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Rape case against San Francisco official will go to trial

A view of a back of man in an orange jumpsuit walking away from the camera being led by a man in a sheriff's uniform.
Sheriff Oversight Board member William Monroe Palmer II is seen at the Hall of Justice at Superior Court at 850 Bryant St. in San Francisco in November. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

A criminal case against a San Francisco city commissioner accused of raping a woman will go to trial following a preliminary hearing that concluded Wednesday, according to the District Attorney's Office.

William Monroe Palmer II is facing charges related to an alleged sexual assault on Aug. 31, when prosecutors say he raped, strangled and threatened a woman before letting her go.

Palmer is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 13.

Palmer, a member of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sentencing Commission with the District Attorney’s Office, pleaded not guilty on Nov. 14 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.

However, DNA test results revealed in court found none of Palmer's DNA on her body. The results were shared by a police witness who testified before the court during a preliminary hearing Tuesday and said the alleged victim took a rape kit test on Sept. 1.

READ MORE: San Francisco Official Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Assault Charges

A pair of swabs is seen lying on top of a box containing a DNA test to identify potential sexual assault suspects.
The rape kit results found no DNA other than the victim's own on swabs taken from under her fingernails, her genital area and clothing on the day of the incident. | Source: Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

READ MORE: San Francisco Official Allegedly Picked Up Woman on Street, Raped Her 

Meighan Lyons, a sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department Special Victims Unit, interviewed the alleged victim for 90 minutes on Sept. 1 and directed her to take a DNA test following the incident. The results found no DNA other than the woman’s own on swabs taken from under her fingernails, her genital area and clothing on the day of the incident.

“The DNA found on the swabs was her own DNA?” said Sylvia Cediel, Palmer's attorney.

“Yes,” Lyons replied.

The Standard is not naming the alleged victim to protect her privacy.

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 Oversight Board member William Monroe Palmer II, speaks to the media at the Hall of Justice on Nov. 13. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

Lyons also testified that the alleged victim did not know Palmer when he approached her in San Francisco’s Mission District on Aug. 30 and offered to drive her to a BART station before taking her to his apartment, both of which she said the woman agreed to.

The woman had also come from a bar where she had had “several beers” before walking toward a BART station, during which time Palmer approached her, Lyons said.

Lyons said the victim reported there were no discussions of sex or payment between her and Palmer.

“[The victim] believed the intention of her visit was just to talk,” Lyons said.

Alleged Sexual Assault

Lyons said Palmer approached the victim and offered to give her a ride, and the victim willingly got into Palmer’s vehicle and then willingly went to his apartment, believing they would talk and drink beer.

Prosecutors allege that once inside, the victim was on the couch when Palmer came into the room wearing just boxers and became aggressive, trying to have sex with her and calling her a “whore.”

Lyons also testified that when Palmer entered the room in his underwear, he began making comments about the alleged victim’s physical appearance, and when she tried to divert the conversation away from his sexual advances, he became angry. Palmer then said he was going to have sex with her, and when she refused, Palmer hit her in the “nose and lip area,” Lyons said.

“He was saying she was a ‘whore’ and ‘wanted penis,’” Lyons said. “She said, ‘No, that’s not true.’”

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

Lyons said Palmer was able to remove her pants and underwear and “slightly” penetrate her, before she kicked him away and yelled for help. Palmer then began strangling her with both hands.

“She felt it was a significant amount of time because she couldn’t yell for help and she began to see black,” Lyons said.

The alleged victim told Palmer if he let her go she wouldn’t tell anyone about the alleged assault and that Palmer agreed to take her to a BART station. They went into Palmer’s car and were there for about three minutes before the alleged victim ran out of the car at a stoplight on Scott Street, began yelling for help and called 911.

SFPD Officer Alexander Ortega testified in court Tuesday and said he responded to a call about a physical assault at Scott Street and met with the alleged victim shortly after midnight on Aug. 31.

“She was disheveled, crying,” Ortega said.

The exterior of a building with a large circular seal that reads "Seal of the City of San Francisco" and under that read "Hall of Justice".
The exterior of the San Francisco Superior Court is seen on Bryant Street. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

Ortega said the alleged victim did not report experiencing a sexual assault when he met her.

“She stated at no point that the suspect tried to sexually assault her, correct?” Cediel said.

“Correct,” Ortega replied.

Ortega said the alleged victim was clothed when he met her on Scott Street.

Ortega said the alleged victim had injuries, including a cut inside her lip and her left ring finger, as well as dried blood on her lips. Ortega said he did not recall seeing any marks on her throat or bruises on her face, although the alleged victim complained of throat pain when he asked her about her injuries. Ortega also said she was slurring her speech and appeared intoxicated.

“She said she had pain to her neck and was strangled,” Ortega said.

Cediel did not share details about whether Palmer plans to resign from his posts.

Palmer is scheduled to appear in court again at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at garrett@sfstandard.com