Note: This story contains graphic and detailed allegations of sexual assault that may be upsetting to readers and survivors of sexual violence.
A fifth woman is accusing Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli of sexual assault, saying that during a three-year relationship he forced her to engage in oral copulation dozens of times and, on one occasion, handcuffed her to the bed of the apartment they shared and sexually abused her as she struggled and begged for him to stop.
Shannon McCarthy, 38, made the accusations Friday in a four-hour video interview from her home in Florida, where she now lives with her husband and three children. She said she was compelled to speak publicly after reading a Chronicle investigation of Foppoli that was published Thursday, in which four women said the 38-year-old politician and winemaker, who has been Windsor's mayor since 2018, sexually assaulted them in incidents from 2003 to 2019.
"I just kept saying to myself, 'Yes, that's him, that's 100% him,'" McCarthy said of the other women's accounts. "For me the trauma is still just always there, and nothing scares me more than knowing that he will keep doing it."
She spoke as Foppoli resisted calls from an array of North Bay elected officials to resign, including every member of the Windsor Town Council, all eight of the other Sonoma County mayors and the two U.S. congressmen who represent the region, Reps. Jared Huffman of San Rafael and Mike Thompson of St. Helena.
McCarthy said she began dating Foppoli in fall 2001, when they were both 19, and that she has not fully recovered from their relationship. Every time she saw a Foppoli campaign sign, or heard his name in the local news, she said she would experience a panic attack. When she relocated her family out of the North Bay in 2020, she said she felt an enormous sense of relief.
McCarthy said Foppoli's most serious abuse occurred in February 2002, when he cuffed her wrists and ankles to their bed without her consent, then inserted grapes into her vagina as she sobbed and pleaded with him to stop. The alleged assault left McCarthy crying in their bathroom, she said, and bleeding from her ankles where she had struggled against the metal cuffs.
The Chronicle sent emails Friday and Saturday to Foppoli and his attorney, describing McCarthy's allegations and seeking comment, and left a voice mail on Foppoli's cell phone.
Foppoli responded over email Saturday morning, but did not address McCarthy's account. He said only, "I plan on having a full response about all of the allegations today."
Through his attorney, Bethany Kristovich of Los Angeles, Foppoli has previously denied the allegations of sexual assault brought by the other four women. Foppoli "categorically denies having engaged in any of the abuses described," Kristovich said in an emailed statement.
"Sexual assault and sexual misconduct are very serious issues, and Mr. Foppoli takes these allegations very seriously," the statement said. "He has a long history of supporting women in his business, personal, and political lives, and the accusation that he has engaged in any of these misdeeds is deeply troubling. Mr. Foppoli prides himself on working to improve life for all of his constituents, and he will continue to maintain the fundamental value of treating everyone with respect."
The Chronicle spoke with two people, including a former roommate and McCarthy's mother, who said McCarthy told them about some of the alleged incidents of abuse in the years after the couple's 2004 breakup.
Reporters also reviewed photographs of McCarthy and Foppoli together, contemporaneous notes and journal entries, and other documents linking McCarthy to the Windsor mayor, now a prominent young businessman and the co-owner of Christopher Creek Winery outside Healdsburg.
Back then, McCarthy said, she did not report the alleged assaults to law enforcement because she was in a relationship with Foppoli.
"I didn't really know what sexual assault was at the time," McCarthy said. "I thought it was when you're jogging and you get hit over the head and someone rapes you, or you get drugged at a bar and end up in a stranger's room."
McCarthy's account of her relationship with Foppoli comes amid widespread condemnation of the mayor in response to The Chronicle's investigation. The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office launched a criminal investigation Thursday into Foppoli, though it was not immediately clear whether Foppoli could face charges. In some cases the legal statute of limitations for prosecution may have passed.
Active 20-30, a national civic organization that Foppoli has belonged to for at least a decade, expelled him and announced it was conducting an internal investigation. The League of California Cities voted unanimously to remove Foppoli from a leadership post. Both the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and the Sonoma County Vintners announced they were cutting ties with Christopher Creek Winery.
Residents rallied Friday on the streets of Windsor, chanting, "Dump the wine, it's time to resign!" and waving signs, some of which were later propped against his home and the windshield of his car. On Saturday, Windsor officials announced an emergency meeting on April 14 to discuss methods to remove Foppoli from office and support residents through a voter-recall effort.
"This is an absolute crisis," said Windsor Town Council Member Esther Lemus. "Beyond comprehension."
The four women who first spoke with The Chronicle said that Foppoli's political ascent, and the increasing possibility that he would hold power beyond Windsor, made them willing to publicly share their allegations for the first time. The Chronicle does not generally identify victims of sexual assault, but three of these four women agreed to be named, as did McCarthy.
Rose Fumoso said Foppoli sexually assaulted her after she met him at an end-of-harvest party at Christopher Creek Winery in September 2019. Foppoli invited Fumoso, then 21 and an intern at a nearby winery, to check out his white Tesla, she said. Fumoso said Foppoli then drove her to an unfamiliar house, where he forcibly kissed and groped her as she attempted to push him off and repeatedly told him, "No."
In 2012, Allison Britton said, Foppoli engaged in oral copulation with her when she was too intoxicated to consent and nearly unconscious at a national Active 20-30 conference in Reno.
Britton's friend had asked Foppoli to take Britton back to her hotel room, noting how she was swaying and slurring her words, both women told The Chronicle. But Foppoli instead took Britton to his room and served her more alcohol, Britton said, causing gaps in her memory. When she came to, she said, Foppoli's penis was in her mouth.
In 2006, Sophia Williams said, she went out drinking and dancing with a group of friends from a junior college class, including Foppoli, and split a cab home with him. When the taxi unexpectedly took Williams to Foppoli's house, she said, he offered her his bed and said he would sleep on the couch.
Foppoli instead climbed into the bed with her, rubbed his groin against her buttocks and tried to kiss her and remove her pants as Williams told him to stop, she said. Williams said she locked herself in the bathroom for hours, then fled the home in the middle of the night, before a friend came to pick her up nearby.
And in 2003, Foppoli dated an 18-year-old campaign volunteer while running for state office, the woman told The Chronicle. She said he assaulted her throughout their one-month relationship, digitally penetrating her as she told him not to. At a New Year's Eve party, the woman said, Foppoli pressured her to drink alcohol for the first time before raping her twice at a house party.
Foppoli has declined interview requests and has not responded to the particular accounts of the four women, beyond his lawyer's statement that he "categorically" denied wrongdoing.
McCarthy said she first met Foppoli in 2001, just after she graduated from Piner High School in Santa Rosa, at an improvisational comedy class at the College of Marin in Kentfield. At the time, she said, both were interested in pursuing a career in acting.
Shortly before Christmas in 2001, McCarthy said, they started dating. She said he could be controlling, criticizing her family and discouraging her from listening to her mother's advice. "It all started so small, like a little poke," McCarthy said. "And I would just keep doing little things to try to make him happy."
In the first few months of 2002, she said, Foppoli began pressuring her to engage in oral copulation. On multiple occasions, she said, Foppoli cornered her in bathrooms at parties held in hotel rooms and refused to drive her home unless she first performed oral copulation on him, even as she cried at times and told him, "No."
McCarthy said Foppoli would often persist, holding her hand and complimenting her appearance while telling her that he was aroused. If she still said no, McCarthy said, Foppoli would on some occasions grab her head and force her mouth onto his penis.
She said she would sometimes pull away, while telling Foppoli that she couldn't breathe and asking him to take his hands off the back of her head. "He would say that he was just into it, and would go right back to pushing my head on him," she said.
A former roommate and childhood friend, Sarah Shaw, would also attend the hotel parties with McCarthy. Shaw said that during these parties she witnessed Foppoli trying to make McCarthy feel guilty for not performing oral sex on him, Shaw said in an interview with The Chronicle.
"He tried to use this sweet high voice in a predatory way to get her to do sexual things to him," Shaw said.
McCarthy said she now recognizes the behavior as sexual assault, but did not at the time. This was her first long-term sexual relationship, she said, and she did not understand then that assault could occur between a boyfriend and girlfriend.
Foppoli had asked her to move to Los Angeles with him to pursue acting, McCarthy said, and while she was nervous to move away from her family, she thought it was a signal that Foppoli intended to take their relationship seriously.
"I was thinking maybe he loves me and wants to be committed to me and maybe he has changed," McCarthy said. "So I packed up with the absolute disapproval of every single person in my life."
Debbie Foreaker, McCarthy's mother, said she was upset when her daughter, during the relationship, would confide in her about Foppoli's controlling nature, but that McCarthy would brush off her concerns.
"She would say that he would make her feel so horrible and then so great, and that all she ever wanted to do was to make it through the bad period to get back into his good graces," Foreaker said.
On the night of Feb. 11, 2002, McCarthy said, she dropped out of College of Marin and left for Los Angeles County. She moved into an apartment in Burbank with Foppoli. She remembers the date because they intended to celebrate Valentine's Day three days later.
McCarthy and Foppoli spent the holiday at the apartment, she said. "In my head I was high as a kite since I had just moved," McCarthy said. "I thought he loved me and this meant something."
McCarthy said that the couple brought whipped cream and fruit into their bedroom, where she allowed Foppoli to blindfold her. But an encounter that began consensually, she said, suddenly changed.
McCarthy said Foppoli handcuffed her wrists to the bed frame without asking her first. When McCarthy asked him what he was doing and told him she was nervous, she recalled, Foppoli told her to relax, pushed her legs apart, and cuffed her ankles to the bed frame, too. The metal cut into the backs of her ankles, McCarthy said, and she asked Foppoli to remove the handcuffs, explaining she was in pain. She said he refused.
McCarthy said she felt pressure on her vagina as Foppoli inserted something inside her. When she asked what he was doing, she said, he laughed in response.
McCarthy said she did not know what Foppoli was putting inside of her. But as she continued to feel him putting objects inside her, she said she panicked and began struggling to get out of the handcuffs, sobbing and pleading with him to stop.
"He kept putting something in me and then I was trying to kick and scream as much as I could to get him to let me go," McCarthy said.
She said Foppoli refused to release her until he had removed the objects, which she saw were grapes when he removed the blindfold.
McCarthy said she went into the bathroom to cry and shower. Her ankles were bleeding. "I felt abandoned and didn't even know how to live with myself at that point," she said. "I was having to check inside of my body for potential leftover grapes."
In California, a person can be charged with felony sexual assault for restraining another person against their will and forcibly penetrating that person with a foreign object, according to county prosecutors. In 2002, the statute of limitations for prosecuting such a crime was six years.
McCarthy said she did not confront Foppoli about the incident, or immediately tell anyone, because she was ashamed and because the move to Burbank had put a strain on her relationship with her family.
She provided The Chronicle with an undated journal entry she said she wrote in the days after the alleged assault.
"I want to hurt him. I'm mad, I'm hurt. I feel stupid, I'm a child. I want to cry, but I can't. I can't breathe properly. I need my mom," McCarthy wrote. "I want to scream. I need to get even. I want justice for a crime legally comitted (sic). I want blood shed (sic). I want to even the score."
McCarthy said she continued to date Foppoli because she loved him and was too embarrassed to move back home after making a stand about moving to Burbank. But she said Foppoli continued to sexually and emotionally abuse her.
They would frequently take road trips home to Santa Rosa to visit family, McCarthy said, and Foppoli would pressure her to engage in oral copulation while he was driving. It was his car, McCarthy said, and Foppoli paid for the gas — something he brought up during these conversations.
"I would usually dissociate in those situations, and it almost felt like a means to an end most of the time," McCarthy said. "I told myself in those moments, 'I can do this and he'll go back to loving me.'"
She said Foppoli often told her he would not marry anyone with whom he had engaged in oral sex because "he wouldn't want anyone who has put their mouth on his penis to kiss his kids."
McCarthy, who is of Mexican and Irish ancestry, said that Foppoli would tell her his ideal woman was "blond-haired" and "blue-eyed." On multiple occasions, she said, Foppoli licked his finger, wiped her cheek and said, "I am just trying to see if the brown would come off."
In June 2002, McCarthy and Shaw moved into a new apartment in Burbank together, both women said; Foppoli later moved in, too, sharing McCarthy's room. During this time, Shaw said, McCarthy confided that her relationship with Foppoli was "toxic" at times.
Shaw said that she would try to support McCarthy by intervening when Foppoli talked down to her. But it wasn't until about five years later that Shaw said McCarthy told her about the extent of the alleged assaults.
McCarthy left Burbank after she and Foppoli briefly appeared together on a reality television dating show called "Meet My Folks," both women told The Chronicle. While taping the show, McCarthy said, Foppoli accused her of reading his emails without his permission. Humiliated, she said, she drove home to Santa Rosa.
Reunited with her parents in late November 2002, McCarthy said, she was able to start rebuilding her life in a way that didn't revolve around Foppoli. She enrolled in Santa Rosa Junior College the next January and reconnected with old friends.
Still, she said, she continued to date Foppoli, who also returned to the North Bay and began a campaign for state Assembly in 2003.
That November, Foppoli began the relationship with the 18-year-old campaign volunteer, the woman who told The Chronicle that he raped her twice in the early hours of New Year's Day 2004.
In an interview Saturday, the woman, who has requested that her name not be printed, said that Foppoli told her in 2003 that McCarthy was his ex-girlfriend. "I remember her calling one time when we were together, and he said, 'It's Shannon, my crazy ex-girlfriend,'" the woman recalled. She said she had been unaware of McCarthy's abuse allegations and did not otherwise know her.
McCarthy said that, at the time, she didn't know Foppoli was dating other people. "I did not, in my wildest dreams, know he was assaulting other people," she said.
McCarthy said that she and Foppoli would intermittently break up, and that she finally ended things for good in the summer of 2004. They attempted to stay friends, she said. She provided The Chronicle with documents that she said she wrote back then, detailing her conditions for that friendship, including "No romantic touching" and "Don't make me stay somewhere I'm not comfortable."
But Foppoli continued to pressure her to engage with him sexually, McCarthy said, so she ended the friendship. "He would use fear, guilt, manipulation and my feelings for him against me constantly," she said. "So I just ran from that relationship when I could and didn't want to give him any more years of my life."
Her mother, Foreaker, said McCarthy told her details about the alleged assaults involving oral copulation in 2007. On Thursday, after reading The Chronicle's investigation, McCarthy said she told her mother and husband about what happened on Valentine's Day 2002. She told her father the next day.
"He took a girl that was the sweetest girl, the most giving and most wonderful girl," Debbie Foreaker said. "And he just broke her for so long."
Reflecting on why she stayed in a relationship with Foppoli, McCarthy said she kept hoping he would eventually commit to her for the rest of their lives.
"I feel like the entire time I was dating him I was waiting for him to say I love you and I was waiting for me to be good enough and I was waiting for him to want me openly for 100%," she said. "I was waiting for him to be the boy I wanted him to be and the boy I saw glimpses of sometimes, but he was the boy who tricked me time and time again."
McCarthy said she last saw Foppoli in 2010 at the Ticket Sports Bar & Grill in Santa Rosa, which has since closed. She said she was with her husband and their friends when Foppoli came over and greeted her.
"He was introducing me as the one that got away," McCarthy said. "I remember the entire time telling myself, 'You will be OK, you will be OK.'"
Until 2020, the elected Town Council members had appointed the mayor. Last year, Foppoli campaigned for voters in Windsor's first election for the seat. He lined the streets with signs bearing his name.
In June, 2020, McCarthy moved away from Santa Rosa with her husband and three children. She said she wanted to avoid another fire season. But also, she said, she could no longer bear having to watch Foppoli rise in power and prominence.
Even in Florida, McCarthy said, she still suffers panic attacks, hyperventilating or freezing up when someone pushes her personal boundaries.
But she said she wanted to speak up, both to support the other women who say Foppoli assaulted them, and to help herself to heal.
"I need to be able to look him in the eye," McCarthy said, "and say you have no power over me anymore, because everybody knows everything."
San Francisco Chronicle staff photographer Jessica Christian contributed to this report.
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