Originally published October 15, 2013 at 8:57 a.m., updated October 15, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
Disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner pleaded guilty in Superior Court today to one felony count of false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery as part of a plea deal with the state Attorney General’s office.
Amita Sharma, KPBS Investigative Reporter
Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on Tuesday pleaded guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence, menace and deceit, as well as two misdemeanor counts of battery.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris' Statement
In announcing the plea deal, Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement: “This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power. This prosecution is about consequence and accountability. No one is above the law.”
Filner, who resigned from office on Aug. 30, does not face jail time. Instead, he will serve three years probation and be confined to his home for three months under the plea arrangement, Harris said.
The agreement also requires that the former mayor and longtime congressman undergo psychological treatment, and prohibits him from voting, serving on a jury or owning a firearm during the three-year probation period.
California law allows Judge Robert Trentacosta to also require that Filner register as a sex offender, based on this conviction. But a source told KPBS news that such an imposition is almost never made in such cases here in San Diego and that it’s highly unlikely in Filner’s case.
The former mayor also forfeits his mayoral pension from March 6 – the date the felony was committed – to the end of August when he resigned. He also agreed to never seek public office again.
Filner may also be subject to fines and restitution for court fees and the cost of probation when he is formally sentenced on Dec. 9.
Filner, who appeared to have lost considerable weight since appearing before City Council to resign on Aug. 23, said little beyond stating his name and concurrence during the brief hearing before Trentacosta this morning.
But his attorney, Jerry Coughlin, read a statement to reporters outside of court. It read, in part:
“This was Mr. Filner’s chance to put all of this behind him. A chance to put into action and continue the ongoing rehabilitation that he has begun.
“His conduct he admitted in court and has admitted was inappropriate, over the top and today admitted it was criminal. Mr. Filner profusely apologizes to each person he might have harmed and this permits the various women to put all of this behind themselves too, and to know that his conduct will not occur with anybody else in the future.
We wish to commend the attorney general’s office for their diligent insight and toughness – and I’m going to emphasize that – and willingness to come to a resolution which is appropriate for anyone.
As the deputy attorney general said, this resolution balances justice and closure and that was Mr. Filner’s goal, our goal, and the attorney general’s goal and I think this is the first step along that course.”
Answering a reporter's question, Coughlin added: "I think he’s a much more humbled man, in my own personal view from the first time I met him early in this. I think that, to start out with, this is something that he did not realize was as bad as it was perceived by other people. And rehabilitation – he’s got ongoing counseling going on. — having to go through this process, I don’t think any one of you ever want to issue a guilty plea in a court – it’s a very sobering event."
The criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s office and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department stems from accusations that surfaced last summer.
Filner's Summer Of Scandal
The Filner saga began in July when three fellow Democrats and former staunch supporters of the mayor – including former Councilwoman Donna Frye – held a pair of press conferences stating that he had made unwanted sexual advances to numerous women and called on him to resign.
Contacted by phone in Philadelphia where she’s visiting, Frye had this to say about Filner’s plea agreement:
“I am very gratified that it appears that Bob has accepted responsibility for his actions which I think will help bring the women some justice and some recognition of how they were treated and that it won’t happen again.
“But I also hope that this sends a broader message to anyone who thinks that this behavior is alright and sends a clear message that it is not.”
Frye’s revelations were soon followed by the filing of a sexual-harassment lawsuit by former Filner aide Irene McCormack-Jackson. At a press conference, she detailed how the mayor put her in a headlock, whispered that loved her, wanted to kiss her, wanted to see her naked and “consummate their relationship.”
“I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women,” said McCormack-Jackson, who was represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred.
(It is unclear the status of the Jackson-McCormack lawsuit, nor that of two other subsequent suits by a pair of other women.)
Filner’s former aide was the first of about 20 women to come forward publicly with similar complaints about Filner grabbing them, making lewd comments, attempting to kiss them, and making other unwanted advances.
Filner initially admitted he had not always treated women with respect, that he wrestled with a monster within him, and vowed to seek counseling for his behavior. But he wavered between admission and defiance as the scandal unfolded throughout the summer.
The mayor, under increasing pressure to resign and facing a recall campaign, agreed to enter a two-week counseling program while still performing his duties.
But with a wide range of city leaders -- including all members of the city council -- insisting he resign, Filner’s fate was cast.
A week of back-room negotiations among Filner and his attorneys, city council members from both parties and the city attorney, lead to a deal on Aug. 23 in which Filner agreed to resign and the city capped its contribution to his legal fees at $90,000.
But in a remarkable farewell address before a packed council chamber, Filner spent two minutes acknowledging his failings and another 10 minutes blasting his political opponents for hounding him from office. That speech followed more than an hour of mostly angry comments from die-hard Filner supporters during the extraordinary council session.
Council President Todd Gloria assumed most of Filner’s powers as interim mayor following the resignation. A special election was soon set for Nov. 19 to replace Filner as mayor.