In response to multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him, California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra announced Monday that he is resigning effective immediately from office. Although Bocanegra denied the accusations, he recently issued a statement confessing that he is “admittedly not perfect.”
On Monday, Bocanegra released the following statement: “I believed in our system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and that the truth would come out clearing my name and reputation. But clearly, the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been temporarily lost in a hurricane of political opportunism among the self-righteous in my case – to the detriment of both the accuser and the accused.
“Upon further reflection during the recent holiday weekend, and conversations with family, friends, supporters, I have decided to resign earlier from the State Assembly effective immediately, which was my original intention.”
At least seven women have accused Bocanegra of sexually harassing or assaulting them since 2009. Last week, the San Fernando Valley-area state Assemblyman announced that he would not seek reelection after several victims came forward accusing Bocanegra of groping them, attempting to reach his hand up their skirts, and harassing them online.
“He grabbed me with one hand, grabbed my head, and shoved his tongue into my mouth,” Sylvia Castillo recently told The Los Angeles Times while recounting an encounter with Bocanegra in August 2010. “With his other hand, he put it up my dress. I put my hand down to stop him from trying to grab at my crotch.”
In 2009, the Legislature barred Bocanegra from communicating with Capitol staffer Elise Flynn Gyore after he groped her at an after-work event. Last month, Bocanegra stated, “This unfortunate experience I was involved in as a staffer nearly 10 years ago was something I regret and learned from. As to the complaint filed, I fully cooperated with the investigation and after a comprehensive review by an independent body, which included interviews of over a dozen witnesses, the investigation was closed.”
In his statement on Monday, Bocanegra added, “Furthermore, it is my hope that in taking this action we can help clear the path so that women and men who have been truly victims of sexual assault and workplace harassment can step forward and get justice for any crimes committed against them. While I am not guilty of any such crimes, I am admittedly not perfect.
“I sincerely hope that my decision to resign immediately does not embolden those who are using this serious problem in our society to advance their own personal political gain, rather it is my hope that this action can instead help to widen the doors for victims of sexual assault and workplace harassment to find justice and solace.”
On Monday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued the following statement: “Raul Bocanegra’s resignation underscores the seriousness of the allegations against him. One resignation, however, does not solve the problem. With the hearings beginning tomorrow under the leadership of Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and with the ongoing guidance of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, the Assembly will keep working to change the climate in the Capitol to stop sexual harassment and abuse.”
In an emergency session on Monday, the Senate Rules Committee unanimously voted to remove California State Senator Tony Mendoza as chair of the Senate Insurance, Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and from appointments to the California Commission for Economic Development and the California Workforce Development Board. Mendoza remains under investigation for sexually harassing several women and firing three Capitol staff members for reporting his alleged misconduct to the rules committee.