By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
San Diego prosecutors on Monday dropped the criminal case against Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo stemming from his arrest in a Labor Day street fight.
A spokeswoman for the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, which handled the misdemeanor case, said no charges would be filed “because there were conflicting accounts of what occurred and insufficient evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The decision was made by a team of deputy city attorneys in the office’s criminal division, spokeswoman Gina Coburn said.
The 2 p.m. announcement came a week before Carrillo’s scheduled arraignment next Monday. He had faced the possibility of two misdemeanor charges: battery and disturbing the peace.
When Carrillo was arrested, he was booked on suspicion of battery causing serious injury, a felony. But police officials later deemed the case a misdemeanor.
The 31-year old Carrillo on Monday was in Keene near Bakersfield to attend President Barack Obama’s declaration of a national monument at the home of Cesar Chavez, the United Farmworkers Union founder who died in 1993.
In response to a request for comment, he responded by text message Monday night, saying he was traveling, his cellphone was low on battery power and he would call by 8 p.m., but no call was received by then.
Carrillo, seen as a promising Latino politician with potential beyond Sonoma County, has refused for the past month to answer questions about the fight that left a man unconscious.
The San Diego prosecutors also dropped the case against another man arrested in the fight, identified by police as Rayan Jastaniyah, 22, of San Diego. He had faced a possible misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. City attorneys identified him by a different name, Ryan Astiniya Saelmj.
Carrillo and Jastaniyah were arrested at 2:10 a.m. on Labor Day outside a popular nightclub in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.
Police released few details about the altercation, other than to say the two men were involved in a scuffle that resulted in a third man being knocked out and briefly hospitalized.
Carrillo released a pair of statements — the first on Sept. 5, two days after his arrest, and the second two weeks later — contending he stepped in to protect female friends who were being verbally and physically harassed by Jastaniyah.
He said he did not know who hit the man knocked out, Jovan Will, 30, of Arizona. Police have not said who they believe hit Will.
In his second statement on Sept. 19, Carrillo said he was in San Diego on a “mini-vacation” with three friends from Sonoma County. On Sept. 2, he went out with his former college roommate and three women invited by the roommate for dinner. The five then visited Fluxx nightclub, where Oakland rapper Too $hort was performing.
After the club closed, Carrillo, his former roommate and the women were on the street outside the club at about 2 a.m., when Carrillo said he and Jastaniyah got into a “brief pushing altercation” after Jastaniyah harassed the women.
“He was making physical contact as well as verbally harassing them,” Carrillo said.
“I approached out of concern for the well-being of the women and asked him to back off. There were many people in the vicinity. (Jastaniyah) advanced toward the women again so I pushed him away from them. At that point a brief pushing altercation broke out between me and” Jastaniyah.
Carrillo said two other men lunged toward him out of a surrounding crowd.
“I did see one of the guys attacking me get hit by someone in the crowd,” he said. “I couldn’t tell who (h)it him. The guy who got hit fell to the ground.” Carrillo’s statement did not identify the man.
Carrillo was in police custody for about 10 hours on Labor Day and was released from jail after posting $10,000 bail.
Three days later, after issuing his first statement, Carrillo left for a nine-day trip to Russia with a group of North Coast residents marking the bicentennial of Fort Ross.
Upon his return, after he issued the second statement, he refused to answer questions about the incident, saying he would not do so until legal charges against him were resolved.
Carrillo’s closest advisers have defended his limited public comments, saying he needed to protect his legal rights. They’ve also rejected any claims that the matter could have lasting implications for the young, popular politician, elected in June to a second term in his west county seat.
Many constituents have taken a “wait-and-see” approach during the legal process or defended Carrillo’s conduct outright, said Eric Koenigshofer, a former Sonoma County supervisor and close political supporter.
“I don’t believe it has any political implications at all,” he said.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the board chairwoman, also voiced support for Carrillo on Monday, calling the announcement from San Diego prosecutors “great news.” “I’m very happy for him that the charges were dropped,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.