By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
There were high-society types. Students. Political junkies. Activists. Court lookie-loos. Unrelated attorneys. All were curious and intrigued by the Efren Carrillo peeking trial going on Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Courtroom No. 4.
For many it was their first step inside the county’s justice complex. Some even got lost looking for the right courtroom. Others knew the drill and staked out a seat so when bailiffs opened the door they could find just the right spot to see the defendant, the jury and salacious photos that might be shown.
A west county couple, Bill Carlsen and his wife Kathie O’Shea, were there for three reasons: Carrillo is their representative on the county Board of Supervisors, Carlsen is a retired legal affairs reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and a good friend is on the jury.
“We told her we’d have a debriefing afterward,” Carlsen said before court began Thursday morning.
“It’s an intriguing case,” he said. “Even though I’ve seen many, many trials, I still find it fascinating.”
The courtroom was nearly filled to capacity, a rarity except for the most unusual cases in Sonoma County. At least two Bay Area TV stations and several regional newspaper reporters took up the front row of spectators, tweeting or relaying live-stream tidbits about the case. The Twitterverse seized upon Carrillo’s admittedly embarrassing behavior, mocking him and calling for his recall.
Included in the broad spectrum of residents drawn to the courthouse were Carrillo’s political advisers. Former Congressman Doug Bosco, general counsel and an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat, shared pleasantries with the judge after jurors began deliberating.
Several students from Santa Rosa Junior College covered the case as part of a journalism assignment. A handful of west county activists attended, as did Carrillo’s parents, who sat quietly in the back row.
On Thursday, the third day of testimony, Carrillo took the stand. He was the witness onlookers were most interested to hear.
Under a withering and at times humiliating cross-examination, Carrillo acknowledged walking to a female neighbor’s apartment sometime before 3:40 a.m. wearing only boxer shorts and socks, with two beers in hand, and knocking on multiple doors and a window.
He testified that his massive ego and feelings of narcissism and entitlement prompted him to attempt the clumsy late-night effort to have sex with the woman he barely knew.
Police that night arrested him on several charges, but he ultimately was tried on one misdemeanor count of “peeking,” essentially prowling outside her home and looking — or trying to look — inside.
Uriel Brena, a friend of Carrillo’s, attended to show his support. He said the process seemed fair, although difficult for Carrillo.
“It’s a very, very hard time for Efren,” he said. “The (prosecutor) is being very hard on him. He’s asking questions that make no sense.”
SRJC student Angie McClure came to see what the fuss was about. She left with a low opinion of Carrillo.
“He’s pleading,” she said of his testimony. “He’s trying to cover his ass. He knows exactly what he did. He’s just putting on a front to make this go away.”