Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of misdemeanor peeking, five months after being arrested partially clothed outside a Santa Rasa woman's home.
A lawyer for Carrillo, 32, appeared before Judge Lawrence Antolini and entered the plea on his behalf. Carrillo did not attend the hearing.
Antolini set a trial for Feb. 28, but ordered both sides to try to reach a settlement and return to court Jan. 17 to report any resolution.
Carrillo's lawyer, Chris Andrian, wouldn't say whether the talks would focus on a lesser charge or a reduced punishment. Carrillo faces up to six months in jail if convicted.
"I'll hear them out. They'll hear me out. We'll see how it goes," Andrian said.
Prosecutor Cody Hunt has said he was optimistic about a pre-trial settlement. He is expected to participate in talks along with a supervisor from the state Attorney General's Office.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for the unidentified woman expressed disappointment that the process was taking so long.
"If he was truly remorseful, he would have taken responsibility by now," attorney Rosanne Darling said.
She said her client was prepared to testify. The woman has not initiated any civil action, Darling said.
"She has to take this one step at a time," Darling said.
Carrillo, who had ambitions for higher office, 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 a second time 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. Police at the time said they believed he was attempting a 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.
"The hurt that I have caused ripples out in so many directions," he said.
In November, after three delays, a special prosecutor for the state Attorney General filed misdemeanor peeking charges against Carrillo. A felony conviction would have resulted in removal from office.
Critics and opponents of Carrillo are holding their third public forum Monday to gather input and discuss his potential recall. He has been asked to resign by labor groups and other political foes but has indicated he has no plans to step down.
Organizers of the forum at the Finley Center at 6:30 p.m. have said they have not heard if Carrillo plans to attend. He has not attended the previous two forums.
"This is an opportunity for the supervisor to meet with voters in his district to discuss the issues that concern them," Alice Chan, a member of Citizens for Accountability, said in a written statement.