A former San Francisco restaurant owner is out on bail today, after an arrest in Sonoma County for allegedly drugging then sexually assaulting a 16-year-old he met on social media.
According to Petaluma Police Department spokesperson Lieutenant Danny Fish, 38-year-old Brett Aaron Niebergall was arrested Tuesday for the alleged assault on the underaged victim.
Fish says that the victim "reportedly met Niebergall on a social media application and they began having electronic communications."
(Citing the age of the victim and the nature of the alleged assault, police say that identifying characteristics of the victim, including gender, will not be released.)
After a few days of online communication, police say, the two agreed to meet, and on July 30 the victim met Niebergall at his Petaluma home.
"At some point during the meeting, the victim reported being drugged and then sexually assaulted by Niebergall," Fish says, and contacted the police two days later.
Fish says that on Tuesday, police searched Niebergall's home, and "collected several items of evidence which supported the victim’s allegations."
"During an interview of Niebergall at the scene, during the search warrant service, Detective Novello received statements from Niebergall which indicated intimate contact had occurred with the victim," Fish says.
Niebergall was subsequently arrested, and was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of sodomy with the use of a controlled substance, oral copulation with the use of a controlled substance, contacting a minor to commit a felony, and unlawfully furnishing a controlled substance to a minor.
Niebergall's name might be familiar to those who follow San Francisco's restaurant scene, for as the Chron notes, in recent years he was the co-owner of a Castro-area restaurant called Frisée and later owned a SF-based food truck called Southern Sandwich Co.
The financial challenges that faced Frisée were detailed in this September, 2008 SF Chronicle piece. According to the article, Niebergall, who co-owned the restaurant with his brother, was "reared on a cattle ranch in the Texas Hill Country town of Bulverde and eventually "graduated from the California Culinary Academy."
Though the Chron reports that Niebergall sacrificed his Castro apartment to cut costs, by the end of 2008, the struggling restaurant had shuttered. In June 2010, the brothers opened the Southern Sandwich Co. food truck, described by SF Weekly as "rolling homage to Southwestern road food." According to the food truck's Twitter account, the truck served customers throughout San Francisco and the nearby Bay Area. That business appears to have closed in November 2012, as its final tweet reads thusly:
Truck has broken down: Sadly there will be no service today or tomorrow.— Southern Sandwich Co (@SouthrnSandwich) November 29, 2012
Returning to the present, Fish says that Niebergall was released on $330,000 bail on Wednesday evening.
The Petaluma Police department's investigation is ongoing, Fish says, but police are eager to hear from anyone who might have insights into the case. Those who do should contact PPD's Detective Lance Novello at 707-778-4334 or by email at [email protected] You can also submit an anonymous tip to them online here, or by texting 888777 with TIP PETPD at the beginning of your message.