Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, forced to resign in August amid allegations of sexual harassment, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony criminal charge for false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery.
A tan Filner raised his right hand in court before pleading guilty to three charges involving victims identified by court officials as "Jane Does 1, 2, and 3."
At a March 6 fundraising event with Jane Doe 1, Filner admitted that he “used force to restrain her against her will and used additional force to overcome her resistance.”
At a “Meet the Mayor” event on April 6, Filner admitted he kissed Jane Doe 2 on the lips without her consent.
On May 25, he attended a Fiesta Island rally and cleanup event where he was asked to take a photo with Jane Doe 3. The woman said the mayor grabbed her buttocks just before the photo was taken. In court, Filner admitted the count was true.
Judge Robert Trentacosta presided over the Superior Court hearing Tuesday.
State prosecutors announced that under the terms of a plea agreement, Filner will serve three years of probation and home confinement for three months as well as undergo treatment by a mental health professional while on probation.
If he violates probation, he may face up to 6 months in jail.
These are the first criminal charges in an ongoing criminal probe conducted by the State Attorney General’s office.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued a statement following the hearing saying “No one is above the law.”
“This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power,” said Harris. “This prosecution is about consequence and accountability.”
By pleading guilty to the felony, Filner forfeits his mayoral pension benefits from the time of the first offense to the date he submitted his resignation according to prosecutors.
NBC 7 legal analyst Marc Carlos said the felony charge was surprising and significant because a felony count of false imprisonment requires a certain amount of distress and physical restraint.
In California, the maximum sentence for the felony charge is 3 years in state prison, a $10,000 fine and four years parole and the maximum for each misdemeanor count is 12 months in jail, plus a $4,000 fine.
Judge Trentacosta can override the plea agreement after he reads the probation report, but that would be highly unlikely.
Filner was ordered to appear for a "book and release" at a date to be decided by the clerk. He will be sentenced on Dec. 9 at 9 a.m.
An attorney read a prepared statement from Filner to the media that had gathered outside the hearing.
“He does not want [his] legacy to be destroyed by his recent personal conduct,” said Filner’s attorney Jerry Coughlin following the hearing.
When asked how his client was handling his resignation and admission of guilt in a criminal matter, Coughlin said, “I think he’s a much more humbled man."
He added, "Having to go through this process… is a very sobering event.”
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Filner's former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson in a civil suit against the mayor and the City of San Diego, released a statement following the hearing.
"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," Allred said.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis released this statement following Filner’s guilty plea:
“Today’s guilty plea is an outstanding example of law enforcement collaborating to hold a Mayor, who abused his power, accountable. It sends a strong message that nobody is above the law, abuse of women won’t be tolerated, and victims will be treated with respect when they come forward. The Sheriff’s Department and Attorney General’s Office prioritized this investigation and prosecution, handling it with a professionalism that delivers a just end to a sad chapter in our city’s history.”
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria also released a statement Tuesday in regards to Filner’s guilty plea:
“In the weeks since Bob Filner resigned, we have taken many positive steps toward repairing the damage he did as Mayor. Today’s guilty plea is another step in that direction and confirmation that this unfortunate chapter in our City’s history will soon be behind us. I am grateful for the courage of the victims who have come forward to share their stories and the dedication of the investigators and prosecutors who are working to ensure justice and closure for all involved.”
Filner resigned effective August 31 in a settlement agreement with the City of San Diego.
Earlier this month, NBC 7 reported that aside from a civil sexual harassment suit, county grand jury proceedings that could lead to criminal charges were in play.
Filner, who was elected as mayor last year, has been accused of grabbing, groping, kissing and making crude comments to more than a dozen women when he was mayor and a U.S. congressman.
His alleged indiscretions include grabbing a political consultant's buttocks, attempting to kiss a school psychologist during a private meeting and telling a senior staff member that she would do a better job if she worked without underwear.
The embattled mayor agreed to step down in late August, six weeks after allegations of harassment first surfaced publicly.
Filner, 70, apologized and pledged to undergo therapy after the initial allegations, but ultimately maintained that he had not sexually harassed anyone. He blamed the media and political opponents for driving him out of office at the time of his resignation.
“Not one allegation, members of the council, has been independently verified or proven in court. I’ve never sexually harassed anyone," he said.
Filner's 2012 election marked the first time in 20 years San Diego voters had chosen a Democrat as mayor. A special election to fill the office is set for next month.