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Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli blames sexual assault allegations on ’political and social machinations’

Resources for survivors of sexual assault

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can contact:

Family Justice Center of Sonoma County: 707-565-8255

Verity: 707-545-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 or online.rainn.org

Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli proclaimed his innocence Saturday and vowed to clear his name, claiming he was the victim of “clear political and social machinations” intended to derail his political career as a sex assault scandal closed out its third day.

“I am far from a person without faults, but I am not a rapist nor have I ever pressured any female to engage in sexual conduct with me,” Foppoli said in a statement emailed to The Press Democrat on Saturday.

The 38-year-old winery owner and politician said assault allegations detailed Thursday in the San Francisco Chronicle were the product of a reporter “with a well-sharpened axe to grind.” He claimed one of the reporters on the Chronicle investigation, Alexandria Bordas, took issue with his conservative politics while covering Windsor for The Press Democrat in 2019, when he was an appointed mayor who had served on the Town Council since 2014, and went after him with the goal of “disclosing some hidden nefarious reason for my youthful successes.”

Foppoli also chastised fellow elected officials who have called for his resignation — a long roster ranging from congressmen to local mayors and council members, including all of those with whom he serves in Windsor and the entire Sonoma County Board of Supervisors — “for their cowardly rush to judgment without evidence.”

It was, he said, “a particularly alarming reflection of the state of our dwindling Democracy; indicative of your lack of commitment to critical thinking and logic; as well as an absolute collective failure to fully evaluate a challenging situation before making judgments and condemning a fellow colleague and citizen.”

The denial came as a fifth woman stepped forward to accuse Foppoli of sexual assault.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the woman said Foppoli handcuffed her to a bed in the apartment they shared in 2002 and sexually abused her, inserting grapes into her vagina as she struggled and pleaded with him to stop. The woman, who said she dated Foppoli from 2001 to 2004, said he forced her to engage in oral copulation dozens of times during a three-year relationship, the Chronicle reported Saturday.

The newspaper’s stories on the allegations have cited meticulous documentation, with references to journal entries and long ago conversations in which the women accusing Foppoli of assault shared their stories with family and friends. The sourcing attributed in the stories go well beyond what Foppoli described as “salacious fictions” found on social media during a political campaign.

Foppoli also offered no explanation as to why four of the five women, many of them acquainted with him years ago, would agree to be named and photographed so publicly, alongside graphic details of private interactions that they say occurred without their consent or sober participation.

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief of the Chronicle, said the newspaper stands by its reporting.

“The stories have been thoroughly reported by Alexandria Bordas and Cynthia Dizikes over many months. The Mayor was given numerous opportunities to respond to the individual allegations. When sources come forward they do so at great personal risk. We found the stories of these women to be credible. We still welcome Mr. Foppoli’s response to their allegations,” Garcia-Ruiz said in a statement.

Sonoma County’s political establishment has united in calling for Foppoli to resign. Every other member of the Windsor Town Council, the mayors of Sonoma County’s eight other cities, all five county supervisors, four North Coast state legislators and the two U.S. congressmen who represent the region have all demanded that Foppoli step down.

Late Saturday, Christopher Creek Winery CEO Joe Foppoli said he has asked his brother to step down from ownership and employment at the family-owned Healdsburg winery over the allegations.

“As a person of faith, I will not accept anything less than an environment of compassion, morality, tolerance, and inclusion as I assume primary leadership of this organization,” Joe Foppoli said in an email statement.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation Thursday into the allegations to determine if it had jurisdiction over any of the alleged assaults.

Four women told the Chronicle that Foppoli assaulted them over a 16-year period.

The first alleged assault involved an 18-year-old volunteer on Foppoli’s 2003 Assembly campaign who said he pressured her to drink alcohol for the first time and raped her twice at a New Year’s Eve house party, the Chronicle reported.

The second allegedly occurred in 2006. A woman who met Foppoli at a dance class said Foppoli attempted to have sex with her, despite her objections, after drinking at a nightclub, the newspaper reported. She locked herself in a bathroom to protect herself.

The third alleged assault occurred in 2012. A woman who encountered Foppoli at an Active 20-30 civic club meeting in Reno said he engaged in oral copulation with her while she was nearly unconscious and too drunk to consent, the newspaper reported.

The fourth allegedly occurred in 2019, when a winery intern said Foppoli forcibly kissed and groped her despite her objections.

None of the women who spoke to the Chronicle notified police or pursued legal action after the alleged encounters with Foppoli, saying they were ashamed and wanted to put the incidents in the past.

The allegations led to Foppoli’s immediate ouster from several civic groups, including the Active 20-30 Club and Leadership Santa Rosa, a Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce leadership development program. The League of California Cities also stripped Foppoli of a post on a leadership committee.

Foppoli defiantly said he would “not succumb to any pressure to resign my office.”

“Because I believe in a society where daughters and sons are safe and where sons and daughters are not cast out as predators based on unsubstantiated and one-sided claims of sexual wrongdoing, I am fighting back and will clear my name,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

Resources for survivors of sexual assault

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can contact:

Family Justice Center of Sonoma County: 707-565-8255

Verity: 707-545-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 or online.rainn.org

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