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Ex-Deputy Richard Fischer Pleads Guilty In Sexual Assault Trial

Deputy Richard Fischer in court in this undated file photo.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: Deputy Richard Fischer in court in this undated file photo.

A former sheriff's deputy charged with sexually assaulting multiple women he encountered while on patrol pleaded guilty Monday to four felony and three misdemeanor charges, which in total carry a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Richard Timothy Fischer pleaded guilty to four counts of assault and battery by an officer involving four victims. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault by an officer involving 11 victims and one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment involving one victim. As part of the plea agreement, the court will determine whether he has to register as a sex offender.

Listen to this story by Randol White.

The plea deal came Monday, just as Fischer’s trial was slated to start in a Vista courtroom. He first surrendered to authorities in February 2018 after allegations surfaced months earlier that he had groped or fondled 13 women. In August 2018, prosecutors added five new charges against Fischer, involving three more women.

District Attorney Summer Stephan declined an interview request but said in a statement the plea deal "acknowledges the separate crimes committed against each victim and is accepted in accordance with the wishes of the overwhelming number of victims who agree it is a just and appropriate resolution that holds the defendant accountable for his crimes."

Along with the criminal charges, 21 women have filed civil lawsuits against Fischer and the Sheriff's Department, said James Mitchell, a lawyer representing most of the women. Five cases have been settled, and all but one were on hold until Fischer's criminal trial is complete.

RELATED: San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Accusers Describe Sexual Misconduct Allegations

One of Fischer's accusers said he ran his hands across her breast as he unbuckled her seatbelt after driving her to Las Colinas Jail.

She alleges he had told her just moments earlier, “I hope I’m not making you uncomfortable ... if I accidentally cop a feel, it’s an accident.” She also alleged that Fischer subjected her to three body searches, each one progressively more invasive.

Another woman accused Fischer of fondling her and trying to kiss her during a welfare check following a 911 call seeking help for her mother who had suffered a stroke. The woman was also grieving for her father who had passed away two days earlier.

A third woman said Fischer groped her and put her hand on his crotch after she had placed a domestic violence call to the Sheriff’s Department.

A fourth woman said Fischer fondled her after arresting her. A fifth woman said the deputy visited her after investigating a burglary at her home and hugged her twice with both arms, squeezing her tightly and pulling her into his chest. A sixth woman accused Fischer of forcing her to kiss him and perform oral sex on him.

The department placed Fischer on an administrative leave and began investigating the charges against him in late October 2017, according to a sheriff's spokesman. In February 2018, he was charged by San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan.

One of Fischer’s accusers, identified in a lawsuit as K.P., said she first notified the Sheriff’s Department about Fischer in March 2016 but never heard back.

RELATED: KPBS Lawsuit Reveals Unanswered Citizen Complaints Against Sheriff’s Department

In 2018, KPBS requested data from Sheriff's Department regarding the length of time it took the department to respond to complaints against officers. The department initially denied the request, but provided the information after KPBS filed a lawsuit.

The records showed that more than one in six complaints made to the Sheriff's Department never got a response of any kind. That's 72 out of a total of 425 complaints received between 2014 and 2018.

There are several reasons complaints may not have received a response, said Robert Faigin, the chief attorney for the Sheriff's Department.

For example, he said, someone might write to complain "there are Martians landing on my front lawn," or "the government is out to get me," and those complaints would not receive a response.

Other reasons include numerous or repetitive complaints from the same person after the issue was previously addressed, the sender was anonymous, had no fixed address, or provided no contact information.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

Former San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer pleaded guilty Monday to sexually assaulting 16 women. In many cases, he was on duty and was dispatched to help women who were victims of a crime. Also, San Diego County children are slightly less obese than they were a decade ago, according to a new report. And, the Mexican city of Juárez, opposite El Paso, sees a diverse population of migrants waiting to get their asylum cases reviewed.

Aired: September 10, 2019 | Transcript

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