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SF panel wrapping up probe of sheriff's conviction
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The decision on whether San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi can remain in office in spite of a domestic violence conviction will take a big step forward on Thursday.

That's when the San Francisco Ethics Panel is scheduled to make its formal recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which will make the final decision.

The five-member panel has heard weeks of testimony and evidence during a trial-like proceeding to determine Mirkarimi's fitness for office. Mayor Ed Lee is seeking to remove Mirkarimi from office after the sheriff pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment.

Lee suspended him without pay in March. The conviction stems from a New Year's Eve fight Mirkarimi had with his wife, the Venezuelan TV actress Eliana Lopez, that left her with a bruised bicep.

The commission is scheduled to make its recommendation after hearing closing arguments from the sheriff's lawyer and from the city attorney's office, which is representing the mayor.

The panel will also question the lawyers about the case after the arguments and then deliberate for several hours. Its recommendation will be sent to the Board of Supervisors, where it will take the votes of nine out of 11 members to remove Mirkarimi from office.

The final day of the hearing prompted competing noontime rallies Thursday outside City Hall, where the commission is conducting its hearing.

Mirkarimi supporters sent an email for their rally, calling on sheriff proponents to "let the Ethics Commission know exactly how you feel about the mayor's unprecedented attempt to usurp the will of the people in order to consolidate his power."

At the same time and place, supporters of domestic violence victims planned their own rally to urge commissioners to recommend removal.

Three organizations, La Casa de las Madres, Domestic Violence Consortium and Futures Without Violence, urged commissioners in a statement Wednesday "to stay focused on the fact that Mirkarimi pled guilty to abusing his wife and as a result is not fit to serve as Sheriff."