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PD Editorial: Don't hide details of Efren Carrillo case

  • 11/1/2013:A1: Efren Carrillo

    10/12/2013: A1:Efren Carrillo

    PC: Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo listens to his defense attorney Chris Andrian address the court during his hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa on Friday, October 11, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Remember the handgun that California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly attempted to take through airport security at a Southern California airport two years ago? It turns out it wasn't even registered to him. It was registered to an 83-year-old San Bernardino County woman who said she sold it years earlier.

Donnelly, who was fined $2,125 and placed on three years' probation for carrying a loaded firearm in public without a permit, says he bought the gun five years earlier and never got around to having it registered. None of this was known publicly until this week.

So why is it relevant now, particularly to readers in Sonoma County? Two reasons. First, because Donnelly is running for governor as a Republican challenger to Jerry Brown. Second, it's an example of the importance of transparency and the value of some facts that may not be evidence in a criminal case but still matter in the court of public opinion.

In this case, these facts about Donnelly and the gun only became known because the Los Angeles Times was recently given access to the police report. Our hope is that the same will happen here in Sonoma County concerning another case of an elected official who ran afoul of the law..

Last week, the trial of Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo was pushed back from March 7 to April 18. But few believe the case against Carrillo, who faces one misdemeanor charge of peeking related to a alcohol-laced attempt to interact with a female neighbor last summer, will go to trial. In fact, Carrillo's lawyer and the prosecutor in the case were scheduled to meet today with a judge to discuss a pre-trial settlement.

Carrillo could face jail time, but we doubt it will come to that given that he has no prior convictions. And given that the charge has been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, there's little direct risk to his continued service on the Board of Supervisors.

Given that, as we've stated before, our concern is less about the consequences of any pre-trial settlement and more about what happens next — whether the public will ever get a full understanding of what transpired that morning of July 13.

Given his status as an elected official, we believe the public has a prevailing interest in having access to the 911 tapes, booking photos and the full police report.

Santa Rosa's interim police Chief Hank Schreeder declined this newspaper's latest request for the 911 tapes, citing the ongoing prosecution. But given that, there should be no obstacle to releasing these documents, including the police report, after the case is resolved — as happened with the Donnelly case.

Because the charges eventually were dropped, the public never got a full understanding of what happened in 2012 when Carrillo was arrested following a fight outside a San Diego nightclub, in which one person was seriously injured.

The worst outcome this time around is not that the case will be settled. The worst outcome is that the details of the conduct of Sonoma County's 5th District representative will once again be hidden from public view.


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