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San Francisco sheriff keeps gun, but will he keep his job?

Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi speaks to the media following a court appearance for his domestic abuse case at San Francisco County Courthouse on Monday.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was sentenced Monday to serve one day in jail after pleading guilty to one count of "false imprisonment" for a New Year’s Eve spat with his wife, Eliana Lopez, during which he bruised her arms.

Mirkarimi also received three months' probation and was ordered to take part in anger management counseling. A temporary stay-away order preventing him from contact with his wife and toddler son remains in place.

A plea deal that averted a domestic violence conviction was a deft maneuver that allowed the Mirkarimi to retain his gun, and thus be able to carry out his duties as sheriff. But if he is to continue in the post, he will first have to survive a political challenge.

"It would be a stretch for the San Francisco sheriff to oversee programs and impose sentences of domestic violence on inmates when he has been convicted under similar circumstances," said Kathy Black, executive director of Casa de Las Madres, a nonprofit that assists abuse victims. "I think it would be best for everybody if he would step down. If he’s not willing to do the right thing, then the mayor and board of supervisors must."

A majority of San Francisco residents agree, according to a CBS 5 poll conducted last week. Sixty-one percent of 400 people surveyed want Mirkarimi to leave office, with only 21 percent saying he should remain. Fifty-eight percent said city leaders should remove Mirkarimi if he does not step down voluntarily, according to the poll.

"There are no excuses and I accept full responsibility," said Mirkarimi, reading a statement to the media after the sentencing, The Associated Press reported. He "sincerely apologized" to his family, the Sheriff's Department and the people of San Francisco, it said.

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He gave no sign that he was considering stepping down, saying that he would "work so much harder to regain your trust ... to be a better public servant."

Mirkarimi attempted to correct what he said was a misperception that he felt domestic violence was a "private matter," as he told the press early in the drama. He reiterated his advocacy against domestic violence while serving two-terms on the Board of Supervisors. 

"I do not believe that domestic violence is a private matter," he said. "I have worked very hard for the anti-domestic violence community."

Some of his critics saw that statement as too little too late.

Casa de Las Madres, an advocacy group for victims of domestic abuse, raised money for a billboard campaign to reinforce their message that victims and witnesses of victims should not be afraid to come forward with evidence of domestic abuse — a message they felt was undermined by Mirkarimi’s earlier comments.  One of those billboards, reads "Domestic violence is never a private matter" was positioned right across the street from the courthouse where Mirkarimi was expected to stand trial.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has said he's considering whether to attempt removing the sheriff from office, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Basically it comes down to the question of whether someone convicted of unlawfully imprisoning his wife should be the sheriff of San Francisco," said one source close to the talks, cited by the Chronicle, which reported that Lee has been consulting with City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Lee was expected to suspend Mirkarimi if he was found guilty of domestic violence and thus been barred from carrying a gun. But the plea bargain that emerged on Friday muddied the mayor’s legal options, the Chronicle reported.

An opinion column written by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown laid out the politically awkward task for Mayor Lee and the city attorney. Attempting to oust the sheriff will make the Board of Supervisors, Mirkarimi’s longtime colleagues, the jury for the sheriff.

"On the other hand, if the mayor doesn’t pursue Mirkarimi’s removal, he and he alone will have to answer to critics as to why the sheriff was allowed to stay on after being convicted," Brown wrote.

But, he said, even if the mayor decides to hold off, Mirkarimi could face a recall effort in July.

"That's when recall petitions can begin circulating to recall the sheriff," he said. "And given the mood of the women in the anti-domestic violence network, I'd say a recall is inevitable."

Msnbc.com reporter Kari Huus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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