Sonoma County judge allows lawsuit against former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli to move forward

A judge in Sonoma County Superior Court on Wednesday tentatively allowed a lawsuit filed by seven women against former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli and his winery to move forward.|

A judge in Sonoma County Superior Court on Wednesday tentatively allowed a lawsuit filed by seven women against former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli and his winery to move forward.

The preliminary order by Judge Barbara Zuniga rejected efforts by an attorney for Christopher Creek Winery to throw out some of the legal claims against the winery connected to sexual assault and abuse accusations against Foppoli.

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

The women’s identities are anonymous in the lawsuit but their claims match accounts published in The Press Democrat and San Francisco Chronicle. They base some of the claims in their suit on the idea that the business profited as Foppoli lured women to the winery to commit sexual crimes against them.

“To know that our complaint is largely intact as we move forward is a step in the right direction and certainly significant for our clients,” Traci Carrillo, a Santa Rosa attorney and former prosecutor representing the women, said after Wednesday’s hearing.

Zuniga also ruled Wednesday against a motion by Foppoli, who sought to join the winery’s motion to dismiss some of the women’s claims from the lawsuit. But he committed a procedural error, filing his attempt after he had already responded to the lawsuit, Zuniga ruled.

Foppoli continues to represent himself in the case and has not named an attorney. At Wednesday’s hearing, his name appeared on a Zoom call box with the camera turned off. That individual did not speak during the hearing, and the judge did not call upon them.

Zuniga is a visiting judge. Judge Jennifer Dollard is overseeing the case.

Foppoli did not respond to a request for comment. He has previously denied any wrongdoing. His brother, Joe Foppoli, did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment on behalf of Christopher Creek. The winery’s attorney, San Francisco-based Michael Zimmerman, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Also on Wednesday’s courtroom call were five screens labeled Jane Doe, representing women who allege the vintner and former Wine Country politician raped, sexually assaulted or harassed them at different points over the past two decades.

“Even a procedural hearing is very significant for our clients who are at last seeing some movement,” Carrillo said.

Defendants faced a high bar in their request that a judge remove portions of the seven women’s complaint from consideration in the lawsuit. Called a “demurrer,” the defendants had to prove allegations in the complaint didn’t fall under the laws they’re accused of violating, without conducting any depositions or discovery.

The seven women also are suing the Santa Rosa affiliate of Active 20-30, a national service club. A November 2021 investigation by the Chronicle found local Active 20-30 leaders were aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Dominic Foppoli but ignored or made light of the complaints. The club subsequently expelled him.

Active 20-30 club, represented by San Francisco attorney James Holder, has filed its own demurrer. Along similar lines as Christopher Creek’s, the service club argues some of the women’s allegations of sexual assault fall outside the statute of limitations. That argument is set for a hearing Nov. 23, according to the court’s online docket.

As many as 14 women have publicly accused Dominic Foppoli of sexual assault, rape or harassment. He remains under criminal investigation in California and faces two civil suits so far, with the second coming from an anonymous Montana woman who says Foppoli raped her several times in 2020.

The California attorney general’s office has spent seven months investigating without announcing a decision that could result in criminal charges.

In an Oct. 20 interview with The Press Democrat, Attorney General Rob Bonta said his staff was working “expeditiously” on the case, but it remained an open investigation, and he could not comment further.

On March 11, authorities in Palm Beach, Florida, released documents from an investigation there into a sexual assault allegation against Foppoli from reality TV star Farrah Abraham.

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 Windsor mayor, in the Palm Beach courthouse. In October, Kuvin told The Press Democrat there were “no new developments.”

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88

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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