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No Peeking

Details and ramifications of Carrillo's not guilty verdict

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HALL OF JUSTICE A jury found Supervisor Efren Carrillo not guilty of attempted peeking. - NICOLAS GRIZZLE
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • HALL OF JUSTICE A jury found Supervisor Efren Carrillo not guilty of attempted peeking.

If Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo's misdemeanor peeking case has taught the public anything, it's that there's nothing illegal about a man showing up uninvited at a female neighbor's house at 3:30am in his underwear, hoping to have sex with her, ripping her bedroom window screen and sticking his hand inside, walking around her apartment to her back patio, returning to her front door 10 minutes later and announcing himself as a neighbor before leaving again and being apprehended by police who had been called by that same woman to look for a possible prowler—as long as he doesn't look inside the house.

Shortly after a jury could not reach a verdict Monday afternoon on the misdemeanor charge of peeking Monday afternoon, Carrillo was found not guilty on the lesser charge of attempted peeking.

After a drawn-out and much publicized case with more twists than a Cirque du Soleil show, Carrillo told reporters outside the courtroom, "I would like to move on and put this behind me."

He has good reason to want that, after taking the stand and describing himself as a "functioning alcoholic," and admitting that he hoped to have sex with his neighbor at 3:30am, after his girlfriend had dropped him off from Space XXV, a downtown Santa Rosa nightclub, less than two hours prior. The fallout has already begun.

His fellow supervisors have condemned his actions, and supervisor Shirlee Zane has called for his resignation. "Any man who treats a woman like an object has completely and utterly disqualified himself from leadership," she wrote on her Facebook page. "I have witnessed him do this stone sober, and confronted him. So let me be perfectly clear—resign, resign, resign, resign—and one more time for his victim: resign."

The public, too, has showed its overwhelming outrage on social media, demonstrating with a "Efren Carrillo Has Got to Go" rally in Santa Rosa's Courthouse Square scheduled for April 30. His political future, once on the fast track to higher office, is likely stunted. Despite all of this, Carrillo says he will not resign.

THE 'WHAT IF' GAME

But if Carrillo were to resign, who would take his place? It would be someone appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and if that happened before July, the position would then become open on the November ballot. Santa Rosa attorney and former U.S. Congressman Doug Bosco, a close friend of both Brown and Carrillo, and a principal owner of the Press Democrat, might have the governor's ear on this matter.

"It seems to be that if Bosco were going to make a recommendation to Jerry Brown, Lisa Carreño would be a possibility," says Alice Chan, a West County political activist who was a driving force behind the initial push for a recall against Carrillo. Carreño, a Santa Rosa attorney, is also on the Press Democrat's editorial board. Former supervisor Eric Koenigshofer has also been mentioned as a possibility, though progressives in the fifth district have said that he would not be their ideal replacement.

Chan says she is still in contact with the people working on a recall effort, but says, "I'd be very surprised if there were a recall now," citing the election year and funding issues. "I would be really, really surprised if he resigned," she adds, citing the two years left in his term. "I doubt very much that he'd ever be reelected."

Rosanne Darling, a former prosecutor who was representing the victim in the case, says her client was "disappointed" with the jury's decision. "She was up against not just the justice system, but the political machine of Sonoma County," she says. The victim, who was kept anonymous in this case, "has more than a host of civil options," which have a two-year statute of limitations.

"A 'not guilty' verdict does not mean innocent," says Darling.

THE INCIDENT

The facts of this case do not paint a pretty portrait of the supervisor. In the early morning hours of July 13, Carrillo showed up at his female neighbor's house, to her surprise, in his now-infamous boxer-brief-and-crew-sock ensemble. He admitted on the witness stand to tearing the screen of her bedroom window, which was open with the blinds closed, and putting his hand inside. Carrillo testified that he was "trying to get her attention."

Jane Doe testified she was wakened by a "tearing, ripping sound" at her bedroom window. "I heard someone trying to break in through my window," she said. She "saw a man standing with his hands on his hips and his shirt off," whom she described as "very scary, large and muscular," and called 911 at 3:40am. She says she told the dispatch operator "there was a man outside my door trying to break into my house." She called again at 3:50am. The 911 call recordings were not played in court and have not been released, despite multiple requests from multiple media outlets, including the Bohemian.

After calling 911, Doe hid in the kitchen, and she and two girlfriends, traveling nurses who were staying the night, armed themselves. "We all had butcher knives," said Doe. When they heard a knock at the door a few minutes later, she asked who was there, to which Carrillo replied, "It's your neighbor," before asking if she wanted to have a drink with him. He says he identified himself by name, but she didn't mention that in court. She says she only learned the man's identify when police detained Carrillo on the street outside her apartment. When she saw Carrillo in his underwear detained by police, she told the court, "My heart sank into my stomach, and I felt sick."

HE SAID, SHE SAID

Carrillo took the stand Thursday afternoon, saying he has a bigger problem with alcohol than he let on to officers. He said that he told officers he had "two beers and a couple of really strong mixed drinks," but said he had actually had much more than that. He says he was trying to hide it and was in denial. "At the time, I was accustomed to downplaying and minimalizing the struggle." He checked himself into a rehab facility for a month after the incident.

He told his defense attorney Chris Andrian there were two reasons why he went over to Jane Doe's apartment at 3:30 that morning: "The fact that I was drinking" was one, and "I was hoping to rekindle some kind of relationship" was the other. He later admitted, under cross-examination, that there really was no relationship to begin with, and he was basing his perception on two brief interactions.

The first was a chance meeting at Space XXV the evening after briefly meeting her while she moved into her new apartment. That interaction was between a few seconds and couple of minutes long, depending on which story is believed. The second meeting was when Carrillo entered Jane Doe's backyard through her open garage, knocking on the partially open sliding glass door to offer her a bottle of Chardonnay as a welcome gift. He leaned in for a hug and air kiss, and Doe leaned away from the greeting, saying she was "taken aback" and "shocked" by his presence at her rear door. "I did that because I felt [like it said] 'You're not welcome.'"

"My sense of ego," "my sense of entitlement," and "my sense of arrogance made me think it was a good idea to go over to Jane Doe's house," Carrillo told the defense. "It was selfish," he said. "It had nothing to do with Jane Doe, only with me."

He added, "There is no excuse."

Carrillo admitted during his testimony that he had damaged the screen on Jane Doe's bedroom window. He says he didn't tell officers at first, because he was "unwilling to admit I had done anything wrong."

Cody Hunt, a prosecutor with the Napa district attorney's office assigned to the case by the state attorney general, cross-examined Carrillo with some theatrics, including knocking on a wooden banister in the courtroom when asking Carrillo about his own knocking on Jane Doe's door, and raising and lowering his voice in attempts to get Carrillo to admit to looking into her window.

Carrillo looked uncomfortable, emotional and shaken at times. Hunt asked which hand he had broken the screen with and put it inside her bedroom, because he had two beers in one hand and his cell phone in the other. It had been established previously in the trial that his boxer briefs did not have pockets, and Hunt surmised that he must have put his hand holding the cell phone inside her window. He then intimated that Carrillo took pictures inside the woman's bedroom. Hunt informed Carrillo during his cross-examination that he had a copy of everything on his cell phone, to which Carrillo replied he knew. Nothing from the phone was entered into evidence.

The supervisor admitted that he has a problem with alcohol and ego, but those aren't illegal. He did admit walking around to her back patio through the gate because he thought he saw a light on coming out of the sliding glass door in the back, but maintained that he did not have a recollection of whether or not he looked into the apartment, and at one point explicitly said he did not look into the apartment.

He also admitted that he hoped to spark a sexual relationship with the woman, whom he called "very attractive," even after being dropped off by his girlfriend from a nightclub about an hour and a half prior. When asked by Hunt, Carrillo stated that the same woman who dropped him off that night is still his girlfriend today, though she was not in court at the time of his testimony.

The defense did not redirect the cross examination and the jury went to deliberation after closing arguments.

OFFICERS' TESTIMONY

Santa Rosa police officer Timothy Doherty testified that the night of the incident he never suspected drugs being involved, though, considering the situation—a county supervisor caught in his underwear before dawn with only a cell phone and two beers in his hands—he "thought there might be a mental illness."

Carrillo was carrying only his Samsung cell phone, and had put two Pliny the Elders from Russian River Brewing Company down on the grass before approaching officers. "I didn't want you guys thinking I was carrying anything," he told officers. Doherty followed Carrillo to his apartment to allow the supervisor to put some clothes on. He testified the apartment was "in shambles. It was a mess."

Santa Rosa police officer Chris Diaz was the first to make contact with Carrillo that morning, at 3:49am. He testified that the underwear-clad Carrillo approached him and said, "I think you might be looking for me." When he identified himself, Diaz began recording his interview with Carrillo. That recording was played in court.

"When I heard a man's voice, I thought she was by herself. I left when I heard that," Carrillo said on tape. He also said, "If I offended her or did anything wrong, I'm happy to go over there and apologize." He cited his two previous interactions with Jane Doe and then conceded that, for this particular encounter, "I probably should have been wearing pants."

Diaz said that while Carrillo smelled slightly of alcohol and his eyes were glassy, in his opinion Carrillo "wasn't even close" to what he would consider "drunk in public." When asked why he did not perform a field sobriety test, Diaz said, "At that moment, I was investigating a possible prowler, not a DUI."

Sgt. David Boettger, a detective in the Santa Rosa Police Department's domestic violence and sexual assault unit, testified that he interviewed Carrillo later that morning at the police station. In that taped interview, Carrillo said, "I feel really bad that I scared her" and "At no point was there any malice."

He also admitted that he did not know Doe's name at the time, and did not have her phone number. When asked who dropped him off that night, he said "A friend," then, after a pause, clarified, "My girlfriend."

PRESS INTERFERENCE

Members of the jury were contacted twice this week by a member of the press, Judge Gary Medvigy said Friday. The jurors each said the contact did not impact their deliberations, and Medvigy allowed the trial to proceed after an hour of individual juror interviews. The highly unusual incident did, however, prompt outrage from defense attorney Chris Andrian.

"I think it's more than contempt of court; I think it may be a felony," he told the judge. "It makes this whole thing sound like a circus more than a courtroom."

Two jurors reported being approached by a man whom they later understood to be a reporter. One woman, who said she was wearing her juror badge at the time, was asked by a man on the first day of trial her occupation and if she worked full-time.

Another woman was asked on the jury's lunch recess, "Is there a verdict in the Carrillo case?" She responded that she was not allowed to talk about the case. "Based solely on appearance, he was a member of the press," she told the judge.

The jury reportedly had reached a verdict just before the noon recess, but Judge Medvigy elected to wait until court resumed at 1:30 to hear it. One juror changed his or her mind just before court resumed, Medvigy said.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

After reviewing the case, a few questions remain. Why wasn't Carrillo's cell phone data entered as evidence? Why didn't the two women staying at Jane Doe's house that night take the stand as witnesses? Perhaps a civil trial, which could be forthcoming, will reveal more details.

"[Carrillo] was looking at a misdemeanor with a maximum of six months in jail," says Darling, the victim's attorney. "Was that ever going to make what he did right? Guilty or not guilty," she adds, "what he admitted more than corroborated what Jane Doe said."

Carrillo was arrested in 2012 after an altercation after a Too $hort concert outside a San Diego nightclub in which a man was knocked unconscious. Carrillo spent 10 hours in jail; all charges were later dropped.

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