WINDSOR, Calif. - The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office launched a criminal investigation Thursday into the mayor of Windsor after a bombshell report alleging he sexually assaulted four women over a span of 16 years.
The Chronicle, which broke the story on Wednesday, said the sheriff was looking into the allegations against Dominic Foppoli, who has denied the allegations.
As law enforcement officials look into Foppoli's behavior, across the North Bay, calls are mounting for Foppoli to resign amid sexual assault allegations.
"Being an elected official, a leader is a privilege not a right, and he has lost that privilege," said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
"The level of detail, and multiple women over a period of years, with stories that are corroborated, demonstrates credibility," added Hopkins.
The San Francisco Chronicle published an explosive multi-year investigation into misconduct by Foppoli, 38.
It detailed incidents involving four different women from 2003 to 2019, beginning before his election to public office and most recently two years ago, when he was mayor.
All of them involve nights of social drinking, in some cases escalating to groping, oral copulation and forcible rape.
"When you think you're the only one this is happened to, you think it's your word against theirs," said survivor Sophia Williams, who was part of the expose and told KTVU about her experience. "I'm hoping that there's strength in numbers and that even more women will come forward now that it is public."
Those accusing Foppoli include a young campaign volunteer, a colleague in a civic club he belonged to, and a French intern at his family-owned winery.
Williams met Foppoli at a ballroom dancing class in 2006.
"I knew him and his family, his parents were in the class too," she recalled.
After class, students sometimes went out to Santa Rosa nightclubs.
At the end of one night, when they split into shared cabs, Williams unexpectedly ended up at Foppoli's home.
"He said don't worry about it, let's just sleep it off and I'll take you home in the morning."
Instead, Williams said a drunken Foppoli climbed into bed with her.
"I kept saying 'no, no, no, Dominic and he kept trying, rubbing against me and I was pushed against the wall in his bed," said Williams.
"I knew when he put his finger in my pants I didn't want to stick around for what was next."
She escaped to a bathroom and locked herself in.
When Foppoli passed out, she says, she fled outside and was able to call a friend to come pick her up.
Williams, at 21, avoided Foppoli after that but didn't report what happened.
"I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't gotten away and if it had been worse than that, I don't know," she says now.
Williams, hinting at Foppoli's identity, shared what happened on Facebook when the #MeToo movement emerged in 2018.
Other women also alluded to misconduct and complained how Foppoli's status as vintner and politician shielded him from a bad reputation.
"We have been trying to warn the council for some time about this man, a lot of women in the community have been," said Amy Lydon, part of a small protest rally in downtown Windsor Thursday evening.
The group held signs calling Foppoli a sex predator and demanding his ouster and criminal prosecution.
"I'm terrified to be in any proximity to Dominic Foppoli," said Angela Ramirez, "and the fact that he's a leader, he does not represent Windsor and what we value."
Elected officials across the region praised the survivors for coming forward.
Two of Foppoli's three city council colleagues called for his removal, along with the mayors of every city in Sonoma County and every Sonoma County supervisor.
"I will say he was known as a partier, he was definitely an extrovert and he enjoyed socializing," said Hopkins, expressing the shock and outrage felt by many. "It's just hard to imagine you would have a sexual predator at work in your community in a leadership position."
Calls for his resignation grew on Friday. Two California state representatives from the North Bay released a joint statement about the accusations.
"These multiple, corroborated accounts suggest a pattern of predatory sexual misconduct that is deplorable and totally unacceptable. It is not possible for Mr. Foppoli to credibly or effectively continue serving on the Windsor Council. We call on him to resign immediately," Rep. Jared Huffman and Rep. Mike Thompson wrote.
The League of California Cities removed Foppoli from the Mayors and Council Members Department Executive Committee. They said they were "sickened and deeply disturbed" by the allegations against him.
Late Thursday, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick announced his department would open an investigation, alongside the District Attorney's Office.
"To me, it's very disappointing that Foppoli has not already resigned," said Hopkins.
"And in some ways, I'm actually angry at myself and angry at all of us for not seeing this before, for not seeing through it."
Williams, now 36, is a home-birth midwife and married mother of two.
"I wasn't raped and I did get away, but now I realize how important my story is," she said.
She hopes that Foppoli is finally held accountable.
"I wanted it to be public and for people to stop denying this, and I know there are other women who have had these experiences."