Filner Takes Stand In Civil Trial, Denies Harassment Of Women
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Dana Littlefield, crime and courts reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune
Bob Filner repeatedly denied inappropriate conduct toward women, physically or verbally, when he took the stand Wednesday in trial of a civil lawsuit filed against the ex-mayor and the city of San Diego.
Asked by a lawyer about alleged sexually oriented contacts he had with a variety of female employees, Filner responded with "That's not true, sir" or "That never happened, sir" or "No, sir."
His statements came on the second day of testimony in the trial stemming from a lawsuit filed by Stacy McKenzie, who alleges that the former congressman grabbed her from behind at an April 2013 event at De Anza Cove Park, pressed against her buttocks and grazed her breasts with his arm.
McKenzie, a parks district manager for the city, testified Tuesday that the touching came several minutes after she extricated herself from a conversation in which the then-mayor inquired about whether she was married or had a boyfriend, and asked her out on a lunch date.
Her lawsuit is one of two involving Filner — who resigned under fire four months later — that have not been settled. Four other similar cases were settled for more than $1 million total.
Filner, 73, called the day of his resignation "the saddest day of my life."
"I felt like I had let a lot of people down," said Filner, who earlier told jurors that he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the age of 13 and pledged to the civil rights leader that he would lead a life of non-violence.
Opposition within the city to his policies made it impossible for him to govern, according to Filner.
"The whole experience was incredibly devastating," Filner said. "I didn't think I was guilty of many of the allegations."
He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and felony false imprisonment. He was sentenced to three months on house arrest and three years probation.
On Tuesday, McKenzie testified that she felt "doomed" after her encounter with Filner. She alleges sexual battery by Filner, and sexual harassment and negligent failure by Filner and the city to prevent the attack.
She said she knew Filner had a temper and she didn't want to get demoted. She said she stopped answering phone calls and avoided going downtown.
"I'm still anxious by it," McKenzie said. "I still worry about my job. I feel like politicians have long-reaching arms. I don't know if he still has friends with the city of San Diego."
In his testimony Wednesday, Filner said he didn't recall the incident because he attended thousands of such events.
"I don't recall meeting Ms. McKenzie at all," he said. Asked about grabbing her, Filner responded, "I would never do such a thing, sir."
He conceded that it was possible he might ask out women he met at such events, but wouldn't do so with a city employee.
In his opening statement in the courtroom of Judge Timothy Taylor, Deputy City Attorney George Schaefer said the eight-man, four-woman jury will have to decide whether there was sexually oriented contact with the plaintiff's breast, and whether Filner's actions met the provisions of state sexual harassment law.
He pointed out that McKenzie's interviews with law enforcement in the months following the incident differ with her current account.
The lawsuit was filed after the city denied a $500,000 claim by McKenzie. Her lawyers will decide how much in damages to ask for when they make their closing argument.
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