Late one August night in 2010 at a bar, Sylvia Castillo slid into a booth next to Raul Bocanegra, who was then the chief of staff to California Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. Bocanegra was a familiar face to Castillo, who worked as a coordinator for a student mentorship program in Sacramento.
She asked if he had seen a friend she was looking for and made small talk. Suddenly, “he pounced,” she said.
“He grabbed me with one hand, grabbed my head and shoved his tongue into my mouth,” Castillo said in an interview this month. “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.”
Just one year earlier, Bocanegra had been disciplined by the Legislature following allegations that he groped a fellow legislative staffer, Elise Flynn Gyore, at the same bar.
When asked about the 2009 incident, which was not public until a Los Angeles Times report last month, Bocanegra said in a statement that the “unfortunate experience…was something I regret and learned from.”
Learned from? Yeah, right.
Castillo is one of six women who told the Los Angeles Times they also faced unwanted sexual advances or unwelcome communication from Bocanegra, 46, now a Democratic Assemblyman representing the northeast San Fernando Valley.
The allegations span the length of Bocanegra’s career in state government as a chief of staff, a candidate for office and a legislator, and they range from emails soliciting dates with a subordinate to uninvited physical contact with women he did not know.