Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office hands Foppoli investigation to Attorney General’s Office
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has handed its investigation into sexual assault allegations against former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli over to the California Attorney General’s Office for a review and decision on possible charges.
Detectives wrapped up their work earlier this week, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Juan Valencia said, though prosecutors may send aspects of the case back to the department for further investigation.
The announcement was the latest in a series of developments in criminal investigations into Foppoli in two states and comes just two weeks before the Sonoma County investigation hit the one-year mark. The investigation began April 8, 2021, amid widespread public outrage that followed the publication of four sexual assault allegations against the mayor by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Valencia declined to say what, if any, criminal charges detectives had recommended against Foppoli, a former rising Wine Country political star who has now been publicly accused by 13 women of sexual assault, rape or misconduct. Valencia said detectives typically hand a case to prosecutors with charging recommendations.
“In general we wouldn’t send a case over if we didn’t think there was enough,” he said, but added that sometimes investigators will forward a case because they have exhausted all leads. Valencia did not know how long the state prosecutors would take to review the case, or how they would announce a charging decision, he said.
The attorney general’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attorney General Rob Bonta’s agency took over as the prosecuting agency after Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch recused her office because a deputy district attorney, Esther Lemus, is one of Foppoli’s accusers. Lemus, a Windsor City Council member, said Foppoli sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions. Lemus no longer works for Ravitch’s office.
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 allegations came to light. Foppoli did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
He has previously denied the allegations against him and said he anticipates being declared innocent. Because of “the incredible thoroughness” of the sheriff’s investigation, Foppoli said in a March 8 statement, “the public will hopefully have even more confidence in the outcome when I’m exonerated.”
At that time, the sheriff’s office announced it had handed just a portion of its investigation off to prosecutors in the first public indication that the investigation was nearing its conclusion. Traci Carrillo, a Santa Rosa private attorney who represents seven women who have accused the former mayor, said she felt law enforcement had “more than sufficient evidence to put (Foppoli) in handcuffs.”
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.
Detectives in that case never interviewed Foppoli and were unable to subpoena possible witnesses who were present the evening Abraham alleged the assault occurred. An attorney for Abraham has said she will likely file a civil lawsuit.
You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or email@example.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88.
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