Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner pleaded guilty this morning to three criminal counts related to the sexual harassment allegations that drove him from office after a summer of scandal.
Specifically, Filner pleaded guilty before Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence, fraud, menace and deceit and two misdemeanor counts of battery. Sentencing was set for Dec. 9, and documents indicate he will get three years of probation. He will serve three months of home confinement but no prison or jail time.
Filner also must undergo mental health treatment, has agreed never to seek public office again and will lose a portion of his city pension.
The charges involve three unnamed women victims, with the following events this year, which Filner admitted to one by one:
On March 6, he used force to overcome the resistance of a woman at a fundraiser, violating her liberty. This incident resulted in the felony charge.
On April 6, he kissed a woman on the lips at a one of his “Meet the Mayor” events for the public, resulting in one battery charge.
On May 25, he went to a Fiesta Island rally and clean-up, and when a woman posed with him for a photo, he touched her rear end, resulting in the second battery charge.
U-T Watchdog reported earlier this month that a criminal grand jury had been empaneled to hear evidence of possible criminal charges against Filner, 71, who resigned from office on Aug. 30. At least two lawyers said that they had clients who were called to testify in front of the panel, with appearance dates later this week. The guilty plea indicates the impending proceedings may have provided leverage for a plea deal.
[Background: The women who accused Filner]
Allegations of sexual harassment against Filner have been investigated by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, using a special hotline set up for the purpose. The sheriff handled the investigation because the city police department reported to Filner. Similarly, prosecution on criminal charges was handled by the state Attorney General’s Office because of a conflict of interest. That is, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis ran against Filner for mayor last year.
Filner resigned from office under mounting pressure from allegations from about 20 women that he groped, fondled or otherwise acted inappropriately to them. Several of them described being put in the “Filner headlock” while he touched them inappropriately.
In addition to the criminal charges, he faces one lawsuit by his former communications director and one city claim from a parks worker. He left office after the City Council agreed to help with his legal defense related to those actions.
Gloria Allred, attorney for the former communications director, told U-T Watchdog by email, “He has abused his position of power and his position of trust and hurt many women. That is why on many occasions I urged the women of San Diego to contact the San Diego County Sheriff’s hotline if they had relevant information to report about Mayor Filner. I am proud of the women who did contact them. It is long overdue for him to be accountable in both the civil and criminal justice system and today is an important step forward in bringing Bob Filner to justice. His conduct as the mayor of San Diego was reprehensible and justice demands that he be punished for the harm he has caused to countless women who trusted and believed in him.”
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who is defending the city and Filner against Allred’s lawsuit, issued a statement saying, “Today’s action underscores the importance of Mr. Filner’s removal from office and will further help our city and the victims put this behind us.”
Separately, the Watchdog has reported, federal agents have made inquiries about Filner’s handling of a Kearny Mesa development by Sunroad Centrum Partners. The developer received a city concession after giving the mayor’s office $100,000 for favorite Filner causes. Any pending investigation of that matter is separate from the Attorney General’s charges regarding Filner’s alleged personal misconduct.
Filner was elected last year and served as mayor for nine months. He spent two decades as a U.S. congressman and, before that, served on the school board and City Council in San Diego. He also took part in the freedom rides for civil rights in the south in the 1960s.
A special election to replace Filner will be held Nov. 19.