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San Francisco official allegedly picked up woman on street, raped her

A man with dreadlocks speaks into a microphone.
In June 2023, William Monroe Palmer asked a Board of Supervisors committee to reappoint him to the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board. | Source: SFGovTV

A San Francisco official who sits on two criminal justice-related bodies picked up a woman on the street in the Mission District on Aug. 31 and offered her a ride to a train station—then took her to his home, where he raped, strangled and threatened her before “deciding” to let her go, prosecutors alleged in court records. 

William Monroe Palmer II, a member of the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges related to the incident, which include sodomy by use of force, false imprisonment, assault, sexual battery by restraint and parole violation, among other allegations. 

Now, new details of the incident are emerging in court documents. Prosecutors say the incident began just before midnight when the unnamed victim was approached by a man later identified as Palmer as she was heading to a BART station.

He offered to give her a ride, and she agreed, but instead, he took her to his apartment, prosecutors allege. Once inside, she was on the couch when he came into the room and became aggressive, she told investigators. He was in his boxers when he began trying to have sex with her, calling her a “whore,” according to the District Attorney’s Office filings. 

The back of a man in an orange shirt looks in the distance in a courtroom setting.
Sheriff's Department Oversight Board member William Monroe Palmer is seen at the Hall of Justice at Superior Court at 850 Bryant St. in San Francisco on Monday. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

The details of what transpired next, and in what order, are unclear, but eventually, he raped her, court documents said. 

“He got on top of her on the couch and wrapped his hands around her neck, strangling her,” documents said, adding that the woman almost lost consciousness. 

She screamed, and he punched her in the face, the court documents say. When she tried to push him off, he bit her finger, the documents allege. 

“She begged him not to hurt her or kill her,” according to court documents. “And she promised she would not say anything if he let her go. [The] defendant told her not to yell or tell the police what had happened.”

At one point, Palmer told the woman, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m going to let you go,” the victim told police, according to the court filings. 

Palmer eventually agreed to take the woman to BART, and on the way, she fled his car and began yelling for help and ringing doorbells of nearby residences, prosecutors allege. 

Palmer followed the woman out of the car and tried to convince her to get back into the vehicle, according to video footage retrieved by police and what she told police, the charging documents say. 

Police found the woman sometime after midnight Aug. 31 on the steps of a home where she had rung the doorbell. She had called 911 and told the dispatcher, “He’s trying to kill me.” Her face was bloodied, her neck was red and her finger was lacerated, police reported. 

A woman holding documents speaks to other people, one that is recording her on a mobile phone.
Deputy Public Defender Sylvia Cediel, who is defending Sheriff's Department Oversight Board member William Monroe Palmer, speaks to the media at the Hall of Justice at Superior Court at 850 Bryant St. in San Francisco on Monday. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

Initially, the woman told officers there was no sexual assault, but then told two San Francisco police sergeants days later that she had been sexually assaulted. Two days later, she underwent a forensic sexual assault examination, records indicate. 

Palmer’s attorney has said there is no physical evidence of a sexual assault. The court documents did not say if there were any DNA results from the examination. 

Police eventually identified Palmer and interviewed him Oct. 20. He admitted he had met the victim but denied harming her or knowing how she had been injured. He said she was intoxicated, and he wanted to help her and that she was never in his home or vehicle. 

Court Records Cite Fight Between Palmer, Girlfriend

Court records filed by the prosecution show that Palmer was accused of several violent incidents after his release from prison in 2019. He served more than three decades for a 1988 stickup. 

In 2020, according to court documents, he was arrested on suspicion of assault in a traffic-related incident, but the documents don’t say where the incident occurred or if it led to charges. 

A portrait of William Palmer with a colorful striped background.
A screen grab shows William Monroe Palmer II, member of the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board, who was arrested on sexual assault charges. | Source: SFGov

In May of this year, he allegedly got into a fight with his girlfriend in a car. She reported to San Francisco police that he punched her in the face, took her phone, threw it out the window, and then took her keys, according to court documents. Once outside the car, she attempted to take her keys back, but he threw her on the ground and bit her ear. The records also did not indicate that any charges were filed in that case. 

In 2019, Palmer was released from prison after serving 31 years for a failed robbery-turned-kidnapping. The California Supreme Court ruled that 23 of those years amounted to “excessive punishment,” according to his biography on the website of the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board. 

In that robbery-turned-kidnapping, Palmer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at 17. He tried to rob an off-duty police officer by taking him at gunpoint to an ATM. The off-duty cop then shot at Palmer multiple times, hitting him in the knee. Palmer was later arrested. Palmer’s gun was found to be unloaded. 

Palmer has been the subject of news coverage, including a Washington Post piece that focused on issues with state parole and Palmer’s run-ins with the system since his release. That story detailed Palmer’s attempts to reintegrate with society, noting, for example, that he had developed an original one-man play with the Returned Citizens Theatre Troupe, a collective of former prisoners-turned-actors. It also explained how Palmer wound up back in jail after a fender-bender in 2020.

Palmer’s biography on the oversight board’s website says that since his release from prison, he has advocated for social reforms, mentored youth and advocated for parole reform.

In addition, the bio says that he has had challenges reentering society. 

Palmer was appointed to the oversight board by the Board of Supervisors in 2021

In May, his term was extended to 2027. Palmer was also appointed by the Board of Supervisors to San Francisco’s Sentencing Commission. The seat held by Palmer on the oversight board is designated for someone who has been through the criminal justice system.

He has since been asked by the president of the Board of Supervisors, Aaron Peskin, to resign. 

Palmer remains in jail without bail.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at