Within just a few days of being sworn in to office, the newly-elected sheriff of San Francisco found himself in the midst of a political firestorm after being arrested and charged with domestic violence. Both the sheriff and his wife, the alleged victim, have denied that any abuse occurred, and it is now up to city and court officials to determine how to proceed.

According to local media reports, the domestic violence charges against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi stem from an incident on New Year's Eve in which Mirkarimi allegedly violently grabbed and bruised his wife's upper arm. After the wife told a neighbor of the assault, the neighbor reported the incident to police and turned over a video of the bruises that had resulted.

About two weeks later, Mirkarimi was arrested and charged with domestic battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. The latter charge stems from the Mirkarimi's wife's subsequent denial that any abuse occurred on the night in question.

Mirkarimi has also denied the incident, calling it a "private matter" and claiming that the allegations against him are "very unfounded." But according to Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg, the charges against Mirkarimi were most likely meticulously investigated. "You've got to assume that the police and the DA's office are being incredibly careful about this," he said. "These are not frivolous charges."

Although Mirkarimi has stated that he will not resign, there is the possibility that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee may charge Mirkarimi with professional misconduct and suspend him from office. If that occurred, the city's Ethics Commission would make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors about whether to reinstate or remove Mirkarimi from office permanently.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "A difficult start for new San Francisco sheriff," Beth Duff-Brown and Terry Collins, Jan. 14, 2012