Former San Diego mayor pleads guilty to felony over headlock
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned from the helm of California's second-largest city after a string of sexual harassment allegations, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of false imprisonment and battery involving three women.
A former Democratic congressman who served only a brief mayoral tenure after being elected last year, Filner was charged with felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery for placing one woman in a headlock and kissing or groping two others, prosecutors said. Filner will serve three months of home confinement.
"This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power," said state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who filed the complaint against Filner. "This prosecution is about consequence and accountability. No one is above the law."
According to court papers, the felony count against Filner was filed because he used "greater force than was necessary." The misdemeanors included kissing a woman on the lips at a "Meet the Mayor" event and grabbing another woman's buttocks as she posed for a picture with the mayor at another public event.
Filner resigned in August as part of a settlement with the city over how to handle a lawsuit filed by a former press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, who was among at least 18 women who accused the 71-year-old politician of making unwanted sexual advances. She is so far the only one to sue him.
The first Democrat elected to lead the relatively conservative Southern California city in years, Filner's fall from grace raises questions about which party voters will favor in a special election to choose his successor, set for next month.
Under the terms of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Filner will serve three months of home confinement and will be on probation for three years, the attorney general said in a statement. Details of the conditions of his confinement will be determined by probation officials, a Harris spokesman said.
Filner is also prohibited from ever again seeking elected office.
After Tuesday's hearing, Filner's lawyer said the former mayor saw the plea agreement as an opportunity to move on from a scandal that threatens to overwhelm his legacy as a 10-term Congressman who fought for civil rights and veterans.
"Mr. Filner profusely apologizes to each person he might have harmed," lawyer Jerry Coughlan said. "He admits he is guilty. ... He is a much more humble man now. He did not realize his behavior was as bad as it was."
Filner had previously apologized to San Diego residents but said no sexual harassment allegation against him had been proven.
In addition to his sentence to home confinement and probation, Filner will not be able to vote, serve on a jury or own a firearm while he is on probation. He will be required to undergo mental health treatment, Harris said.
Filner also will not earn a public pension for the time between the commission of the felony, which Harris said was March 6, 2013, and the date of his resignation, August 23.
In the race to replace him, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer is now considered the presumptive Republican nominee. Former U.S. Marine Nathan Fletcher, who was a moderate Republican before switching parties after finishing third in the 2012 mayoral primary, is the presumptive Democratic nominee.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Marty Graham in San Diego; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)