SD Democratic Leader Rodriguez-Kennedy Hit With Rape Suit; Councilman Whitburn Accused of Not Intervening

Oscar David Rendon alleges he was assaulted in August 2021. At the urging of a college professor, he reported the incident to San Diego police in March 2022, his lawsuit says. Image via Facebook

A former San Diego City College student body president is accusing local Democratic Party leader Will Rodriguez-Kennedy of sexual assault and also named San Diego Councilman Stephen Whitburn as a defendant.

Oscar Rendon lawsuit against Will Rodriguez-Kennedy and Stephen Whitburn. (PDF)

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego Superior Court, Oscar David Rendon says Rodriguez-Kennedy sodomized him after a night of drinking. The civil suit, filed by Dan Gilleon, seeks unspecified monetary damages of at least $25,000.

The nine-page complaint alleges that Whitburn was present in the same Ninth Avenue residence he shared with Rodriguez-Kennedy when the alleged assault occurred in August 2021. Whitburn is not accused of taking part in any assault.

“Whitburn … witnessed Rendon in a state of great intoxication, that Whitburn knew, or should have known, that Kennedy was likely to assault Rendon if he did not intervene … and that Whitburn left Kennedy alone with Rendon and took no steps to protect him,” the suit says.

The suit comes a week after Rodriguez-Kennedy, the sidelined San Diego Democratic Party chairman, celebrated a decision by the county District Attorney’s Office not to file sex charges against him.

The suit calls Rodriguez-Kennedy, 35, “a notorious alcoholic and sexual predator who preys on young men he believes might be impressed by his self-proclaimed power.”

In May, Rodriguez-Kennedy took a leave of absence from his party chairmanship amid investigations of nonconsensual sex allegations — which he called completely false.

Oscar Rendon’s candidate statement when he ran for Associated Student Government president at City College.

The suit attaches a police report filed in late March describing the alleged assault, saying Rodriguez-Kennedy was an ex-boyfriend of Rendon, now 23.

“Rendon was incapacitated due to his alcohol consumption and he did not consent to the sodomy,” says the SDPD report by Officer Timothy Stenberg.

“During my investigation, I noticed that RENDON was visibly shaken when he talked about the incident,” his report says. “At times during my interview, RENDON’s eyes began to well with tears. When asked to describe RODRIGUEZ-KENNEDY and his relationship, RENDON seemed disgusted when talking about it.”

Stenberg reported asking Rendon if he would like his information to be withheld from public records.

“Rendon took a long pause and said: ‘No, I want this public. It’s an election year and I want this out there,’” said the police report.

Whitburn didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But Gene Iredale, an attorney for Rodriguez-Kennedy, noted that the District Attorney’s Office had a chance to fully investigate the accusations “and decided that no charges of any kind were justified.”

In a brief phone interview, Iredale added: “This civil lawsuit will be proven to be without merit and based on a completely false allegation.”

He said a news conference would be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Athens Market Taverna downtown, 109 West F Street, to further rebut allegations in the suit.

Friends. Tomorrow the truth will out. Until then, pa’lante.

— Will Rodriguez-Kennedy (he/him/his) (@WillRK787) September 23, 2022

A little after 6 p.m. Thursday, Rodriguez-Kennedy alluded to Friday’s news conference.

“Tomorrow the truth will out,” he tweeted.

Before the suit was filed, acting San Diego County Democratic Party Chairwoman Becca Taylor told Times of San Diego: “Our process in this [investigation of allegations] is ongoing, and the party is consulting with our legal counsel on next steps.”

Social and victims justice advocate Tasha Williamson, a 2020 candidate for San Diego mayor, says she helped point Rendon toward resources.

“The local Dem Party can get worthy Democrats elected and investigate Will Rodriguez Kennedy, Steve Whitburn, possibly 1 – 20 other Democrats who may have violated ethics and rules of conduct,” she said via email.

Williamson said allegations continue to be revealed about the party “turning a blind eye to some alleged predators while killing the careers of others. This along with the racism I’ve witnessed and endured in this party is not something I want to pass to my next generation! The Williamson family may end our generational commitment to the Democratic Party!”

Lawyer Gilleon, with four offices including Del Mar and downtown San Diego, is familiar to readers as the attorney in a series of headline-grabbing cases.

His civil suit against former San Diego State University punter Matt Araiza and two other football players alleges a gang rape of his client “Jane Doe.”

He represents the family of Raquel Wilkins, who fell to her death with her toddler son at Petco Park in September 2021. The family disputes a police conclusion that the incident was a murder-suicide but has yet to sue the city.

In 2019, Gilleon won a settlement for “John Doe,” who sued San Diego school board member Kevin Beiser, alleging rape amid five years of molestations.

And in 2018, Gilleon won 17 female dancers a nearly $1.5 million settlement after suing the City of San Diego over police raids of strip clubs in 2013 and 2014.

The downtown-based attorney also represented several women who settled various suits with former San Diego labor leader Mickey Kasparian.

It’s unclear whether Rodriguez-Kennedy is still a member of the Democratic National Committee. He also served on the executive board of the California Democratic Party and was president of California Young Democrats from 2018 to 2021.

Updated at 9:05 p.m. Sept. 22, 2022