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DA drops rape case against San Francisco official

Sheriff oversight board member William Monroe Palmer was charged last fall with allegedly raping a woman he picked up on the street.

A man with dreadlocks wearing a puffy jacket is speaking into a microphone.
William Monroe Palmer, a member of the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board, had been facing sodomy, assault and other charges. | Source: Courtesy SFGovTV

San Francisco’s District Attorney has dismissed a case alleging sexual assault by ex-convict William Monroe Palmer II, a member of the city’s Sheriff Department Oversight Board. 

The dismissal was due to new evidence that could potentially undermine the credibility of the alleged victim, who was the only witness, said Assistant District Attorney Katherine Wells in court Tuesday. 

That new evidence, which the DA’s office recently became aware of, is linked to another similar incident in Chicago and could call into question the victim’s credibility, Deputy Public Defender Sylvia Cediel said. 

“The person made it up, and I’m vindicated.”

William Monroe Palmer

Given that the trial was set to begin next week, the DA’s office said it did not have sufficient time to validate and evaluate the new information. 

“The social media records are critical to corroborating or not corroborating the victim’s testimony to this incident,” Wells said of the Chicago incident. 

Wells warned that the dismissal should not be taken as proof of Palmer’s innocence and the DA could refile charges against Palmer if new evidence arises.

Palmer, who has been in jail since the charges were filed, entered Judge Alexandra Robert Gordon’s courtroom with a smile on his face Tuesday afternoon before his case was dismissed. 

“The person made it up, and I’m vindicated,” Palmer said in court before being processed for release.

Despite being asked to resign from the sheriff’s oversight body, Palmer never did. 

Sylvia Cediel, William Monroe Palmer's attorney, speaks after her client's case was dismissed. | Source: Jonah Owen Lamb

His attorney, Cediel, has maintained that there has never been any physical evidence of a sexual assault and that her client is innocent. 

“We are relieved and happy he is finally going home,” Cediel said, noting that her office’s investigation also uncovered evidence that could have potentially undermined the victim’s version of events. 

The Charges

Palmer, who pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence, was charged with sodomy by use of force, false imprisonment, assault, sexual battery by restraint and parole violation, among other allegations. 

Palmer was arrested and charged last fall in relation to an Aug. 31, 2023, incident. His accuser alleged he picked her up on the street in the Mission District and offered her a ride to a train station. But prosecutors alleged that he instead took her to his home, where he raped, strangled and threatened her before “deciding” to let her go, according to court records. 

A woman holding documents speaks to other people, one that is recording her on a mobile phone.
Deputy Public Defender Sylvia Cediel, William Monroe Palmer's attorney, speaks to the media at the Hall of Justice at Superior Court at 850 Bryant St. in San Francisco in November 2023. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

The victim initially told officers no sexual assault had happened, but then changed her story when talking to two San Francisco police sergeants days later. She then underwent a forensic sexual assault examination, records indicate. 

Police interviewed Palmer on Oct. 20, when he admitted he had met the victim but denied harming her or knowing how she had been injured. 

Palmer served three decades in prison after being convicted for a robbery that he committed when he was 17. 

Since his release, Palmer has been the subject of news coverage, including a Washington Post story about the problems with parole and Palmer’s run-ins with the system since his release. That piece stressed Palmer’s attempts to reintegrate into society.

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 is seen at the Hall of Justice at Superior Court at 850 Bryant St. in San Francisco on Nov. 13, 2023. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

Since his release from prison, Palmer has advocated for social reforms, mentored youth and advocated for parole reform, according to his bio on the oversight board, which he was appointed to the oversight board by the Board of Supervisors in 2021. Last May, his term was extended to 2027. The seat held by Palmer on the oversight board is designated for someone who has been through the criminal justice system.

Palmer also sits on San Francisco’s Sentencing Commission, which advises the Board of Supervisors.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at