because of this "pulling back into the car" incident. Ross has clearly been sensitized to the domestic violence issue like no other sheriff in recent memory, and therefore would be a STRONGER advocate than any other sheriff who has not gone through what Ross has endured already.

And if the VOTERS believe Ross didn't do a good job as sheriff when his term is up, then they can certainly elect another sheriff if that is what they want. But it is entirely inappropriate to allow local politicians to politicize the domestic violence issue to pursue their own political agendas at Ross' expense.

Posted by Metteyya Brahmana on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:03 am

universally understood and acknowledged. It's possible that it might in some circumstances be overkill. But history and experience tells us that only by nipping the systemic pattern of abuse can serious injury and even death be avoided.

The sad fact is that DV is rarely an isolated thing. DV comes from a place where there is a fundamental lack of respect for one's partner, and where it is deemed OK to project power and force to impose ones' will. There have been enough other allegations of Ross's arrogance and anger to believe that this was far from an isolated incident, and I deem it very probably that, had a neighbour not courageously intervened, the abuse ehre would have escalated.

So, yes, Ross should have let his wife elave the car. In fact, most guys know that if you let a woman go off, she will quickly return and a calmer discussion can ensure. But use even a little force, and things spiral out of control. Ross now knows that "spiralling feeling" and, frankly, he should.

We can do much better for a sheriff than a convicted criminal and abuser who cannot control his anger.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 3:14 am

Anonymous you say: "who cannot control his anger". There was no anger involve. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:24 am

It's nice we have liberals to elucidate for us which kind of abuse is a "very serious problem" and which kind of abuse we can just sweep under the rug.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 6:14 am

100% agree your comment

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

100% agree your comment

Posted by vdwzx on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

yes agree your statement as "double standard". abuse is abuse

Posted by vdwzx on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

Reminds me of all the hearsay and second- and third-hand inuendo that got Jerry Sandusky wrongly accused.

End the madness!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 6:17 am

to fabricate to implicate our mayor in a bogus perjury rap to deflect attention from Ross's crimes?

That kind of hearsay?

Posted by Anonymous on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 6:26 am

@Anonymous. Debra Walker has provided a sworn testimony, as you know a sworn testimony implies that if you are caught lying, there will be a severe penalty.

Christina Olague on the other hand did not provide any sworn statements. Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:28 am

Get a grip. Severe penalty my butt. So Walker says that Olague told her something and Olaque denies it. So what are they going to do to Walker? San Quentin?

It is interesting that Walker got the vernacular wrong. She 'swore' that Olague said 'the conversation never happened' in a voice mail but it turned out to be 'I never had that conversation'. Which is a slightly less damming way to say it.

Interesting that Walker was sure that she heard the more incriminating version.

What else did she hear incorrectly?

I know it is hard for some of you to believe that hearsay laws should be applied in situations that work against progressives. But there is good reason to do so, sorry.

Posted by Troll on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:40 am

You say: "Severe penalty my butt."

It's called perjury. And is a very serious offense.

Christina Olague has yet to provide her own sworn testimony, all that she says right now is: I can't recall". Thanks.

Posted by jccourt on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

One way or another this little drama is nearing its conclusion and the weirdo groupies like ChrisCraft, jccourt, lillipublicans and the other assorted strays this debacle has attracted will have to find a new way to make it in life without spending every day talking about Ross and Eliana.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:27 am

You, who spent day after day, hour after hour, trashing Ross and Eliana. You who have nothing better to do with your life than stalk progressives 24/7. Troll II, the biggest hater of all. What will you do without Ross and Eliana to spit your venom on? Well, I guess you can still stalk Patrick Monk RN around town with your camera. What a pathetic loser you are.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:50 am

Prolly like any other normal, rational San Franciscan with a life (which excludes people like yourself). I'll just move on.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

Are you on welfare or do you live with your parents? I mean, how else could you afford to spend so much time online? You're the most persistent and nasty troll on this site and you're everywhere on this site 24/7. That makes you more ubiquitous on this site than God! Frankly, I don't even know how you even had time to stalk Pat Monk at a South Bay Wal-Mart, no less.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

Now, can we hear more about the thrice-daily brandishing of his porksword?

Posted by Reginald Festerpizzle-Nobbington III (Esq) on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:31 am

yeah cuz that fool be pulling str8 dimes son!

Look at that lady's grill piece, he's on some latina mamacita porksword mission.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

...doesn't mean he didn't abuse another. I don't see anything Evelyn has to say as being relevant.

Posted by Yellowknife on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:51 am

Character is a distinctive trait -- esp. a moral or ethical quality -- that does not change over time. And Ms. Nieves knows Ross Mirkarimi's character better than anyone.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

those who worked with him have commented that he has an anger issue.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

You mean the one who stood up at the BoS's meeting and accused Ross of abusing her, then later admitted that she didn't even know Ross? Please give us a break.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

"The chick in LA", as you call her, did not live with Ross, and clearly had an axe to grind when he decided to break it off with her. Unlike Ms. Nieves, who lived with Ross for eight years, Christine Flores had merely dated him casually for a year and a half. Not to mention that she has strong connections with the SFPD and Cunnie supporters. Who is more credible? I think the choice is pretty obvious, and that's Evelyn Nieves.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Dv stats show that abuse typically starts after a few months, once the "honeymoon period" of any relationship is over.

Flores account of Ross's power trips was eerily similr to Eliana's videotaped allegation of abuse from Ross, before she changed her mind when his paycheck vanished.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

Ross be pulling some hot mamacitas.

I'm just saying.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

He likes the Latina chichitas. That's why he went to that environmental congress in Brazil. He wanted to check out the "environment." And he got hisself a whole load of global warming.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

Never vote for Christina Olague, David Campos and John Avalos who has made a bad decision on behalf of San Fransciscans (by voting against permanently removing Mirkarimi from office). They need to protect San Francisco public from this crooked sheriff. Ms Mirkarimi's flip-flop act was not only hurting herself, but also she was hurting women who are living under abusive home. Hope no more crying for her after she has worked her heart out to help him keeping his face.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2012 @ 10:26 pm