By PAUL PAYNE & JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A judge gave prosecutors six more weeks Friday to decide whether to file criminal charges against Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who was arrested last month outside a Santa Rosa woman’s home in just his socks and underwear.
It was the second prosecution delay for Carrillo, 32, who was booked July 13 on suspicion of prowling and burglary and faces removal from office if convicted of a felony.
Cody Hunt, a Napa County deputy prosecutor assigned to the case by the state Attorney General, requested the delay to receive more information from investigators.
Hunt said he was awaiting documents but wouldn’t say what they are, including whether they are phone records. Carrillo was carrying a cellphone at the time of his arrest.
He requested a similar delay at the last hearing, on July 18.
“There’s not going to be a filing today, your honor,” Hunt told Judge Julie Conger.
Conger ordered Carrillo to return Oct. 11 and warned prosecutors against any further postponement.
“I’m expecting a complaint to be filed at that time,” Conger said. “No further delays, please.”
Carrillo, who wore a dark suit and yellow tie, declined to comment as he left the courtroom flanked by attorneys Steve Gallenson and Jane Gaskell.
He returned to work representing the Fifth Supervisorial District earlier this month. He said he spent five weeks in an alcohol treatment program immediately after his arrest.
Police have said they believe Carrillo was attempting some type of sexual assault the night of his arrest.
Gallenson said prosecutors haven’t said what charges, if any, they expect to file, nor have they explained why they needed more time.
“No one is saying anything on their end,” Gallenson said. “We just don’t know.”
Delays are common in criminal proceedings. Legal experts said they sometimes arise when prosecutors send a case back to police for further investigation or are looking for additional evidence on an allegation.
“I’d be careful not to read too much into it,” said Kristine Burk, chief deputy public defender. “They want more time. It may be that they are going to file x and y charges but they don’t know about z yet.”
Others said delays can bode well for defendants.
Joe Stogner, a Santa Rosa defense attorney and instructor at Empire College School of Law, said delays imply prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to make an allegation stick.
If they did, they would file charges immediately, Stogner said.
“It implies something is still missing or that there is still evidence out there that needs to be collected before the prosecutor feels comfortable filing a charge,” Stogner said. “Very often it can be a good sign” for the defendant, he said.
Stogner ruled out the possibility that charges would be held up for tactical reasons or because of bureaucratic red tape at the Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors wouldn’t need six weeks to get a signature, he said.
“Sometimes in a delay like this you’re sure you don’t have anything, but you want to be doubly sure,” Stogner said.
Greg Jacobs, a retired Sonoma County prosecutor, agreed there may be difficulty proving the most serious allegation — that Carrillo tried to break into the house to commit a sexual assault.
But he warned it would be a mistake to bring lesser charges first and try to amend a complaint later. Carrillo could plead guilty to a misdemeanor and foreclose the possibility of being hit with more serious allegations under rules preventing double jeopardy.
Jacobs said the delay could simply show prosecutors are taking a close look at allegations with high stakes. Also, he said there may be an effort to let more time to pass so that public furor will die down.
“You don’t want a case going through the court system with the whole community in an uproar and speculation running rampant,” said Jacobs, a former assistant district attorney. “I would take as much time as I possibly could to do the best job possible.”
About a dozen people attended Carrillo’s hearing, including some who said they came out of curiosity. Yet unlike Carrillo’s first appearance July 18, when it appeared there were no supporters in the courtroom, the majority of onlookers said they were at the courthouse to show support for the second-term supervisor.
Santa Rosa High School teacher Matthew Davis said he took a personal day from work to handle some family matters and also to attend Carrillo’s hearing.
Davis taught Carrillo, a Santa Rosa High graduate, in a physics class. The teacher said he’s kept in touch with Carrillo since graduation and watched him build a career in the county, from his days with Redwood Credit Union through his work in public office.
“We have all been very proud of him in the past,” Davis said. “He’s an amazing young man.”
Davis said he lives in west Santa Rosa, in Carrillo’s district, but was present at the hearing not as a constituent or as a representative with the school, but rather as a friend.
“I’m hoping he can move on from this. All of us have our shortcomings,” Davis said.
One man arrived, breathless, just after Conger postponed the hearing and Carrillo, his attorneys and others filed out of the courtroom. The man, who said he was just a curious Santa Rosa resident, asked if he missed the hearing. He said he was disappointed by the postponement.
Patricia Robles-Mitten and Anne Fitzgerald, both of Santa Rosa, said they attended the hearing to show support for a supervisor they felt has made a strong contribution, particularly his advocacy for establishing a public power agency in Sonoma County.
Neither lives in Carrillo’s district, but the friends decided to attend the hearing to show support for the supervisor, whom they feel has faced unfair judgment following his arrest.
“I’d be in support of anyone who has not yet had charges brought against them,” Robles-Mitten said.
“There has been an instant rush to judgment,” Fitzgerald said.
Carrillo, a rising star in Democratic politics, was arrested in the early morning hours after a woman called 911 to report someone outside her home near Stony Point Road and West Third Street.
She reported someone tried to get into her bedroom window and that she was awakened by the sound of window blinds being moved.
The woman called 911 a second time to say the person had knocked on her front door, identified himself as a neighbor and ran away.
Officers arrived and found the torn window screen. Carrillo was in the area, clad in just socks and underwear, carrying a cellphone. He was arrested when he could not provide a clear explanation for his behavior, police said.
At the time, police said they believed he planned to commit some type of sexual assault, but they haven’t said what led to that conclusion.
Officers have said that Carrillo appeared intoxicated during their early morning questioning but not drunk on a level that would make it unlawful. They did not test his drunkenness in the field or measure his blood-alcohol content.
Carrillo posted bail within a few hours and reportedly checked into an alcohol treatment facility, where he remained in seclusion for five weeks.
The delay adds uncertainty to whether details about what Carrillo was doing outside the woman’s apartment without his clothes will ever come out in open court.
Santa Rosa police officials have repeatedly declined to make public the 911 calls that started at 3:40 a.m.
Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said Friday that he would not release the tapes before the Attorney General’s Office files charges in the case.
“We’re not willing to do anything that might jeopardize the prosecution. The call is theirs,” Schwedhelm said.
A spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s Office said she was not able to get a response Friday on whether they would give the Police Department the green light to release the tapes, and it would have to wait until next week.
On Aug. 20, at his first board meeting since the arrest, Carrillo apologized and described a longtime problem with binge drinking.
It was his second arrest in less than a year. Last Labor Day weekend, he was arrested in a fight outside a San Diego nightclub. Local authorities didn’t press charges.
But since his latest incident, critics have called on Carrillo to resign. Two influential labor groups late last month said he displayed a pattern of poor choices and brought discredit to the county and must step down.
He has so far declined to answer questions about his case.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff Writer Julie Johnson can be reached at 521-5220 or email@example.com.