SAN DIEGO — Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, driven from office by sexual harassment allegations, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony and two misdemeanors for unwanted physical contact with three women at public events.
Filner entered the plea under an agreement with the state attorney general that calls for three months of home confinement and three years of probation. He agreed not to seek public office and will undergo psychological counseling.
The former 10-term Democratic congressman pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery against women who were identified only as Jane Does. His attorney, Jerry Coughlan, said none of the victims were employees.
The felony involved a woman restrained against her will at a fundraiser on March 6, according to the plea agreement. Coughlan told reporters that Filner put her in a headlock.
The misdemeanors involved a woman who was kissed without permission at a “Meet the Mayor” event on April 6 and a woman whose buttocks were grabbed at a rally to clean up Mission Bay’s Fiesta Island on May 25.
The maximum possible sentence for the felony is three years in prison and one year for each misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for Dec. 9.
Filner, 71, did not address reporters but his attorney said the former mayor “profusely apologizes” for his behavior.
“I think he wants to redeem his original legacy, which was a wonderful one, and put this behind him,” Coughlan said.
Filner entered court alone in a dark blue suit, chatting amiably with his two attorneys before the hearing began. He said little to the judge beyond, “Guilty,” when the judge recited the charges.
His somber appearance was a stark contrast to his defiant resignation speech in which he said he was the victim of a lynch mob and believed he would be vindicated if due process was allowed to run its course.
“I think he’s a much more humbled man, in my own personal view, from the first time I met him early in this,” Coughlan said. “He’s been jogging, he’s been getting therapy, talking to friends, trying to come to terms with how to deal with these kinds of problems. It’s a full-time job.”
Filner resigned Aug. 30, succumbing to intense pressure after at least 17 women brought lurid sexual harassment allegations. He had been on the job less than nine months into a four-year term and was San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.
San Diego County sheriff’s investigators had been interviewing Filner’s accusers and said they would deliver their findings to the attorney general’s office for possible prosecution. The state attorney general’s office confirmed in August that it launched a criminal investigation.
“This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “This prosecution is about consequence and accountability. No one is above the law.”
Filner’s attorney said prosecutors were eager to strike a deal before a grand jury began hearing several weeks of testimony about Filner’s behavior. Coughlan said the grand jury probe will no longer go forward.
The criminal charges do not involve Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, who was the first woman to go public with allegations against Filner in July. She filed a lawsuit against the mayor and the city, claiming her ex-boss asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.
In exchange for his resignation, the city agreed to pay Filner’s legal fees in a joint defense of the McCormack Jackson lawsuit, and cover any settlement costs assessed against the mayor except for punitive damages. The city did not represent him in the criminal case.
As a convicted felon, Filner forfeits his right to vote. Coughlan said his pension will not accrue from the time of the first offense in March.
Filner spent two months in a Mississippi jail for inciting a riot when he joined the Freedom Riders in 1961 to campaign against a segregated South. He cited the experience often during his long political career that included stints on the San Diego school board, City Council and Congress.
He became a political pariah before stepping down. All nine City Council members and the Democratic National Committee called upon Filner to resign. A recall effort also was launched as more allegations surfaced.