WATSONVILLE—A man has filed a civil lawsuit in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, claiming that 4th District Supervisorial candidate Jimmy Dutra molested him when he was 12.
A case management conference is scheduled for Feb. 3.
The Pajaronian typically does not name victims in stories involving allegations of sexual assault. But in this case, Stephen Siefke, now 29, has released a statement through his attorney Dana Scruggs.
In a prepared statement, Dutra denied the allegations.
“It is completely disappointing in today’s age of politics that people are reverting to such unbelievable and appalling tactics,” he stated. “These accusations are baseless and made solely to tarnish my reputation and campaign.”
Siefke says that his family was friends with Dutra’s when, in 2005, he went on a vacation to Southern California—where Dutra was living—to visit Disneyland.
On the night in question, Siefke says his parents had gone to sleep, and he was sleeping on an air mattress in the living room. Late that night, Dutra returned home with a friend and sat on a couch a short distance from the mattress. Dutra later joined Siefke on the mattress, according to the statement.
“He proceeded to unzip my pants, place his hands inside my underwear, and fondle me sexually,” Siefke wrote.
He says he was horrified and rolled over away from Dutra, who then left the mattress and returned to the couch.
Siefke says that he told nobody about the incident for years out of shame and embarrassment.
“It was not until I was in high school that I first disclosed to my mother what had happened,” he said.
Siefke says his parents reported the incident to law enforcement officials in the Los Angeles area. But he says he was too ashamed to speak with the police.
Siefke returned to Santa Cruz County within the past two years.
Siefke says he was motivated to come forward publicly when he learned Dutra was running for Supervisor, and was working as a middle school teacher with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
He says he made the move to “both to heal myself, to protect other children from Jimmy Dutra, and to ensure that Jimmy is not elected to the Board of Supervisors.”
Dutra questions the timing of the lawsuit. Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins next week.
“We have grown accustomed to this type of nasty behavior in national politics, but this takes politics to a whole new low in our local community,” he stated. “Let’s remember that how we campaign will determine how we govern, and I choose to run a clean positive campaign on the issues, not dirty politics. We put ourselves out there to serve our communities and I look forward to continuing to serve, which has always been my inspiration for running.”
Siefke deferred a request for comment to Scruggs, who said that his client does not support any political candidate and is not interested in the upcoming election.
“Stephen was very concerned when he came back to Santa Cruz in the last year or so, and realized what Mr. Dutra’s position was in the county as a former City Councilman,” Scruggs said. “There is no question that Mr. Dutra’s yard sign was a motivator for him to do something.”
In the lawsuit, filed on Oct. 5, Siefke is seeking punitive damages for the emotional distress he said was caused by the incident.
Scruggs did not say how much money Siefke is seeking, but said that seeking financial damages in cases like this is often the only way to hold perpetrators accountable.
Currently in his second stint on the Watsonville City Council, Dutra is regarded in local political circles as the front-runner for the 4th District seat in the upcoming election after receiving the lion’s share of the votes in the June 7 Primary—he fell a few percentage points from winning the seat outright.
He is facing off against former Watsonville City Councilman Felipe Hernandez—currently a member of the Cabrillo College Governing Board—for the right to replace current supervisor Greg Caput, who earlier this year announced he would not seek his fourth term.
Dutra was first hired by the PVUSD to teach classes at Pajaro Middle School in 2019. He has since moved over to Lakeview Middle School, where he serves as a teacher in the after-school program.
Dutra first entered local politics in 2014. He ran unsuccessfully for 4th District Supervisor, but months after his defeat in the primary that year he was elected to the Watsonville City Council.
He ran again for the Supervisor in 2018, but finished runner-up to Caput.
He returned to the city council in 2020, and served as mayor in 2021.
He was the first candidate to announce his bid for the 4th District seat this year, and to this point had built a wide web of support that included three Watsonville City Council members—Rebecca Garcia, Francisco “Paco” Estrada and Eduardo Montesino—and Santa Cruz City Councilwoman and 3rd District Supervisorial candidate Shebreh Kalatari-Johnson.
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, as well as the local chapters of the California School Employees Association and Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union also endorsed him, as well as Annieglass owner Annie Morhauser and Chevrolet of Watsonville owner Melvin Cooper.
Dutra has raised $42,691 this calendar date with a majority of his contributions coming from retirees and local business owners.
A notable $1,000 contribution was made to his campaign by the committee established to reelect State Senator Toni Atkins, the President pro tempore of the Senate since 2018.