In a surprise to some local Democrats, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has decided not to file charges against leave-of-absence-taking party chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy.
The news emerged Friday morning when Rodriguez-Kennedy sent a press release and posted to social media, claiming he was “cleared of wrongdoing” 134 days after stepping down from his post.
He said the DA’s office conducted a “thorough, independent investigation of [an] accusation” first aired publicly in May by Tasha Williamson on behalf of a man alleging nonconsensual sex.
“During that process, I personally met with the assigned Deputy District Attorney and D.A. Investigator,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said in a statement. “I answered all of their questions. I provided evidence which refuted any claim of wrongdoing.”
He said his attorney, Gene Iredale, informed him that District Attorney Summer Stephan had closed the investigation and no charges of any kind would be filed.
DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra on Friday told Times of San Diego: “After a thorough review, we determined that no charges could be filed in this case. We do not discuss our charging decisions except to say that we can only file charges when we believe we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Rodriguez-Kennedy, in his 250-word statement, added: “With this trauma behind me, I look forward to returning to my work in service of the public and my party. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I have received.”
Not so fast, Williamson and others are saying.
In a phone interview, former mayoral candidate Williamson said the news was “heartbreaking” for her and the unidentified male “victim who stands behind his statements.”
She added: “I absolutely have talked to several other people who alleged to be victims of Will Rodriguez. And I do not think that he needs to come back, and I think that he should humble himself and get the help that he needs. So that he is safe and others are safe around him.”
Williamson says she doesn’t believe that the Democratic Party, through its Ethics Committee, has done its investigation into this matter. She says the alleged victim hasn’t been interviewed.
“Just because the DA, you know, decides that it may not be able to win a case …. it doesn’t mean that the incident itself did not happen,” she said.
Rodriguez-Kennedy’s emailed statement refers to himself as chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party. (He was elected in 2019.)
In fact, the official remains on a leave of absence. The acting party chair is Rebecca Taylor, a Navy veteran who volunteered as a “Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Advocate,” according to her party bio.
Taylor and party executive director Ryan Hurd did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Rodriguez-Kennedy declined to comment on the record.
But a Democratic insider who declined to be identified says “the feeling from those who care about the organization is that he should not come back until after the [November] election and that we cannot be distracted by this. We need to elect Democrats.”
No matter how the news is spun, the insider said, “There’s drama. And so we don’t need the press distractions. We don’t need the procedural civil war inside the Central Committee.”
“He was still accused. Like we don’t need any of this because we have an election to win.”
In July, KPBS reported that Rodriguez-Kennedy was the subject of a temporary domestic violence restraining order in 2012.
Citing court records, reporter Andrew Bowen wrote: “The temporary restraining order, which was dissolved after six weeks, was granted based on a sworn statement from an ex-boyfriend, who said Rodriguez-Kennedy subjected him to repeated physical and verbal abuse.”
Rodriguez-Kennedy denied those accusations and provided KPBS a police report he filed against the ex-boyfriend months prior in which he accused him of battery, KPBS said.
“Neither party appears to have been arrested over the accusations,” KPBS reported.
In early May, when he stepped aside, Rodriguez-Kennedy said: “The allegations against me are completely false and I will work vigorously to clear my name and prove my innocence, but that takes time and in the meantime our party has critical work that must continue on.”
Updated at 3:48 p.m. Sept. 16, 2022