Ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, pleaded guilty to charges that he forced himself on women at political events in a deal with prosecutors that spares him prison time.
He entered pleas today to a felony charge of false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery charges in state court in San Diego. Under the terms of a plea bargain, he will be placed on probation, ordered to spend three months in home confinement and barred from ever seeking public office, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement.
Filner, 71, was the first Democrat to lead the eighth-largest U.S. city in two decades. Prosecutors said he used force to restrain an unidentified woman at a March 6 fundraiser and used “additional force to overcome her resistance,” according to a court filing. At an April 6 “Meet the Mayor” event, Filner kissed an unidentified woman on the lips without her consent, and on May 25 he grabbed a woman’s buttock when she was posing for a picture with him at a Fiesta Island Rally and Clean-up event, prosecutors said.
“This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power,” Harris said in a statement. “This prosecution is about consequence and accountability. No one is above the law.”
Filner appeared at his arraignment hearing today in a blue suit with a gold tie and only spoke by responding “guilty” or saying yes when asked if he understood the charges and consented to the plea agreement.
Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel told Superior Court Judge Robert Trentacosta that Filner “was making a tactical decision based on the advice of counsel” in pleading guilty to the charges.
Filner’s attorney, Jerry Coughlan, told reporters after the hearing “Mr. Filner wants to put all this behind him and continue the rehabilitation treatment he has been receiving.”
“He apologizes profusely to all the victims,” Coughlan said. “This plea today is a step forward in redeeming his legacy.”
Trentacosta scheduled Filner’s sentencing for Dec. 9 and allowed him to remain free until then without bail. The felony he pleaded to carries a three-year maximum prison sentence, according to the plea agreement.
The victims of Filner’s crimes were identified only as Jane Doe 1, 2, and 3.
Filner agreed in August to leave office after 18 women publicly accused him of making unwanted advances and inappropriate comments. The City Council voted 7-0 for an agreement under which the city will defend him against noncriminal legal actions stemming from his behavior as mayor, which he attributed to “my own personal failures.”
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Filner must surrender his mayoral pension from the date the felony was committed until the date he resigned office. Filner may not vote, serve on a jury or own a firearm while he is on probation. He’s required to undergo treatment as directed by a mental health professional throughout his probation. If he violates the terms of his probation, he may face as long as six months in jail, according to Harris’s statement.
Filner won office in November with 52 percent of the vote partly because of actions on pensions for city workers the council backed and voters approved. The changes, including limits on benefits, helped labor unions rally support for the Democrat’s bid.
The case is People v. Filner, SCD235490, California Superior Court, San Diego County (San Diego).