By PAUL PAYNE & BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nearly three months after he was arrested in the pre-dawn darkness outside a Santa Rosa woman’s home, Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo returns to court Friday to see whether he will be charged with a crime.
The two-term supervisor, who was booked on suspicion of prowling and burglary after the July incident, faces removal from office if convicted of a felony.
Police at the time said they suspected him of attempting a sexual assault, pointing to a torn screen on the woman’s bedroom window.
But prosecutors so far have not filed formal allegations. At a hearing in August, a special prosecutor assigned to the case asked for six additional weeks to decide on charges.
Prosecutor Cody Hunt on Wednesday did not rule out the possibility of another delay.
“I’m not sure what will happen,” Hunt said.
Carrillo’s lawyer, Chris Andrian, said he has not been informed about any pending charges. He said prosecutors had promised to give advance notice of any allegations at least a day before the next hearing.
Carrillo, 32, an up-and-comer in state Democratic politics, was arrested July 13 after a woman called 911 at about 3:40 a.m. to report someone outside her home near Stony Point Road and West Third Street.
She said someone tried to get in her window and she was awaked by the sound of window blinds being moved. In a second 911 call 10 minutes later, she said the person knocked on her door, identified himself as a neighbor and ran away.
Officers arrived and found a torn window screen. Carrillo was in the area, clad in socks and underwear and carrying a cell phone. He was arrested when he could not offer a clear explanation for his behavior.
Carrillo, whom officers said appeared to have been drinking at the time of his arrest, posted bail within hours and reportedly checked into an alcohol treatment facility. He remained in seclusion for five weeks.
He returned to the Board of Supervisors Aug. 20. He 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 in a fight outside a San Diego nightclub. Local authorities did not press charges.
After the supervisor’s July arrest, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch declared a conflict of interest and asked the state Attorney General to step in. The Board of Supervisors has authority over the district attorney’s budget. Ravitch also has been a political supporter of Carrillo.
Hunt, a Napa County deputy district attorney, was assigned to the case under a statewide protocol for dealing with conflicts. He said Wednesday he was waiting to hear from the Attorney General’s Office about a final decision on charges.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general did not return calls Wednesday.
The legal proceeding comes as Carrillo continues daily outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse and as he takes steps to further expand his involvement at public events. In recent weeks he has made several public appearances, including at a fundraiser for the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and a Habitat for Humanity groundbreaking.
It also comes as Carrillo’s sharpest critics, including those pressing to remove him from office, await a decision before taking formal steps toward trying to oust him.
Leaders in organized labor who could provide the strongest financial and political backing for a recall effort, said their members agreed it was best to decide on a course of action after Friday.
“Everyone wanted to wait and see what, if any, charges might be levied against Supervisor Carrillo,” said Jack Buckhorn, president of the North Bay Labor Council, the region’s largest coalition of organized labor unions and associations.
The council already has called on Carrillo to resign, accusing him of “a pattern of poor choices and bad behavior.” Buckhorn acknowledged the group’s decision could be complicated if Carrillo is charged with a misdemeanor or if no charges are filed.
Liberal Democratic Party activists meanwhile, said the outcome of Friday’s proceeding, while significant for the alleged victim, Carrillo and the public, would not be a linchpin in their plans to unseat the supervisor.
“We’ve never said that it (the recall) hinges on the arraignment or outcome of any legal proceeding,” said Sebastopol resident Alice Chan, co-chairwoman of the Coalition for Grassroots Progress.
The Sonoma County Democratic Party has not discussed the issue since it weighed in two months ago, saying Carrillo, once a rising star in the state party, should explain himself or resign.
“Most members of the Central Committee are interested to see what takes place in the legal process and at the Board of Supervisors,” said Stephen Gale, the party chairman. Some members of committee also are watching to see if there will be some legal civil action from the woman who reported the incident, he said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or email@example.com.)