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Public Safety

San Diego County Pays $4M In Misconduct Suits Against Deputy

Former San Diego County sheriff's Deputy Richard Fischer being led away in handcuffs after he was sentenced to 44 months behind bars and 16 months post-release supervisions Dec. 10, 2019.
Matthew Bowler
Former San Diego County sheriff's Deputy Richard Fischer being led away in handcuffs after he was sentenced to 44 months behind bars and 16 months post-release supervisions Dec. 10, 2019.

San Diego County has so far spent more than $4 million to settle a dozen lawsuits brought after a sheriff's deputy admitted to on-duty misconduct with 16 women, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Union-Tribune cited documents that show lawyers for the county continue to litigate eight other lawsuits connected to former Deputy Richard Fischer.

In addition to the millions of dollars San Diego County is paying to close out civil cases, the county is paying for Fischer’s legal defense.

Private attorney Joseph Kutyla has been paid more than $570,000 over the last three years to defend Fischer and the Sheriff’s Department that employed him.

Fischer pleaded guilty in 2019 to assault and battery by an officer and false imprisonment. He was released from jail after serving about five months of a 44-month sentence.

Before striking a plea deal, Fischer had faced 20 charges, including an allegation that he forced one woman to perform a sex act. As part of the deal, prosecutors dismissed that criminal complaint — including the alleged sexual assault — and filed a new one that had seven charges, but named all 16 women as victims.

The women said Fischer groped, hugged or tried to kiss them after they encountered him on the job.

County officials said they had no choice but to outsource the legal work.

“Because conflict of interest rules prevent County Counsel from representing both the county and Deputy Fischer, the county has retained independent counsel to advise and defend Deputy Fischer,” spokesman Michael Workman said in an email to the newspaper.