Former Sonoma winery CEO accused of sexual assault
After an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle, Dominic Foppoli, the former CEO of Christopher Creek winery, has been accused of sexual assault by six women.
In SFC‘s initial report, four women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Foppoli, with incidents dating from 2003 to 2019.
Since then, two further women have accused Foppoli of sexual misconduct, and two wine groups – Sonoma County Vintners and the Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association – have said they are expelling the former winery owner from their membership.
Foppoli, who is also mayor of the town of Windsor in California, has since stepped down his position as CEO of Christopher Creek after being urged to do so by his brother Joe, the winery’s chief operating officer. According to the SFC, Foppoli’s brother has also urged him to step down from his role as mayor of Windsor, something he has as yet refused to do.
Winery intern Rose Fumoso along with Sophia Williams, Allison Britton and an un-named female campaign volunteer first made allegations against Foppoli in interviews with the SFC. Their stories include instances of sexual assault, oral copulation and rape.
The report can be read in full here.
A fifth woman, Shannon McCarthy, later contacted the Chroncile, stating that she had been abused during a relationship with Foppoli that lasted from 2001 to 2004.
Windsor town council member Esther Lemus became the sixth person to speak out against Foppoli. In an interview with Press Democrat, she said she believes that Foppoli had drugged her in incidents that subsequently led to sexual assaults in February and August 2020.
Before Lemus spoke to Press Democrat, Foppoli released a statement denying the allegations. He said the claims were “unfounded” and were driven by “clear political and social machinations”.
“To those in the general public who are out to get me regardless of the truth: be assured that I will not succumb to any pressure to resign my office as I have done nothing to warrant your attacks,” Foppoli wrote in his statement. “To my fellow elected officials who have called for my resignation, your cowardly rush to judgment without evidence is 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.”
Foppoli said he was “completely innocent” and that all contact with the women had been “consensual”. He also went on to make allegations against one of the reporters who wrote the original story in the SFC. He also accused Lemus of sexual misconduct and misuse of power, and called for her resignation.
A statement given to the Chronicle via Foppoli’s attorney said he “categorically denies having engaged in any of the abuses described”.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the claims on 8 April. It is not known if Foppoli will face charges given that the time limit for filing criminal charges, known as the statute of limitations, has elapsed in many of the cases described.
Foppoli is under growing pressure to resign from his position on the town council, with demonstrations held in Windsor over the weekend.
In a virtual six-hour special meeting of the Windsor town council on 14 April, which Foppoli in part presided over, a series of speakers spoke out against him as part of the public comments section. After he left the meeting during a break at the three hour mark, the remaining council members voted in favour of a motion demanding his resignation.