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Former Sonoma Mayor David Cook sentenced to 6 years for child molestation

With a somber demeanor, masked and dressed in a light blue button-down shirt and khaki pants, former Sonoma Mayor David Cook appeared in court before Judge Robert LaForge in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, awaiting sentencing on a single count of molesting an 11-year-old girl. Following a series of emotional victim impact statements, LaForge sentenced Cook to a prison term of six years.

Cook has been out on $250,000 bail since the morning after his arrest on Oct. 27. In April, he entered a “no contest” plea to the felony charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14.

His sentence could have ranged from probation to eight years in prison, but the judge was moved by statements delivered in person by victim Jane Doe, her stepmother and her father as well as statements by Cook’s wife, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lukas and Cook’s defense attorney, Chris Andrian. Cook did not speak on his own behalf.

“The suffering (Jane) has endured is heartbreaking. She is not the same person she was before (David) molested her… and she wonders if she can ever trust any man again the rest of her life,” said Jane Doe’s stepmother.

Victim statements

Jane Doe and her family spoke of her fear, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, nightmares and pervasive sense of violation.

“The suffering (Jane) has endured is heartbreaking,” said Doe’s stepmother. “She is not the same person she was before (David) molested her… and she wonders if she can ever trust any man again the rest of her life.”

According to court documents, on Oct. 25, Doe, then 11, told her stepmother than David Cook had been molesting her for the past two months.

Jane Doe’s father said his daughter had “gone from a happy young girl to one filled with anger and pain,” and he feared Cook “will do this to others.”

After Jane Doe’s father and stepmother finished speaking, Cook’s wife Kiersten made an expected appearance in the courtroom. She sought a restraining order against Cook in the weeks following his arrest and filed for legal separation in March. She has since moved out Sonoma County.

In her statement, she denounced Cook’s actions but asked the judge to consider parole instead of a prison sentence.

David Cook, photographed on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)
David Cook, photographed on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

“What David did was wrong,” she said. “But I am in really a hard spot here because if he goes to jail, I’ll have no source of income which will be devastating to me and our children. I hope his punishment won’t punish me and my family anymore.”

In his statement to the court prior to sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Lukas stressed that Cook, age 55, had “repeatedly engaged in acts of molestation of the 11-year-old child.” He stated that “the nature and seriousness of this crime” and the Cook’s “lack of remorse” warranted a prison sentence, not parole.

Cook’s attorney Andrian asked Judge LaForge to hand down a probation condition, stating that Cook had accepted responsibility and was “amenable to treatment.”

“Treatment will provide (Cook) with the best chance of not re-offending,” he said.

The sentence

After hearing from all parties, Judge LaForge summarized the victim and lawyer statements and the interview reports prepared for the court, before stating his concern over Cook’s lack of remorse.

“(Cook) never once said he was sorry and that struck me as I read all of the reports (prepared for the court),” said LaForge. “He focused on how all of this was affecting him.”

As he prepared to hand down his sentence, LaForge said, “When it comes right down to it, she (the victim) was 11 years old.”

Cook was handcuffed by bailiffs and led to the Main Adult Correctional Facility adjacent to the courthouse to begin his six-year sentence. He will also have to register as a sex offender for 20 years and on Sept. 14, a hearing will determine any financial restitution he may owe. It was not disclosed Wednesday to which state penitentiary Cook will be assigned.

The arrest

On Oct. 26, Sonoma police received a report of a sexual assault of a minor from an address on the west side of town at 12:25 p.m. After officers questioned Cook and took an initial report, the investigation was turned over to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, according to Sonoma Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez.

The following day, that team concluded that there was enough evidence to arrest Cook on suspicion of sexual assaulting a minor, a felony, according to Rodriguez.

Under the terms of his deal with prosecutors, Cook pleaded no contest to a single charge in April, while all other charges were dropped. A no-contest plea is an admission to the facts of the case, but legally distinct from a guilty plea.

Since his arrest, Cook has been represented in court by Andrian of Santa Rosa. Andrian is one of Northern California’s more well-known criminal defense attorneys; according to his website, he has tried more than 150 jury trials in state and federal courts.

Cook in the community

Cook served as a city council member in Sonoma from 2012 to 2020 and was the city’s mayor in 2015. He considered resigning from the council in 2018 and in March unsuccessfully challenged Susan Gorin for the 1st District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. He did not run for a third term on the city council when his seat was up in 2020.

Following his arrest, two of Cook’s council colleagues called for his resignation, but Cook did not resign, instead choosing not to attend his final few meetings. On Dec. 14, his seat was filled by Sonoma resident Jack Ding, who ran uncontested in the 2020 election.

Cook is the founder and president of Cook Vineyard Management in Sonoma and he owns the Cook’s Mercantile store at 19626 Eighth St. E.

Cook was the first but not the last Sonoma County former mayor to face charges in the past year.

Former Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob, 44, pleaded not guilty in May to 11 felony charges related to child sexual assault. He was also represented defense attorney Chris Andrian.

Ex-Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli, 39, was accused in April of multiple counts of sexual assault, causing him to resign in May. He has not yet been charged with any crimes.

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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