Six years ago, Efren Carrillo was a 26-year-old community activist who perceived his time had come.
It was 2008. At the time, Carrillo was part of a prominent group of Sonoma County Latinos who — also sensing history in the making — were trying to awaken local Latino voters and move them toward greater participation in local politics.
The new group was called the Coalition for Latino Civic Engagement, and it included people like Sonoma State professor Francisco Vazquez; Juan Nieto, head of the local chapter of the National Hispanic Real Estate Professionals; and west county real estate agent Herman Hernandez.
Carrillo left the group when he started running for supervisor. Powerful people were in his corner, and his appeal soon broadened beyond the Latino community.
"I remember asking him, 'Are you sure you're ready for this?'" Vazquez recalled this week. "Now, those words have come back to haunt me."
On Monday, a jury acquitted Carrillo of a charge that he attempted to peek into a neighbor's apartment. But his legal victory came at a cost to his reputation.
During the trial, Carrillo took the witness stand to offer his explanation of the events on July 13 that ended with him in handcuffs, clad only in socks and underwear, in the back of a police patrol car.
He attributed his actions to a mix of ego and alcohol, saying he went to his neighbor's apartment at about 3:30 a.m. hoping to share a beer and have sex with the woman, whose name he could not remember at the time of his arrest.
Carrillo's testimony and subsequent acquittal were met with angry calls for his resignation throughout the week. That demand is likely to continue Tuesday when Carrillo faces his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors.
Carrillo's monumental fall from grace has some wondering what he will do next. The supervisor has not appeared at public meetings or returned calls seeking comment since his acquittal.
Few are more conflicted than his supporters, Latino and non-Latino alike, as they grapple with the desire to forgive and the hope that Carrillo will make the best choices for himself and the community.
"He needs to balance his desire for redemption through that office or seek redemption through another office or another way," Vazquez said. "I personally think that we need to have compassion because nobody's perfect."
But Vazquez said he feels "terrible about the woman who had to go through that experience," adding that he has a wife and daughters and can only imagine what Carrillo's neighbor must have endured.
The woman, identified in court only as Jane Doe, testified she awoke to the sound of a window screen ripping in her bedroom. Terrified, she called 911, roused two women who were spending the night in her living room and grabbed a kitchen knife to protect herself.
Carrillo told the jury he was simply trying to knock on her window and accidentally put his hand through the screen.
Though he was found not guilty, the episode is a dark chapter in the young public servant's career.
Carrillo was widely viewed as a rising Democratic political star before two alcohol-fueled arrests in 11 months began to overshadow his success story, one that had appealed to both the community he emerged from and the one he aspired to lead.