By PAUL PAYNE AND BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
More than three months after his predawn arrest outside a Santa Rosa woman’s home, Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo was arraigned Friday on a misdemeanor peeking charge before dozens of onlookers.
A prosecutor for the state Attorney General’s Office said the allegation was supported by evidence. Carrillo was initially booked on suspicion of prowling and felony burglary, with police investigators saying they believe he intended to commit some type of sexual assault.
Prosecutor Cody Hunt would not address the disparity between the charge he filed and allegations leveled by Santa Rosa police after they arrested Carrillo.
“We filed charges we believe we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hunt said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
A lawyer for the 32-year-old supervisor asked for more time to review the police report before entering a plea. Attorney Chris Andrian said he just received the report in court.
“It’s my job now to look at it and see what it is,” Andrian said.
No settlement offer has been extended, he said, but negotiations were expected involving the prosecutor and woman’s attorney before the next hearing Dec. 13.
“It would be fair to say that over a period of time we’ll go into discussions,” Andrian said.
The woman’s lawyer, Rosanne T. Darling, said her client is still dealing with the aftermath of what she called a frightening experience.
“There’s a lot she has to live with now,” Darling said outside court.
Darling said no civil lawsuit is planned at this point.
Carrillo declined to comment as he left the court. His parents and girlfriend were among supporters who attended the arraignment.
The lesser charge means his political career is no longer immediately threatened. If he had been charged with and convicted of a felony, he would have been removed from office.
The Board of Supervisors has been pressed by some of his critics to take action, including possibly a censure of Carrillo.
Chairman David Rabbitt said Friday that supervisors would simply have to let the legal process play out.
“I don’t see this as a distraction,” he said. “The potential charges were of such greater magnitude. Nothing would have been one extreme. This was slightly uphill from nothing, to be honest.”
However, some of Carrillo’s sharpest critics have continued to vow action on a recall effort. They said they would meet soon to discuss next steps.
If convicted of peeking, Carrillo faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, Hunt said.
Local rules prohibit a person charged with peering into an inhabited building from participating in a first-time offender program leading to a dismissal.
But Carrillo could end up settling for a different charge that would result in an alternative sentence that avoids jail time.
He was arrested in his west Santa Rosa neighborhood July 13 on suspicion of prowling, a misdemeanor, and burglary, a felony.
Santa Rosa 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.
Her bedroom window screen was torn, police said. The woman 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. Investigators have repeatedly said they think Carrillo intended some type of sexual assault.
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 Aug. 20, he apologized and described a longtime problem with binge drinking.
While not detailing his specific actions, he suggested his behavior had undermined the woman’s “absolute right to enjoy the peace and quiet of her home.”
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 did not press charges.
Before July, Carrillo was seen as a rising star in the state Democratic Party. A graduate of Santa Rosa High School and former government relations manager for Redwood Credit Union, he was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in a tight 2008 race for an open seat.
Last year he trounced his opponent, former county supervisor Ernie Carpenter, to win re-election and he was considering a run for the state Legislature next year.
The arrest scuttled those plans and some of his past campaign supporters, including organized labor groups, have subsequently abandoned him, citing his arrest and what they called “a pattern of poor choices and bad behavior.”
The North Bay Labor Council, the largest regional labor coalition, has called on Carrillo to resign but has yet to decide whether it will support a recall campaign. The preliminary effort is now being pushed largely by liberal Democrats and other activists in Carrillo’s west county district.
The labor council is facing a growing list of other priorities next year, including an open contest for the county supervisor’s seat being vacated by Mike McGuire, city council races, the contest for governor and a potential statewide ballot measure targeting public sector pensions.
“It’s a capacity issue at some point,” said Jack Buckhorn, the labor council president. “We’ll have to have that discussion about what we do with our resources.”
Buckhorn added that he believed Carrillo’s days in political office were “numbered.”
“I’m glad he’s getting help and I wish the best for him, but I think most folks expect more out of their elected leaders,” he said.
Carrillo’s steadfast supporters acknowledge his prospects for higher office have dimmed, at least in the short term. But they contend that he remains a responsive and effective public leader.
“He may have to battle harder in the next election for county supervisor if he decides to stay there,” said John Nagle, a Graton resident and wine industry insider who has campaigned for Carrillo.
Notwithstanding a recall, any contest for the west county seat could be three years away, giving Carrillo ample time to regain his political standing.
“There are too many life lessons in this for him to forget,” said Nagle. “And unless someone puts out a strong candidate against him, I don’t see him getting blown out if he was to run (again).”
Staff Writer Sean Scully contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or email@example.com. You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.