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Panel can tap phone records in Mirkarimi ethics hearing

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Claim: Ross Mirkarimi has been accused of trying to stop neighbors from speaking about an incident with his wife. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Claim: Ross Mirkarimi has been accused of trying to stop neighbors from speaking about an incident with his wife.

Phone records will be released in relation to suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s alleged attempt to stop a neighbor from talking to police about a violent incident with his wife. But the contents of that communication will remain unknown.

Judge Harold Kahn on Tuesday ruled that Mayor Ed Lee and the City Attorney’s Office will be able to subpoena AT&T’s records to be used in Mirkarimi’s ongoing official misconduct hearings before The City’s Ethics Commission.

An attorney representing AT&T said at the hearing that the company does not plan to release the actual content of phone conversations or text messages, only a log of calls and texts between parties, and the times that they occurred.

Citing privacy concerns, Kahn limited the scope of the subpoena to cover phone communication to and from Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, between Dec. 31 and Jan. 13, and only involving a short list of people — Mirkarimi’s sheriff campaign manager, Linnette Peralta Haynes; neighbor Callie Williams; and a couple next door, Abraham Mertens and Ivory Madison, who originally went to police over the spat.

Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith said there’s reason to believe there was a phone conversation between Mertens and Lopez on Jan. 4, the same day Madison went to police. Keith said The City plans to prove Lopez implored Mertens to stop Madison from talking to authorities. Keith said Mertens will testify that he heard background talk from Mirkarimi, who did nothing to prevent what the City Attorney’s Office is calling a clear case of witness dissuasion.

Attorneys for Mirkarimi and Lopez insist it was Mertens who called Lopez and not the other way around. The records are expected to be released June 12.

Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner argued against the subpoena and called the proceedings “reminiscent of a Soviet show trial.”

The Ethics Commission hearings were sparked by Lee’s suspension of Mirkarimi without pay in March after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment to avoid three domestic violence charges related to an argument that turned physical at the couple’s San Francisco home on New Year’s Eve, just days before Mirkarimi’s inauguration.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com