Two people with ties to Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli drawn into criminal investigation of him
It’s been more than six weeks since Sonoma County sheriff’s detectives opened a criminal investigation into Dominic Foppoli, the Windsor mayor who abruptly resigned Friday in the face of mounting claims from women of sexual assault, abuse and mistreatment by him over a span of 18 years.
Those allegations now include a ninth woman, a social media influencer and former reality TV personality, Farrah Abraham, who went to police in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 2 to report that she had been the victim of “very serious” misconduct “of a sexual nature” at the hands of Foppoli, according to her attorney.
Abraham’s attorney, Spencer Kuvin, said she had physical and digital evidence from the March incident in Palm Beach that has been turned over to police. He confirmed Abraham has talked to Sonoma County investigators but wouldn’t clarify the extent of their communication.
“I can’t get into the specifics of what she is alleging, but it was of a sexual nature. It was a very serious issue. The issue, the details of any type of particular conduct that's alleged, I need to leave that up to the police to investigate,” he said. “And I want that to be between her and police and, ultimately, if there are charges filed.”
Foppoli, 39, now faces criminal probes on opposite coasts and is without a political platform for the first time since 2014, when he was first elected to the Windsor Town Council. The wealthy son of a local wine family, he has already been stripped of his titles with the family’s Christopher Creek Winery, ousted from government leadership posts and booted from local civic clubs.
But little is known or has been reported about the scope and timeline of the investigation being led by the sheriff’s office and involving the California Attorney General’s Office.
Sheriff’s officials acknowledged Friday that detectives were aware of the Palm Beach accusation and that investigators from the two departments have compared notes while working separate cases.
“During the scope of the investigation, we became aware of it and spoke to detectives about it,” Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Juan Valencia said of the Florida incident.
Authorities continue to keep a tight lid on updates about their progress, even amid enormous public interest in the local investigation.
At least two people tied to Foppoli who are said to have knowledge of the allegations leveled against him by Windsor Councilwoman Esther Lemus have been contacted by law enforcement and are cooperating with investigators. Lemus has accused Foppoli of drugging her on two occasions in 2020 to facilitate sex without her consent.
Until the claim made by Abraham, the alleged assaults against Lemus were the most recent in a series of predatory and abusive encounters that the nine women have publicly said they had with Foppoli stretching back to 2003.
Foppoli has continued to proclaim his innocence. “I have always and will always maintain that I did not engage in any non-consensual acts with any woman,” he said Friday in the written statement announcing his resignation.
Recall organizers welcomed his departure, calling it “long overdue.”
Meanwhile, Foppoli’s defense attorney, Orchid Vaghti of Santa Rosa, voiced confidence that the local criminal probe would not result in prosecution.
“I do not believe he will be charged of any criminal wrongdoing,” Vaghti said.
Foppoli has been “cooperative” with the investigation, Vaghti said, though she declined to elaborate or say whether he had been interviewed by authorities.
Tracy Carrillo, the lawyer for Lemus — herself a deputy district attorney — said that she thinks there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Foppoli.
Carrillo, however, has also publicly questioned the urgency and aggressiveness of the criminal investigation into Foppoli.
“While I am concerned about what I perceive as a lack of urgency, I am also aware that these investigations can take time,” Carrillo said in an email. “I continue to hope the Sheriff is dedicating significant resources for a thorough investigation and treating this case with the urgency and aggressiveness it demands.“
In an interview, Carrillo told The Press Democrat she would have expected to hear by this point of warrants being served on the mayor or other public indications of a more aggressive investigation.
Still, law enforcement contact with two people with ties to Foppoli indicates that Lemus’ allegations have been a focus of the investigation. One of those contacts is publicly known — Foppoli’s ex-girlfriend Amy Holter. The other, previously unreported subject, is Chris Grabill, a Santa Rosa housing policy advocate and utility board appointee well known in political circles.