By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo was acquitted Monday of attempting to peek into a neighbor’s home, winning a high-stakes legal gamble in which he laid bare his alcoholism and oversized ego to avoid a conviction and try to salvage his political career.
The verdict caps more than nine months of legal wrangling and intrigue surrounding the 5th District supervisor, who was arrested outside the woman’s Santa Rosa apartment before dawn on July 13, dressed in just his socks and underwear.
Jurors deadlocked on a more serious charge of peeking before reaching the unanimous decision on the lesser count of attempted peeking. His lawyer, Chris Andrian, said it amounts to an acquittal on both charges.
“It’s all done,” a jubilant Andrian said outside the courtroom, moments after the verdict was read. “It’s over.”
Carrillo, 33, who has rejected calls to resign, showed no emotion as he stood in court, his hands clasped in front of him. Outside court he told a gathering of reporters he felt “sorrow” for the pain he caused the woman, his own family and political supporters. But he vowed to continue to focus on his work and what he called a “personal recovery.”
“I hope to continue to be an effective public servant,” said Carrillo, who was re-elected to a second term in 2012.
He declined to say whether he planned to address the situation at the next Board of Supervisors meeting, on May 6.
Prosecutor Cody Hunt, who tried the case for the state attorney general to avoid a conflict with Sonoma County prosecutors, left the door open for a possible retrial on the main count of peeking. There is case law that would support a second trial, he said.
Judge Gary Medvigy never dismissed the charge or declared a mistrial.
“It is not an implied acquittal,” Hunt said. “The question is whether we can go back and retry count one.”
But Andrian was adamant that isn’t a possibility. He said a person can’t be convicted of a greater crime after they’ve been acquitted of a lesser crime.
“If you didn’t attempt to rob a bank how can you be guilty of robbing it?” Andrian asked.
A lawyer for the woman, identified in court only as Jane Doe, said she was hoping for a conviction but was realistic about the possibility of another outcome.
“Our position has always been, guilty or not guilty, it doesn’t change what happened that night,” attorney Rosanne Darling said.
Several jurors declined to comment as they left the courthouse, saying they were tired.
The verdict came after three days of testimony in which the woman and Carrillo took the witness stand.
The woman told jurors she was asleep in her Brockhurst Drive apartment about 3:30 a.m. when she was awakened by the sound of the screen tearing on her bedroom window and the movement of her window blinds.
She said she bolted into her living room, where two female houseguests were spending the night, and looked out another window to see a half-dressed man standing near her front door.
The women called police and armed themselves with kitchen knives. Police found Carrillo nearby. He was arrested when he could not explain what he was doing there.
Santa Rosa police repeatedly declined to release copies of the woman’s 911 calls while the trial was pending. Interim Police Chief Hank Schreeder said Monday he is working with the city attorney to determine whether the tapes should be released, and if so, what information should be redacted to protect the caller. He hopes to say on Tuesday whether or not the department will release the tapes.
Carrillo testified he was out to have a drink and sex with the woman, whom he barely knew.
He said he got a ride home from a Santa Rosa nightclub from his girlfriend, spotted a light on at his neighbor’s apartment and decided to walk over with a couple of Pliny the Elder beers.
He acknowledged knocking on the woman’s door and bedroom window and tearing a window screen in the process, but maintained he never peeked into her home.
Carrillo admitted his boorish, narcissistic behavior, but said he has since come to understand the pain he caused. He said he had an outsized impression of himself and believed women shared that opinion.
Police initially arrested Carrillo on suspicion of felony burglary, saying it appeared he intended to commit some type of sexual assault, and on prowling, a misdemeanor. Prosecutors rejected the more serious charge, which would have automatically removed Carrillo from office upon a conviction. Instead they charged him with peeking, a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum six-months in jail.
The jury received the case late Thursday afternoon and briefly reached a consensus Friday morning but found itself split 11-1 after one juror changed his or her mind. The jury forewoman told Medvigy that members were deadlocked, but the judge urged them to continue to weighing the evidence.
It was not disclosed if they were leaning toward guilt or innocence.
Jurors broke for the weekend and reconvened in the courtroom at 10:45 a.m. Monday. When they returned from lunch, they told the judge they were still deadlocked after deliberating more than seven hours over three days. The vote was not announced.
With the jury divided, Hunt said he would waive the prosecution’s right to seek a unanimous verdict on the main count. That allowed the panel to consider the lesser charge of attempted peeking without officially addressing the primary charge.
An attempted peeking conviction required jurors to believe Carrillo took a direct step to look in a door or window and that he intended to look inside. The charge, also a misdemeanor, carried a maximum three-month jail term.
Once jurors received directions to move onto the secondary charge, they reached a unanimous verdict in about 15 minutes.
The courtroom, packed with standing room-only crowds last week when Jane Doe and Carrillo testified, was half-full and subdued Monday when the clerk read the jury’s decision.
Another defense attorney and a friend of Carrillo’s clapped quietly in the gallery.
“I thought his mother and I would cheer,” said Don Gibble, a friend who produces west county theater productions. “But I think she was in shock.”
Gibble said he is 23 years sober and understands how Carrillo could have thought his actions that night weren’t offensive.
“Efren really prepared what he had to say,” Gibble said. “I think he’s really upset that he hurt his family.”
Carrillo left the courthouse with his mother, at times speaking in Spanish to her.
Some in the community have called for Carrillo to apologize to Jane Doe. He said he hopes to have the opportunity to tell her he’s sorry.
“Whether it’s in restorative justice or some other fashion, absolutely,” Carrillo said in an brief interview while leaving the courthouse.
“I’m embarrassed by my behavior,” he said. “I’ve had nine months to reflect on it.”
Carrillo wouldn’t address whether female employees of the county or in the community would be comfortable working side-by-side with him.
“I’m concerned with today, and what comes in the future, I can’t begin to even go there,” he said.
Jane Doe’s lawyer, Darling, who specializes in victim’s rights, said Carrillo’s own words on the stand validated her client’s account of the frightening incident.
“He terrorized her,” Darling said. “This will stay with her for a very long time.”
The woman has a host of civil remedies available to her, Darling said, but she hasn’t decided whether to pursue any of them.
Staff Writer Jamie Hansen contributed to this story.