Appellate panel allows video in SF sheriff's trial

An emotional video involving the wife of San Francisco's sheriff can be used as evidence during his trial on domestic violence charges, a three-judge panel ruled Friday.

Ross Mirkarimi, 50, has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness for allegedly grabbing his wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez, in front of their toddler son in their San Francisco home on New Year's Eve.

The couple has denied the incident. Mirkarimi could face up to a year in jail, if convicted.

The decision by the San Francisco Superior Court appellate division panel means a jury can see the video in which Lopez, 36, tearfully describes the alleged incident and a bruise on her right bicep. It's also is a victory for prosecutors who have argued that the video is a key piece of evidence in their case against Mirkarimi.

"We are pleased with the court's ruling and look forward to moving ahead with the trial," said Stephanie Ong Stillman, a spokeswoman for District Attorney George Gascon.

Lopez's lawyer, Paula Canny, argued that the video made by Ivory Madison, Lopez's neighbor and who she thought was a lawyer, should be withdrawn because it was made under the assumption of attorney-client privilege. Madison graduated from law school, but is not a licensed attorney.

"I'm very disappointed," Canny said. "I have to talk to my client and weigh what our options are."

Canny said she likely will file a request for review with the state Court of Appeals.

Her appeal on behalf of Lopez, a former telenovela star, came after Judge Garrett Wong ruled last week that those privilege rights did not apply because the evidence is not being used against Lopez.

Mirkarimi's attorney, Lidia Stiglich, filed a separate motion regarding the video, arguing its inadmissibility should Lopez decide not to testify during the trial because she can't cross-examine the allegations from the video.

Stiglich also has filed a change-of-venue motion due to what she considers an "onslaught" of extensive pre-trial media coverage that makes it difficult for her client to get a fair and impartial jury. Wong has not ruled on those motions.

The judge has ruled that Christina Flores, an ex-girlfriend who claims that the sheriff abused her, can testify at his trial.

On Friday, Wong ruled that Nancy Lemon, a law school lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, can serve as an expert witness on the behavior of domestic violence victims.

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