Not guilty plea expected from Efren Carrillo on Friday
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:32 a.m.
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo is expected to plead not guilty Friday to a misdemeanor peeking charge stemming from his predawn arrest outside a Santa Rosa woman's home this summer.
But it's not clear if Carrillo will be signaling his intent to take the case to trial or whether he's making a procedural step that could open the door to future talks leading to a plea bargain.
Carrillo, 32, has publicly apologized for his behavior, which he linked to binge drinking, but has avoided a detailed explanation of his actions leading to his arrest.
Reached Thursday by phone, he would not reconcile his apparent acceptance of blame in a statement delivered at a Board of Supervisors meeting in August with a possible not guilty plea.
“At this point, there's nothing more I can say,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo's lawyer, Chris Andrian, acknowledged Thursday that people might trip over the perceived disparity. But he said entering a plea was necessary to advance the legal process.
He said he was hoping to negotiate. Still, there have been no talks so far and he did not expect the case to be resolved soon, he said.
“Unless there are going to be substantial discussions tomorrow,” Andrian said.
Andrian expressed doubt over whether the peeking charge could be proven at trial. He said he reviewed police evidence and didn't see how it applied in Carrillo's case.
Peeking, which is similar to prowling, alleges loitering on someone's property and looking in a window without permission.
“What's their theory?” Andrian said.
Special prosecutor Cody Hunt said Thursday the charge is supported by police reports and his own investigation. He declined to elaborate but said he was prepared to try Carrillo.
The second-term supervisor faces a period of probation up to a maximum of six months in jail if convicted, he said.
It's not a crime that is eligible for dismissal through participation in a court diversion program for first-time offenders, he said.
“It would go on his rap sheet,” Hunt said.
However, Hunt said he has not decided how serious a punishment he would seek. He said he believes a trial could be avoided.
“I think there is room for negotiation,” Hunt said.
Carrillo would not say whether he planned to attend the court hearing Friday, set for 8:30 a.m. before Sonoma County Judge Lawrence Antolini.
Carrillo, who was seen as a rising star in the state Democratic Party, was arrested in early morning hours of July 13 after a woman called 911 to report someone outside her home at Stony Point Road and West Third Street.
She reported someone tried to get into her window and that she was awakened by the sound of window blinds being moved.
The woman called 911 again 10 minutes later to say the person had knocked on her front door, identified himself as a neighbor and ran away.
Officers arrived and found a torn window screen. Carrillo was in the area, clad in just socks and underwear, carrying a cellphone.
He was arrested on suspicion of prowling and burglary after being unable to provide a clear explanation for his behavior.
Investigators at the time said they believed he intended to attempt some type of sexual assault.
Carrillo posted bail within hours and reportedly checked into an alcohol treatment facility. He remained in seclusion for five weeks.
He returned to his job as 5th District Supervisor in August and made an emotional apology at his first board meeting, admitting to a longtime problem with binge drinking.
“The hurt that I have caused ripples out in so many directions,” he said.
In November, after several delays, a special prosecutor for the state Attorney General's Office filed a single misdemeanor peeking charge against Carrillo.
A felony conviction would have resulted in Carrillo's removal from office.
Few additional details have been released. Authorities have declined to provide copies of the 911 recordings. Carrillo would not say Thursday if he would support the release of the tapes.
“I'm not going to comment on any part of the legal case,” he said.
Carrillo's arrest was his second inside of a year. He was picked up by San Diego police on Labor Day weekend in 2012 after he was involved in a fight outside a downtown nightclub.
San Diego prosecutors did not file criminal charges.
Staff Writer Brett Wilkison contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or email@example.com.
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