By PAUL PAYNE & BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Prosecutors on Friday again delayed deciding whether to file criminal charges against Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, drawing a sharp response from critics including the lawyer for a Santa Rosa woman police contend was the target of an attempted sexual assault.
It was the third postponement requested by prosecutors since Carrillo’s arrest in July on suspicion of prowling and burglary. Officers responding to early morning 911 calls from the woman found the 32-year-old supervisor nearby in just his socks and underwear and carrying a cellphone.
Her bedroom window screen was torn, police said.
Cody Hunt, a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the investigation is ongoing and he needed more time to determine what charges, if any, would be filed.
He said his office had just received unspecified documents related to the case and he expected a decision “shortly.”
“We’re working diligently, your honor,” Hunt told Judge Gary Medvigy.
The woman’s lawyer, former Sonoma County prosecutor Rosanne Darling, told Medvigy that her client is frustrated by the time it is taking and fears the delay is related to Carrillo’s political position.
“We believe another delay offends her dignity and her right to be heard,” Darling said.
Medvigy said he was powerless to speed the process and set the next court date for Nov. 1.
Carrillo declined to comment on the proceeding or Darling’s statements. He would be removed from office if convicted of a felony.
“I cannot comment on the legal case,” he said outside the courthouse. “There’s a process in place and I just can’t comment.”
His lawyer, Chris Andrian, rejected the suggestion that politics played a role in the delay. He said Darling asked for many similar delays in her time as a prosecutor.
“It happens,” Andrian said. “It’s part of the way the system works.”
He added: “I don’t think it’s fair to accuse anyone.”
A spokesman for Attorney General Kamala Harris declined to comment on the case.
A least a dozen of Carrillo’s family members and supporters attended the hearing.
“I’m just here to support him,” said Marcos Suarez, a past president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Sonoma County. “I’m hoping we can move forward and put this behind us.”
A handful of Carrillo’s critics were present. They echoed the comments made by Darling.
“I think we heard loud and clear from the attorney of the victim about the lack of respect for her dignity in the delays,” said Alice Chan, a Sebastopol-based Democratic Party activist who has vowed to push for a recall effort against Carrillo.
Darling said she didn’t know if her client would pursue civil action against Carrillo.
The county supervisor was arrested in the early morning hours of July 13 after police received a 911 call from a woman who lives near Stony Point Road and West Third Street. She said she was awakened by the sound of rustling blinds and saw a man outside her bedroom window. In a second 911 call, she said the person knocked on her door, identified himself as a neighbor and ran away.
Police arrived to find a torn window screen. Carrillo, who at the time was a neighbor of the woman, was arrested nearby. He could not offer a clear explanation for his behavior, police said.
After his arrest, Carrillo posted bail and went into seclusion for five weeks. He later said he was in treatment for alcohol abuse. He returned to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 20, apologized and described a longtime problem with binge drinking.
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.
In the July incident, police said the woman told a detective that she knew Carrillo from “informal neighborhood contact.”
The two never had a physical relationship and there was no evidence of phoning, texting or emailing between them, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Terry Anderson said the day of the arrest.
Police seized Carrillo’s cellphone as part of the investigation but declined to say what, if anything, was found on the phone. Anderson also said in July that he wasn’t sure what evidence police technicians had gathered, if anything, from the window.
Santa Rosa police have repeatedly declined to make public a copy of the 911 calls. Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm has said 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 in August.
Schwedhelm was out of town Friday and could not be contacted. Command staff with the closest knowledge of the case were off duty Friday. Capt. Hank Schreeder said he did not know if the department had been contacted by prosecutors for follow-up investigation.
Lawyers, meanwhile, said charging delays are common.
Investigators trying to establish Carrillo’s intent may be subpoenaing his phone records to see if he was texting anyone at the time of the incident, said Santa Rosa defense attorney Stephen Turer. They also could be looking into allegations of prior uncharged acts to try to show a pattern of behavior, Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi said.
They have plenty of time. The statute of limitations is one year for filing misdemeanor charges and three years for most felonies, she said.
“It’s a different kind of case than finding someone with a stolen TV stuffed inside their jacket,” said Rayburn Killion, a Santa Rosa defense lawyer and former prosecutor. “I can see it taking more time to make sure they are being thorough.”
But Greg Jacobs, a former assistant Sonoma County district attorney, said he thought the three-month postponement is an uncommon delay in a case such as Carrillo’s. From the outside, at least, it appears to be a straightforward case, he said.
The reported incident took place in a short period of time, with a limited number of witnesses — possibly as few as two, Carrillo and the woman — and a within a fairly defined space, Jacobs said.
“It doesn’t seem to be an extraordinarily complex set of facts,” he said. In addition to a phone record search, investigators may be re-interviewing other neighbors or people who had contact with Carrillo that night. Such efforts may be limited by manpower, Jacobs said.
Prosecutors almost certainly are aware of the high level of public interest and implications of the case, especially for the woman and Carrillo, he said.
“They may just be taking a lot of time to make a big decision,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or email@example.com and Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.