You're excused if you're having a hard time figuring how what to make of the news that Supervisor Efren Carrillo will face a misdemeanor charge of "peeking" over his much-publicized arrest this summer. So are we.
At first blush, it would seem to be a relatively minor charge given the severity of the circumstances. Carrillo was arrested on July 13 on suspicion of burglary, a felony, and prowling, a misdemeanor, after a woman called 911 twice to report that someone was trying to enter her apartment.
Santa Rosa police investigators even took the unusual step of saying they believed Carrillo, who was arrested within moments wearing only his socks and underwear, intended to commit some type of sexual assault.
But after more than three months of court delays, he ultimately was told by a prosecutor for the state Attorney General's Office, which is overseeing the case, that he would face one misdemeanor charge of "peeking."
In the hierarchy of the state Penal Code, that ranks right up there with loitering.
There have been attempts at elevating peeking. When he was chairman of the Public Safety Committee in the state Assembly nine years ago, Mark Leno attempted to pass a bill that would have created a new felony for loitering and peeking into inhabited dwellings.
"Prowling and peeping into residences is predatory conduct that should be treated more seriously than a misdemeanor offense," he said at the time. But his bill, AB 2640, died in committee.
Thus, one thing that's now apparent is that the legal case against Carrillo won't, in and of itself, cost him his job. If the supervisor had been convicted of a felony, he would be forced to step down. Not so with a misdemeanor.
Furthermore, there's a strong likelihood that this case will never go to trial but will end in some kind of plea agreement in which Carrillo would concede to a financial penalty and/or community service.
Whatever the outcome, we trust the supervisor will be treated fairly by the court system. Our concern is whether the public will ever get a full accounting of what transpired on the morning of July 13.
Given his status as an elected official — and his clear desire to remain so — there's a prevailing public interest in getting a better understanding of what happened on that evening, so voters can decide for themselves whether he should remain in office and possibly be re-elected in three years.
Voters should be able to read and hear for themselves the audio and the transcripts from the 911 calls that evening, know what was in the police report that evening and read the statements, if any, from any witnesses.
Unfortunately, the public never got a full picture of what happened a year ago when Carrillo was arrested after a fight outside a San Diego nightclub. Eventually, all charges were dropped.
This time, he will be charged, but there remains the potential that locals will be left just as much in the dark. We encourage prosecutors, local officials and Carrillo himself to pledge that won't be the case.