SAN DIEGO - Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner pleaded guilty Tuesday to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence and two misdemeanor counts of battery for sexually harassing three women while in office.
The plea agreement came on the same day Filner was charged in a criminal complaint by the state Attorney General's Office. The stipulated agreement calls for the former multi-term congressman to be placed on three years probation and avoid jail time, although he is expected to spend three months on home confinement.
According to the Attorney General's Office, Filner will also be barred from ever seeking or holding public office. He will also be required to undergo mental health treatment while he is on probation. If he violates probation, he would face up to six months in jail.
He remains free on his own recognizance until his sentencing hearing on Dec. 9.
The ex-mayor agreed to go through the formal booking and release process at the Central Jail on Sunday.
"This was Mr. Filner's chance to put all of this behind him," one of his attorneys, Jerry Coughlan, said after a court hearing. "His conduct, he admitted in court, and has admitted, was inappropriate, over the top, and today admitted it was criminal. Mr. Filner profusely apologizes to each person he might have harmed, and this permits the various women to put all of this behind themselves too, and to know that (this) conduct will not occur with anyone else in the future."
The attorney said Filner has a long history as a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, 20-year college professor, school board president, city councilman, congressman and mayor.
"He does not want that legacy to be destroyed by his recent personal conduct," Coughlan said.
Coughlan praised prosecutors for reaching the plea deal before a grand jury convened on the sexual harassment charges and other alleged improprieties.
Read the FULL complaint here: http://bit.ly/1anyg
Read the change of plea here: http://bit.ly/1gix1lM
In a statement of facts, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel told Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta that Filner -- while attending a fundraiser with Jane Doe 1 last March 6 -- used "greater force than necessary" to restrain her against her will and used additional force to overcome her resistance, in what became known as the "Filner headlock."
Mandel said Filner used force and kissed Jane Doe 2 on the lips without her consent at a "Meet the Mayor" event last April 6.
Filner also admitted grabbing Jane Doe 3's buttocks after she asked to take a picture with him at a May 25 rally at Fiesta Island.
Filner, 71, resigned from office Aug. 30 after nearly 20 women came forward saying he had groped them or sexually harassed them over several years.
Filner's former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the former mayor.
Since claims of harassment surfaced in July, there had been a hotline for alleged victims to call, which was set up by the San Diego sheriff's department.
Any calls that came in were referred to the state Attorney General's Office, which has been conducting a criminal investigation, as Team 10 first reported in August.
The sheriff's department would not confirm the number or nature of any calls.
Filner has been jogging, going through therapy and talking to friends about how to deal with his problems since the victims came forward, Coughlan said.
"I would think it's probably the hardest thing he's ever lived through," Coughlan said of Filner. "It's a thing you never think, with that background, you would ever have to face."
In addition to the criminal investigation into sexual harassment claims at the state level, Team 10 first reported in July the Department of Justice was asking questions about a so-called "pay for play" deal over a development in Kearny Mesa with Sunroad Enterprises.
The status of that investigation was not immediately available early Tuesday morning.
Under the plea deal, Filner will also be forced to surrender his mayoral pension accrued from the time of the felony offense -- March 6 -- through his Aug. 23 resignation, according to the Attorney General's Office.
"This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power," Attorney General Kamala Harris said. "This prosecution is about consequence and accountability. No one is above the law."
Officials tweeted their reactions to Filner's guilty plea.
I hope that people will stop with the craziness now. He admitted it. Move on, stop with bizarre conspiracy rumors & stop blaming women.— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) October 15, 2013
Ex-mayor's guilty plea sends strong message: nobody is above the law, abuse won’t be tolerated, & victims will be treated with respect.— Bonnie Dumanis (@BonnieDumanis) October 15, 2013
Gloria Allred, who is representing McCormack in the civil suit against Filner, commended Harris on the charges.
"Although I have filed a civil sex harassment lawsuit against him on behalf of my client, Irene McCormack Jackson, we know that he has also inflicted wrongful acts on other women as well," said Allred. He has abused his position of power and his position of trust and hurt many women...I am proud of the women who did contact them. It is long overdue for him to be accountable in both the civil and criminal justice system and today is an important step forward in bringing Bob Filner to justice."
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said, "I, like everyone else in the country who heard these allegations and the statements made by the former mayor and they shocked a lot of us."
Gore added, "All things considered, I think it was the right move and give the city a chance to move on … Looking at that national embarrassment and what the victims went through to bring this chapter to a close, I think this was the right course of action."
Political analyst John Dadian said, "This is a man who in over three decades political career never lost an election and what befell him was himself."
Filner plea deal raises liability questions
San Diego's city attorney says Filner's felony admission will not likely cost San Diego money as it deals with a civil lawsuit.
"The truth doesn't hurt our case," city attorney Jan Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith said the action of removing the former mayor shows the city tried to handle the situation swiftly. He said that is an important factor in limiting liability.
"He has mental health issues," Goldsmith said of Filner. "I recognized that in February."
Goldsmith said his office hired a psychologist to evaluate Filner and used that evaluation to force Filner to resign -- to stop him from doing any more damage.
"We were going to remove him one way or the other way," Goldsmith said.