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7 women sue over alleged sexual assault by former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli; winery and service club named in case

Seven women have joined in a lawsuit accusing former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli of sexual assault and alleging his Healdsburg winery and a local service club facilitated his misconduct.

The 30-page complaint, filed Monday in Sonoma County Superior Court, claimed Foppoli used his “power, connections and alcohol to prey upon dozens of women in Sonoma County.”

“We have patiently waited for some measure of justice from the criminal justice system, which has continued to be delayed, all while we have continued to suffer the emotional toll of Dominic Foppoli’s crimes against us. He has continued to live his life normally, while we have continued to process what he did to us and others,” the women said in a joint statement Tuesday.

“Today, we are taking charge of seeking justice in the Civil Court as we approach the one year anniversary of the beginning of this investigation.”

The lawsuit had not been served to Foppoli or the other defendants and was not available to The Press Democrat until Tuesday afternoon due to electronic filing problems at the Sonoma County courthouse.

The lawsuit also alleges that Christopher Creek Winery, owned by Foppoli and his brother, and the Santa Rosa affiliate of Active 20-30, a national service club, profited from Foppoli “luring Plaintiffs to events held at or on behalf of” the two institutions.

The seven women are seeking damages, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and injunctions prohibiting Foppoli from coming within 100 yards of the plaintiffs and releasing any information about them, including photos, videos or recordings.

In a statement via text message, Foppoli maintained he is innocent of the crimes alleged in the lawsuit, including assault and battery, domestic violence and gender violence.

“I look forward to being fully cleared soon so that my family, my friends, and my town can move past this,” he wrote.

Other representatives of Christopher Creek Winery, including Foppoli’s brother, Joe Foppoli, did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit is the first civil action against Foppoli in connection to public allegations made since April 2021 by 13 women who said Foppoli sexually assaulted or mistreated them. He has denied the accusations and said that he has not committed any crimes.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office handed its criminal investigation to the Attorney General’s Office last month. There have been no updates in that case, an office spokesperson said Friday.

Foppoli, 39, resigned as Windsor mayor after weeks of defying widespread and nearly universal calls from constituents and local, state and federal lawmakers who demanded his resignation after the initial allegations came to light in a San Francisco Chronicle investigation published a year ago this Friday.

Traci Carrillo, a Santa Rosa attorney who represents the seven women in the lawsuit, had indicated last month that civil action was likely to follow the conclusion of the criminal investigations in Sonoma County.

Carrillo on Tuesday told The Press Democrat that she and her clients had decided to go forward with a civil case even as criminal proceedings dragged on.

“It’s time that they be held accountable,” she said of Foppoli and those accused in the lawsuit of enabling him. For the victims, filing the lawsuit brings “a feeling of taking some control to get a measure of justice,” she said.

The seven allegations of sexual assault outlined in the civil complaint span 20 years and include allegations of groping, rape and other sexual misconduct. While the women are named only as Jane Does, the accounts in the complaint are similar to incidents that have been reported by both the Chronicle and The Press Democrat.

Among his known accusers is Windsor Town Council Member Esther Lemus, who told The Press Democrat her council colleague sexually assaulted her and subsequently sought to attack her in the media when she brought her allegations to law enforcement. One of the assault allegations in the lawsuit matches the details of the account Lemus shared with The Press Democrat.

Lemus did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday, and referred calls from The Press Democrat to Carrillo.

Many of the women brought their stories forward and agreed to be named in media accounts in an attempt to shed public light on Foppoli’s alleged wrongdoing, Carrillo said. But in the legal proceedings now unfolding, they would remain anonymous, she said, declining to confirm their identities.

“They’ve had a lot of backlash,” she said. “They have a statutory and constitutional right to protect their identity, and so we’re going to continue to do that at this point.”

Beyond Foppoli, the son of a wealthy local wine family, the suit also targets Christopher Creek Winery, which Foppoli ran with his brother until the former mayor was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

Afterward, Joe Foppoli told a crowd of outraged Windsor residents who protested at the winery that he would ask his brother to remove himself from the business in the initial days of the scandal. But a year later, Dominic Foppoli remains on the winery’s liquor license and the business filings for parent company Two Kings Wine Co., according to state records.

Brian Noble, who is listed as general counsel of Christopher Creek and has a stake in the business, hung up on a Press Democrat reporter seeking comment Tuesday.

The suit additionally implicates Active 20-30, an international service organization with a Santa Rosa chapter dedicated to youth charity and volunteering. A November 2021 investigation by the Chronicle found local Active 20-30 leadership was aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Foppoli but ignored or made light of the complaints. The club subsequently expelled Foppoli.

Dale Fenton, executive director of Active 20-30 in the United States and Canada, declined to comment, saying the organization had not yet been served with a lawsuit by Tuesday afternoon. Representatives with the Santa Rosa affiliate did not immediately respond to Press Democrat questions.

The lawsuit contends that both Christopher Creek Winery and Active 20-30 enabled Foppoli because he “acted as an agent” of the two entities, which hosted the events during which his sexual abuse occurred.

“All Defendents were well aware that Defendent Foppoli was abusing, harassing and assaulting women … and that he had a long history of doing so,” the complaint argues.

Despite this knowledge, the filing continues, neither the winery nor social club took action against Foppoli; instead, they “ratified Defendant Foppoli’s actions by enabling and encouraging him, providing him access to women, covering up his actions and forcing women … to continue to have to be exposed to him despite his despicable behavior.”

Sheriff’s deputies searched Foppoli’s Windsor home in November. A warrant return from the search filed with the Sonoma County Superior Court indicated detectives were specifically looking for two images of women they believe are evidence of a felony, one from 2002 and another from 2017.

On March 11, authorities in Palm Beach, Florida, released documents from an investigation there into a sexual assault allegation against Foppoli from Farrah Abraham, a reality television star. The Palm Beach Police Department suspended its investigation for lack of sufficient evidence.

Abraham’s attorney, Spencer Kuvin, has said his client was also likely to bring a civil lawsuit against the former mayor, in the Palm Beach courthouse. Kuvin told The Press Democrat on Tuesday he would likely reach out to Carrillo and other involved attorneys in any California cases to share information, in the hopes of establishing a legal pattern of predatory behavior by Foppoli.

“I want Mr. Foppoli to know that at the end of the day, all of his victims are going to be working together to get justice,” Kuvin said Tuesday.

Staff Writer Colin Atagi contributed to this story.

Emily Wilder

Criminal justice and public safety, The Press Democrat  

Criminal justice is one of the most stirring and consequential systems, both in the North Bay and nationwide. Crime, policing, prosecution and incarceration have ripples that reach many parts of our lives, and these issues are under increasingly powerful microscopes. My goal is to uncover untold stories and understand the unique impacts of criminal justice and public safety on Sonoma County.

Andrew Graham

Business enterprise and investigations, The Press Democrat 

I dig into businesses, utility companies and nonprofits to learn how their actions, or inactions, impact the lives of North Bay residents. I’m looking to dive deep into public utilities, labor struggles and real estate deals. I try to approach my work with the journalism axioms of giving voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable in mind.

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