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Plea agreement ends his political career

By Miriam Raftery; photo courtesy ECM news partner 10 News

October 15, 2013 (San Diego) – Just hours after California Attorney General filed charges against Mayor Bob Filner, the former mayor pled guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery. Under a plea agreement, Filner will never seek public office again.

The victims were not named, identified only as “Jane Does.”  The felony case entailed Filner kissing a woman against her will and using the “Filner headlock” to restrain her.  Prosecutor Melissa Mandel  stated that the midsdemeanors  included kissing a woman on the lips without consent at a “Meet the Mayor” event and fondling another woman’s buttocks while having a photo taken at a rally.

Filner entered the guilty pleas before Judge Robert Trentacosta. Formal sentencing will take place December 9.  The mayor, reportedly looking thin and gaunt, said little in court. But his attorney, Jerry Coughlin, read a statement to reporters afterward which said 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.”   He added that Filner has apologized for his conduct and that the plea bargain will enable the women to “put all of the behind themselves, too.”

The Mayor resigned August 30 after nearly 20 women alleged inappropriate conduct and one filed suit alleging sexual harassment on the job. 

Attorney General Kamala Harris , a Democrat, called Filner’s conduct “an extreme abuse of power” and said the charges indicate that “no one is above the law.”

Harris’ office handled the investigation after San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis recused herself due to a conflict of interest, since she ran against Filner for Mayor.

Under a plea bargain reached, Filner will  be placed on probation for three years, on home confinement, avoiding jail time. He agreed to undergo mental health counseling and must also give up his mayoral pension from the date of the felony in March to his resignation.

For Filner, a career politician who previously served in Congress, on the San Diego Unified School District Board, and on San Diego’s Ctiy Council as well as Mayor, the toughest penalty may well be the requirement that he never again run for public office. 

Raections were mixed among San Diego leaders.

“He admitted it. Move on, stop with bizarre conspiracy rumors and stop blaming women,” tweeted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, former head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. 

 “Today’s action underscores the importance of Mr. Filner’s removal from office,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who added that he believes the mayor suffered from mental health issues.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said more than 200 calls came into a hotline set up for handling allegaitions of sexual misconduct, though some of those were witnesses, not victims.  Deputies interviewed nearly 90 people.  “The ultimate decision on the charges against Filner was made by the State Attorney General,” Sheriff Gore said, adding that the hotline is now closed and the investigation is concluded. “Today’s guilty plea ends a dark chapter in San Diego’s history,” he added.