- Associated Press - Sunday, March 4, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO | Months after moving to the U.S., telenovela star Eliana Lopez blogged about her hopes and aspirations for her new, simpler life as a wife and mother, far from the bright lights of TV and movies.

The Venezuelan actress was excited about living in San Francisco - “a beautiful and avant-garde city where millions of interesting people make things happen every day,” she wrote in 2010 - raising her son with then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, and teaching bilingual mother-and-baby dance classes.

Today, she is back in the spotlight - this time as her husband, now the embattled San Francisco sheriff, faces trial this week on misdemeanor criminal charges that he grabbed and bruised her arm in front of their toddler son on New Year’s Eve. Video purportedly showing her discussing what happened has emerged as key evidence.

On Feb. 27, Judge Garrett Wong ruled the video could be used as evidence as Sheriff Mirkarimi’s attorneys sought a mistrial. Two days later, Mrs. Lopez’s attorneys argued to no avail that the video be inadmissible after prosecutors released photo images from the video showing an emotional Mrs. Lopez with a noticeable bruise on her arm.

Both Mrs. Lopez and Sheriff Mirkarimi have repeatedly denied the accusations. She went on Venezuelan radio in January declaring that prosecutors are out to get her husband.

She also stood by Sheriff Mirkarimi as he was sworn in, just days before he was booked at his own jail. And she later tearfully told a judge that she is not some “poor little immigrant,” adding, “I’m not afraid of my husband at all.”

While the judge found Mrs. Lopez to be strong and “quite charming,” he said there was still a “volatile situation” at play. The sheriff is under a court order to stay away from her, although he recently has been allowed to see his son.

Asked whether Mrs. Lopez would take the witness stand, attorney Paula Canny initially said they were “keeping all options open.” Later, though, she expressed doubts.

“[The prosecution is] trying to squeeze her to testify,” she said. “The irony of it is, they won’t grant her immunity. … She’s not testifying [otherwise].”

Mrs. Lopez, 36, has appeared in numerous TV shows and films in Latin America. She is perhaps best known as Oriana Ponce De Leon, a villain-turned-heroine on the Venezuelan telenovela, “Amor a Palos.” She’s scheduled to star later this year as Venezuelan Independence War heroine Luisa Caceres de Arismendi in the feature film, “The Colonel’s Wife.”

During the Dec. 31 argument at their home, Sheriff Mirkarimi grabbed Mrs. Lopez and bruised her right arm, authorities say. The next day, Mrs. Lopez turned to a neighbor, Ivory Madison, who later contacted police. They eventually confiscated video Ms. Madison had taken, along with text messages and emails between the two women. Prosecutors say Mrs. Lopez recounted Sheriff Mirkarimi’s actions on the video.

“I’m going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me,” Mrs. Lopez said on the video, according to court documents. “Because he did, he said that, that he’s very powerful, and he can, he can do it.”

Sheriff Mirkarimi’s defense attorneys argue that his wife’s statements should be inadmissible because they were intended to help her gain custody of their son if the marriage failed. The sheriff pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. He could face up to a year in jail, if convicted.

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