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Sheriff's Deputy Assault Victims Say Plea Deal Is Not Justice Served And More Local News

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Several victims of former sheriff’s deputy Richard Fischer are upset that no sex charges were included in his plea deal. Plus, in today’s #CoveringClimateNow, climate change and rising oceans are threatening to make storm flooding, a regular occurrence in Imperial Beach, significantly worse. Also, on today’s podcast, President Trump visited San Diego on Wednesday on a fundraising trip where he stopped by Otay Mesa to view and signed the replacement border fence. And, veterans from around the country are in San Diego this week to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, designed to encourage people with injuries to become active.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Thursday, September 19th. I'm Deb Welsh and you are listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. Several assault victims of a former sheriff's deputy say his plea deal is not just as served and if there's a California city that's vulnerable to rising sea levels. It's imperial beach and the hair talking to me is cause IBS is vulnerable. Highest point in the whole city is 40 feet. So um, the whole areas is low. Lying that more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 2: 00:32 Thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welch. Last week district attorney Summer Stephan struck a plea deal with a former sheriff's deputy who had been accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women, but no sexual assault charges were included in the deal. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traeger, Sir, talk to two of the victims who say that surprised and upset them a warning. This story contains graphic descriptions that some people may find disturbing. Former sheriff's deputy Richard Fisher was initially charged with 20 counts of assault, burglary, forcing oral sex and sexual battery. But his plea deal with the DA did not include any of the sex charges. Instead, he pleaded to four felony assaults, three misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor. False imprisonment at the most Fisher could face five years in prison. There's also a chance he won't serve any prison time to of Fisher's victims. Say his plea deal invalidates what happened to them. If somebody is guilty of some charge, need to be guilty and need to be casually. That one woman who asked that KPBS only identify her by her initials. TD says she first encountered Fisher in January, 2017 when he was called to her home to check on her welfare. He returned several times and would force her to kiss and hug him. She said she is an immigrant and was afraid to say anything bad about the police. Then that April she says Fisher forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Speaker 3: 02:11 He take my right wrist and take me in my bedroom, sit on a bed and um, he open his zipper. And first in my head I didn't know how that, how long they was like maybe can be two minutes or five minutes or one minute. I cannot know exactly just the, I remember the dog from his car was barking so loud. This is what it's going to say. My, my head like, oh, the memory I have, and I remember this thing that night, all night, like so embarrassed and dealing with police is not easy.

Speaker 2: 02:54 TD says district attorney, prosecutors told her Fisher would plead guilty to forced sex. That didn't happen.

Speaker 4: 03:01 I think anybody who makes a mistake, the need to better make a plea bargain, the need to plea onboard, they're done.

Speaker 2: 03:10 Her experience has made her question whether the justice system works. My desire is for all new generation of females and to be safe and not to be scared. The truth fishers, defense attorney Gretchen von Helms told KPBS the majority of the victims wanted to plea deal district attorney. Summer Stephan declined an interview request. She sent a press release after the deal saying it was quote in accordance with the wishes of the overwhelming number of victims who agree it is adjust inappropriate resolution that holds the defendant accountable for his crimes. Stephan also says a judge will decide whether Fisher has to register as a sex offender, which is still possible, but not guaranteed since he didn't plead to sex charges. Michael Crowley is a criminal defense attorney not involved in the case.

Speaker 4: 04:04 I'll get him to the point of where it is discretionary to um, have the sex registration that the judge will make that decision probably based on psychological reports and, and the static 99. Um, that's huge.

Speaker 2: 04:24 He says if the sex charges were included, sexual offender registration would be mandatory. Another woman who asked only to be identified by her initials, KP says she also believed Fisher would be pleading guilty to sexual assault. She accused Fisher of groping her during a traffic stop

Speaker 5: 04:43 when they read it off and then it was over. I was kind of looking around like, wait, that's it. Like that's what he got charged with. Like it was really baffling. Honestly.

Speaker 2: 04:52 Fisher will be sentenced in early December. Many of his accusers are suing him and the sheriff's department in civil lawsuits. Claire Taiga Sir KPBS News. President Trump visited reconstructed parts of the border fence Wednesday afternoon, and Oh Thai Mesa. As part of his visit to San Diego KPBS reporter Max, Revlon Adler was there as his motorcade span onto the dusty roads leading to the fence.

Speaker 6: 05:20 Since Trump took office, the Department of Homeland Security has finished a 14 mile stretch of border wall replacement, stretching from the ocean to Oti Mesa. Trump's last visit to Oti Mesa was in March, 2018 to review prototypes for possible border walls. Those prototypes were knocked down earlier this year. None of the prototype designs were chosen as part of the replacement fence at the replacement border fence. Trump complimented Mexico on its recent efforts to drive down migration to the southern border of the United States.

Speaker 7: 05:48 The Mexican soldiers have been incredible. They've really done a good generating green. Trump

Speaker 6: 05:52 then signed the wall alongside construction workers. This concluded Trump's two day visit to California,

Speaker 8: 05:58 which focused on fundraising for his reelection campaign at the border in Oti Mesa, Max Riverland, Adler k PBS news.

Speaker 9: 06:05 President Trump was in San Diego yesterday on the final leg of a two day California trip. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says hundreds gathered outside the u s Grand Hotel in downtown San Diego where Trump attended a fundraiser.

Speaker 8: 06:20 Protesters like Jerry Jenkins, say fundraisers that cost thousands to get into show that Trump only cares about the wealthy

Speaker 10: 06:26 delong from my opinion, morally corrupt man who doesn't really care about the average American. And he's more interested in handing to the rich and the elite. You know? So to me this is a classic example of what's wrong with our process here. We, we've let money buy off the process.

Speaker 8: 06:40 Trump supporters like Blake Marinell say, they're excited that the president came to San Diego.

Speaker 10: 06:44 I'm glad he's coming to California. And I think what Republicans in this state should take note of is that this means he, even though we are a blue state, he has not forgotten about Republicans in California. He knows we're here. We're behind enemy lines.

Speaker 8: 06:59 Despite the differing opinions. It was pretty civil outside the fundraiser. San Diego police say no protestors or supporters were arrested. Trump was expected to raise millions for his reelection campaign while in California. Matt Hoffman, K PBS news.

Speaker 9: 07:13 Imperial beach is one of the lowest lying cities in California. It regularly experiences flooding during high tides and storms. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says climate change and rising oceans are threatening to make that flooding significantly worse.

Speaker 11: 07:29 Hey, this is a low time. We still have, you know, the water hitting the rocks.

Speaker 8: 07:32 Robert Stabenow is captain of the Imperial Beach. Lifeguards

Speaker 11: 07:35 as you know, and why IB we're probably at, you're here talking to me is cause IBS. Vulnerable IBS. Highest point in the whole city is 40 feet. So, um, the whole areas is low lion

Speaker 8: 07:47 stabbing. I grew up in IB and has been a lifeguard there for 37 years.

Speaker 11: 07:51 It used to be, yeah, we get coastal flooding. Like I said in the seventies eighties and nineties but it was every five to 10 years. We're expecting that pretty much every high tide in the winter months,

Speaker 8: 08:02 stamina is in charge of fortifying the city when flooding is expected. He's no climate expert but says he's seen the flooding get worse over time.

Speaker 11: 08:09 In the past we had open area, so we'd have coastal flooding, but it's slowly come up and over the top and it wasn't as significant. And what you're seeing now in the amount of water that comes up over the top is, you know, flooding in the whole street with seaweed and other debris in sand

Speaker 8: 08:24 in some areas of imperial beach. The water literally goes right up to homes and stabbing us as people living with a waterfront view do not want to have to move their homes.

Speaker 11: 08:32 That's a very touchy subject and relocation of, of reticence and their homes and some of these people that have been in their homes for their life and they don't want to be relocated. You know, I'll, I'll get relocated when the ocean tells me it's time to be relocated. I don't want somebody telling them they have to. So it's a, it's a difficult decision. If that was my home, I probably feel the same way. So, um, but when you can't control mother nature but you can prepare for it.

Speaker 8: 08:58 Part of that preparation involves creating sand barriers, but right now in imperial beach there, and in fact all southern California or beaches have the sand shortage. Robert [inaudible] is a sea level rise expert at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Beaches in southern California can no longer maintain themselves. They're not going to be sandy beaches. We can either maintain them and expect to pay the money or not have sandy beaches. He says the flooding might look bad now, but with sea level rise expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, the lack of sand could make that flooding catastrophic rising shu level will take a chronic problem, shortage of sand and see how bad it can get by just flooding the beaches on top of it that are already sand starved. One school and imperial beach is taking this reality and turning it into a teachable moment. So you've got the Oh Thai river coming right here up against the school, right up to the bay. The Oti River has a little outlet right here, which goes into a pipe, a drain pipe that goes across the soccer field and pops up in the corner. Kevin cort is principal of Bayside Steam Academy, which has k through sixth grade students. When the San Diego Bay floods and outlet pipe dumped salt water in a back corner of the school at a high spring tide several times a year. When the water flows up this way, it bubbles up in the back corner and produces salt rings.

Speaker 8: 10:25 You can feel the salt crunch under your feet when you walk on it. The school usually has this area blocked off, but it's been letting fourth and fifth graders near the area to track the overflow. It's just something that's been a part of our school that we've chosen to learn about a phenomenon like this happening in our backyard. Let's learn about it right now. Let's learn about elevation and contour lines back at the water. Stabenow says he seen the beaches getting smaller

Speaker 11: 10:50 every year. It seems like less and less comes back.

Speaker 8: 10:52 Stabenow says in years past, the city has paid to dump additional sand on the beaches, but it doesn't stay there for long.

Speaker 11: 10:58 And that's what's the biggest concern, you know, for, for me in the lifeguards is, is no beach. You know, there's no beach and there's no people here. You know, people don't come to the beach. There's no beach. Um, uh, so drastically impact visitors coming to imperial beach. Um, hopefully it doesn't get to that point.

Speaker 8: 11:20 Seawalls and other barriers are the best protection against high tides. Right now. Climate scientists say the ocean has risen by nearly a foot in IB over the past century, but it could rise by several feet before this century is done. Matt Hoffman KPBS news

Speaker 9: 11:33 this week we're bringing you stories about people directly impacted by a changing climate and no one will feel the impacts more than kids and teenagers. So today we'll hear from 17 year old Carlsbad resident Aribel Meyer about what she thinks of climate change.

Speaker 8: 11:49 Climate change is something that, um,

Speaker 3: 11:54 let me think. Um, the issue of climate change is something that should be, it's not something that just a few people should be thinking about. Like it should be. Education should bring it to the forefront of everyone's minds. And I think that everyone, if they just make small changes in their lives, like the, the mentality that I think a lot of people have is maybe some people, like if I do something like say, using less plastic in the long run, it's not gonna make a big difference. It's just me. I'm just a single person out of millions. But if everyone had that mentality, then nothing would change.

Speaker 9: 12:31 To see all our climate change stories go to kpbs.org/climate change. California's governor says the Trump administration move to revoke the state's car emissions authority is wrong. Trump was in San Diego Wednesday the same day he tweeted about his plan. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson says, the move is getting a quick response.

Speaker 12: 12:52 The governor promises to go to court to stop efforts to roll back California's clean air waiver for cars. That waiver gives the state the ability to set stricter air pollution rules. The president tweeted Wednesday that the Trump administration is revoking California's federal waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making cars substantially safer. On quote California Governor Gavin Newsome called the move a game changer. He says, the state submission rules protect health, prime the economy, and allow families to pay less at the pump because they buy less gas. Newsome has disappointed the president's political party remains silent. Why aren't they pushing back? They believe in federalism. They believe in state rights. At least they assert that. And in order to be found on this, this proposal is unusual for the federal government. Ucs, d professor Mark Jacobson says, most environmental regulations set a minimum standard for how much pollution can be admitted. Here we have an environmental policy that's binding in the other direction, which says you, you have to sell cars that are dirtier, uh, in a sense then, then you would, like Jacobson says, the legal battle could last years and it's not clear who will prevail. Eric Anderson, KPBS news

Speaker 9: 14:05 veterans from around the country are in San Diego this week. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic is designed to encourage people with injuries to become active.

Speaker 6: 14:18 This is the 12th year the VA has hosted the event in San Diego. 130 vets from across the country come to learn cycling, Kayaking, sailing and surfing. A few are experienced athletes, others like army and air force veteran at Natalie Constance Green. Just started cycling in January and prior to that

Speaker 13: 14:37 I've been on a bike and over 35 years. So they work with you. You just take your time and you will get through and there's everybody here to cheer you on and make sure you get through it.

Speaker 6: 14:46 She's from New Jersey and has PTSD rather than compete. The event is designed to teach veterans new ways to adapt sports to their particular injury. They return home to make athletics part of their rehabilitation. The veterans will be at venues in San Diego in Coronado through Friday. Steve Walsh KPBS news

Speaker 9: 15:04 this week off of Oceanside, the coast guard intercepted a boat filled with 13 people attempting to enter the u s KPB has reporter Max Rivlin. Adler explains that incidents like this are part of a year's long rise in maritime events as smugglers change their tactics.

Speaker 6: 15:22 The 23 foot Bayliner power boat was stopped by the Coast Guard shortly after 2:00 PM Sunday and tow to Oceanside harbor. When border patrol agents boarded the boat, they found 13 adults from both Mexico and Guatemala. Border Patrol officials told KPBS that there's been a noticeable rise in maritime apprehensions in San Diego during fiscal year 2019 with 179 separate events including human smuggling and drug trafficking. In all of fiscal year 2018 there were only 122 events. A border patrol spokesperson stressed that it's not clear what's driven the seafaring tactics and that the number of narrow time events began to rise. Several years ago, the captain and co-captain of the boat were referred to the u s attorney's office to be charged with alien smuggling Max with Lynn Adler KPBS news.

Speaker 9: 16:09 Our proposal aimed at boosting affordable housing in San Diego is getting vetoed by Mayor Kevin Faulkner KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says, the mayor sees it doing more harm than good.

Speaker 14: 16:21 The proposals spearheaded by council president Georgette Gomez would've made developers pay a greater share of the cost to provide low income housing. Gomez said it would help those hardest hit by the housing crisis, but developers say adding costs to home-building would exacerbate San Diego's housing shortage. The building industry associations, Matt Adams told the City Council on Tuesday that construction is already down.

Speaker 15: 16:45 That's a real problem. We're going in the wrong direction and making regulations more onerous will make it more difficult. [inaudible]

Speaker 14: 16:53 agreed and says he'll veto the measure. It passed the city council with five votes, not enough to override that veto. Andrew Bowen KPBS News,

Speaker 9: 17:02 thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. If you're not already a subscriber, take a minute to become one. You can find San Diego news matters on apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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