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Efren Carrillo's supporters grapple with mixed emotions after peeking acquittal

  • In this August 2013 photo, Efren Carrillo reads a statement in his first Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting since being arrested in July 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat, 2013)

Six years ago, Efren Carrillo was a 26-year-old community activist who perceived his time had come.

It was 2008. At the time, Carrillo was part of a prominent group of Sonoma County Latinos who — also sensing history in the making — were trying to awaken local Latino voters and move them toward greater participation in local politics.

The new group was called the Coalition for Latino Civic Engagement, and it included people like Sonoma State professor Francisco Vazquez; Juan Nieto, head of the local chapter of the National Hispanic Real Estate Professionals; and west county real estate agent Herman Hernandez.

Carrillo left the group when he started running for supervisor. Powerful people were in his corner, and his appeal soon broadened beyond the Latino community.

“I remember asking him, 'Are you sure you're ready for this?'” Vazquez recalled this week. “Now, those words have come back to haunt me.”

On Monday, a jury acquitted Carrillo of a charge that he attempted to peek into a neighbor's apartment. But his legal victory came at a cost to his reputation.

During the trial, Carrillo took the witness stand to offer his explanation of the events on July 13 that ended with him in handcuffs, clad only in socks and underwear, in the back of a police patrol car.

He attributed his actions to a mix of ego and alcohol, saying he went to his neighbor's apartment at about 3:30 a.m. hoping to share a beer and have sex with the woman, whose name he could not remember at the time of his arrest.

Carrillo's testimony and subsequent acquittal were met with angry calls for his resignation throughout the week. That demand is likely to continue Tuesday when Carrillo faces his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors.

Carrillo's monumental fall from grace has some wondering what he will do next. The supervisor has not appeared at public meetings or returned calls seeking comment since his acquittal.

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