By PAUL PAYNE AND BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Prosecutors filed a single misdemeanor charge of peeking Thursday against Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, rejecting a more serious felony allegation
stemming from his July arrest outside a woman’s home that could have led to his removal from office.
The 32-year-old 5th District supervisor is expected to be arraigned on the charge today in Santa Rosa in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Gary Medvigy. The document alleges that Carrillo wandered onto the woman’s property and peeked in her door and window while she was home.
The misdemeanor falls within the disorderly conduct section of the state’s penal code, a section that also includes offenses such as soliciting prostitution and public drunkenness. A conviction calls for a possible jail sentence but it is likely that someone without a criminal record would be ordered to participate in a rehabilitative program.
Carrillo had faced the possibility of a more serious felony burglary charge. Arresting officers accused him of trying to break into the apartment and detectives said it appeared he intended to commit some type of sexual assault, pointing to a torn bedroom screen and other evidence.
State law requires officeholders to step down if convicted of a felony.
Rosanne Darling, the woman’s attorney, said her client was relieved after numerous prosecution delays that Carrillo was being charged with a crime. But she expressed disappointment that the Attorney General’s Office didn’t file a more serious allegation.
“The charge seems inadequate for what she had to go through that night,” Darling said.
Carrillo’s attorney, Chris Andrian, would not comment Thursday.
A plea of guilty or no contest, entered today or at a later date, would avoid a potentially embarrassing trial.
Carrillo declined to talk about the case Thursday, citing Andrian’s advice.
“I can’t comment on any aspect of the charges,” he said. He also was tight-lipped about what it meant for his political career. Some of his sharpest critics are vowing to push a recall effort should he not resign, but Carrillo has said he has no plans to step down.
“My focus today is on my personal recovery and getting back to work,” he said. “On the other matters, I’m just not prepared to comment on that.”
The charging document was signed by Cody Hunt, a special prosecutor for the state attorney general. Hunt did not return calls Thursday. A spokesman for the attorney general did not immediately comment.
The charge comes as Carrillo has gradually resumed a broader, more public role representing his west county district, which has been roiled by the fatal shooting last week of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy.
Carrillo, a son of Mexican immigrants, and until his arrest a rising star in the state Democratic Party, has re-emerged as a prominent face of the Latino community in the shooting’s aftermath.
The widely noticed move has drawn praise from some and scorn from others.
Now, with the decision by prosecutors, the immediate political implications of Carrillo’s legal case appear to be less serious, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
“It’s not a political pass,” McCuan said of the misdemeanor charge. But “it is minimal to the point of being politically impotent.”
“The real brass-tacks question,” he added, “is can his opponents turn this into political hay?”
Carrillo was arrested in his west Santa Rosa neighborhood July 13 on suspicion of prowling, a misdemeanor, and burglary, a felony.
Officers responding to a pair of early morning 911 calls from the woman found Carrillo nearby in just his socks and underwear and carrying a cellphone.
The woman’s bedroom window screen was torn, police said. She told investigators she awoke to the sound of rustling blinds and saw a man, later identified as Carrillo, standing outside the window.
In her second 911 call, she said the person knocked on her door, identified himself as a neighbor and ran away.
Carrillo was arrested when he could not offer an explanation for his behavior, police said. After posting bail, he reportedly checked in to an alcohol treatment facility where he said he remained for five weeks.
On his return to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 20, he apologized and described a longtime problem with binge drinking.
While not detailing his specific actions that July morning, he suggested his behavior had undermined the woman’s “absolute right to enjoy the peace and quiet of her home.”
“The hurt that I have caused ripples out in so many directions,” he said at the time.
Carrillo has been to court three times to see if prosecutors would file formal charges. Each time, prosecutors have asked for more time to investigate.
It was his second arrest in less than a year. Last year, he was arrested Labor Day weekend after a fight outside a San Diego nightclub. Local authorities didn’t press charges.
Some legal watchers said the peeking allegation was not unexpected. Former Sonoma County Assistant District Attorney Greg Jacobs said it seemed obvious that prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence that Carrillo intended to commit burglary or a sexual assault. Jacobs said Carrillo’s reported intoxication at the time of his arrest could make it difficult to prove his state of mind to a jury.
“I think they picked the most serious misdemeanor they could,” Jacobs said.
But Darling, who has read the police report, said she was not sure why prosecutors would not file an additional misdemeanor vandalism charge. She wondered why it took so long to make any allegations.
“It’s disappointing the only charge that’s available is a misdemeanor,” Darling said. “It certainly scared the daylights out of an innocent young woman.”
Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Terry Anderson said he wasn’t surprised to learn prosecutors had filed misdemeanor charges against Carrillo. Anderson said his detectives had probable cause to arrest Carrillo on suspicion of felony burglary and misdemeanor prowling based on the circumstances, but he noted that in court, a charge faces a higher standard of proof.
“Our job is to investigate the case, determine what we think occurred and arrest for those charges,” Anderson said. “Once it gets to the (prosecutors), they look at a different standard.”
“Based on what their standard is in court, I think what they filed was appropriate,” Anderson said.
Carrillo’s critics say details of his arrest, some of which have gone uncontested by the supervisor or his attorney, are enough to make him unfit to continue in public office.
“An elected leader in his underwear peeking in a woman’s bedroom window is not good leadership,” said Alice Chan, a Sebastopol-based Democratic Party activist who has lead a push to launch a recall effort.
“I don’t want a peeping Tom representing me on the Board of Supervisors,” she said.
One of Carrillo’s key supporters, former county supervisor Eric Koenigshofer, said it was premature for him to comment, even on political questions surrounding the supervisor.
“At this juncture, I don’t feel like it would be appropriate for me to comment until it (the complaint) is presented by authorities to court,” Koenigshofer said.
Carrillo said he would address the calls of his critics “through continuing to do the work that I’m elected to do and staying on the path to re-earning their trust and confidence.”
Staff Writer Julie Johnson contributed to this report.