On Monday, former San Diego mayor Bob Filner was sentenced to three months of house arrest and three years of probation, after pleading guilty to one felony and two misdemeanors for sexual behavior toward women. Filner also made a public apology during the court appearance. As NBC 7 political reporter Gene Cubbison explains, this apology had a very different tone than his resignation speech.
Bob Filner was ordered Monday to 90 days home confinement as punishment for three criminal charges connected to the sexual harassment scandal that ended his term as San Diego mayor.
The former congressman pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor charges of battery.
Among his victims were a businesswoman who Filner held against her will and kissed at a fundraiser.
Another victim was the daughter of a longtime supporter who was grabbed by Filner while taking a photo with her family.
They were just two of more than a dozen women who accused the former mayor of inappropriate behavior in an ongoing scandal over the summer that ended with Filner's resignation.
On Monday, as he faced a judge for his formal sentencing, Filner apologized to his victims and said he has shown progress.
"To all of you I make the same promise I made to my family," Filner said. "To earn back your trust and my integrity no matter how long it takes."
The charges involve three separate victims identified by court officials as “Jane Does 1, 2 and 3” who said Filner sexually harassed them while he was in office earlier this year.
“Filner demeaned his victims, he humiliated them, he scared them, he embarrassed them, he sexualized and devalued them and he did all of this with the power and influence of the public office he held,” Mandel told the court.
Mayor Filner arrived before 9 a.m. looking fit and relaxed and chatting with some members of the local media. A Filner supporter walked up to the former mayor and thanked him for everything he has done.
When given the opportunity, Filner made the following statement:
"I will be very brief. I want to apologize. To my family who have stood by me through this ordeal, to my loyal staff and supporters, to the citizens of San Diego and most sincerely to the women I have hurt and offended, to all of you I make the same promise I made to my family to earn back your trust and my integrity no matter how long it takes. I have already started on that path and am grateful to all those helping me. The letters submitted to this court by my family show the progress they have already seen Certainly the behaviors before this court today will never be repeated. I am confident I will come out of this a better person and I look forward to making future contributions to the city I love."
San Diego judge Robert J. Trentacosta stayed within the plea agreement guidelines and ordered the former mayor to GPS monitoring for 90 days and fines and fees of less than $2,000.
Under the terms, Filner will be on probation for three years with 6 months of custody stayed.
He must agree not to seek or hold public office, undergo treatment as recommended by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist and surrender his city retirement.
For the first 18 months he'll have to report periodically to a probation officer. If there aren't any problems, he will be unsupervised though still on probation.
A defense attorney's previous explanation of his client's right to vote being revoked under the agreement was incorrect.
Filner’s defense attorney, former federal prosecutor Jerry Coughlan, told reporters that Filner will be giving no interviews and making public statements in light of McCormack Jackson’s pending lawsuit and others that potentially may be filed.
Coughlan said his client has been seeing a psychologist twice a week, a psychiatrist twice a month for anxiety and stress issues.
Among Filner’s prescriptions, according to court documents, are medications that target issues of major depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
“It’s very clear his behavior has changed,” Coughlan said. “He’s on his way to behaving in a normal way … over time, his family members have all pointed out that he’s improved and he’s hopefully on the way to being a perfectly normal person.”
Gloria Allred, attorney for Filner accuser Irene McCormack Jackson who has filed a civil lawsuit against the former mayor and the City of San Diego, said Filner was lucky to have avoided time behind bars.
“He was given enormous power by the citizens of San Diego to do good,” Allred said. “Instead, he misused that power and position to take advantage of women in order to fulfill his sexual needs.”
The accusations against Filner first went public in July when many of his former allies, including former San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye, exposed his behavior and demanded he step down from office.
From there, more than a dozen women came forward with stories of sexual harassment at the hands of Filner, including former communications director to the mayor, Irene McCormack Jackson, who filed a lawsuit against the city.
After weeks of controversy, recall efforts and more accusers, Filner resigned effective Aug. 30.
On Nov. 19, San Diego held a special election to fill the mayor’s seat left vacant by Filner.
Councilmember Kevin Faulconer held a strong lead in the mayoral race, securing his spot for the February runoff, and Councilmember David Alvarez received enough votes to face off against Faulconer in February.
Meantime, Dan Gilleon -- an attorney who’s representing two of Filner’s accusers -- told reporters after the sentencing that he’ll be filing a lawsuit on behalf of one of them this week.
Gilleon’s clients watched the proceedings on television, he said, and had this takeaway after hearing Filner’s apology: “We don’t really believe what we see. We’ve heard him say ‘I’m sorry’, and then we turn around and see him say ‘I’m a victim of a lynch mob.”
In the case he plans to bring to court, Gilleon said he’ll ask for a deposition hearing to interview Filner under a procedure whereby the ex-mayor cannot invoke Fifth Amendment protections, and must give statements under penalty of perjury.
“In some ways, he dodged a bullet here,” the attorney remarked. “He was just asking for it – someone to come after him like (the state attorney general).”
Gilleon said he hopes Filner’s ruined career will serve as an object lesson for other male employers, but that he doubts that the former mayor can fully rehabilitate himself.
“I don’t think Mr. Filner, at this age (71), is going to change … for him to say ‘Oh, I’ve figured it out now’ --- it’s kind of late.”