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Some common themes have emerged in the accusations against Mayor Bob Filner.
Three women this week have described specific accusations. Their allegations illustrate repeat behaviors from Filner over an eight-year period.
None of the allegations has been substantiated, but in either a civil or criminal case, the consistencies between them could be used to establish a modus operandi for the alleged harassment, and make it that much harder for Filner to defend himself.
The defense attorney’s job becomes especially difficult if it can be established that the accusers don’t know one another.
“If this turns into a criminal case, or even if it stays civil, it’s like, how lucky can the prosecutor possibly be?” said Kerry Armstrong, a San Diego criminal defense lawyer. “Any time you can establish a theme like that, it’s just so important to building a case.”
Irene McCormack, Filner’s communications director up until a month ago, described in a lawsuit a working relationship in which the mayor repeatedly confessed his love for her.
Her lawsuit describes a time in late February or early March when the two were alone in an elevator.
“You know you are beautiful,” Filner said, according to the suit. “I have always loved you. Someday I know that you are going to marry me. I am so in love with you.”
Morgan Rose, a psychologist with the San Diego Unified School District, described to KPBS a time when the then-congressman interrupted a 2009 meeting between they were having with a similar detour.
“Your eyes have bewitched me,” he said, according to Rose.
An anonymous, 72-year-old constituent also described to the San Diego Reader an encounter during one of Filner’s monthly meet-and-greet events at City Hall in which he stopped asking about her neighborhood concern once the two of them were left alone, because Filner had asked his staffer, Willie Blair, to leave the area.
From the Reader:
“After he excused Blair, he told me that he thought I was a very attractive woman and asked if I would go out with him,” says the woman in a July 14 email.
“I thought he was making a joke and told him that I knew he had a very attractive fiancée. He then repeated that he would like to go out with me. He never acknowledged my comment about his fiancée. He then said he would like to kiss me. I did not acknowledge him. He leaned over and kissed me anyway. I got up and left.”
The allegations depict a man who systematically separates women from others before making sexual advances.
Attorney Marco Gonzalez described the clearest example of this at a press conference last week as “The Filner Headlock,” in which he begins by putting his arm around a woman before tightening his grasp and restraining her movement.
McCormack’s lawsuit describes three instances of her being physically restrained by Filner.
“Without her consent, (Filner) put (McCormack) into a headlock and pulled her along with him as he made his way toward the doughnuts,” the lawsuit says. “(McCormack) could not get away. His grip was too strong. As (Filner) pulled her along, he told her that she was ‘so beautiful’ and that he had loved her a long time. Plaintiff could not move. He asked her ‘when are we going to get married. Wouldn’t it be great if we consummated the marriage?'”
The anonymous constituent also described a less physical means of creating isolation: directing a staffer to leave, so the two would be alone.
Rose said Blair similarly left Filner and her alone at their 2009 meeting, when the mayor eventually tried to kiss her without her permission.
Filner and McCormack were also left alone in an elevator, when he professed his love to her, she claims, after a police officer assigned to him left to retrieve Filner’s jacket.
Rose said after Filner interrupted their meeting to hit on her, he stood up, walked around the table to sit down next to her, and began asking for a kiss.
McCormack’s lawsuit also describes a time in which he came on to her in her office, and stood in her doorway as she demanded he leave.
“You cannot kick me out,” he said, according to the suit. “I am the mayor. I can go anywhere I want, any time I want.”
Before accusers began identifying themselves publicly, one of the most-cited details of Filner’s alleged behavior, relayed by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye from a woman who had confided in her, was a time when he forced a kiss on a constituent he had met with to discuss policy.
“On the sidewalk, the mayor suddenly, in clear view of anyone that might pass by, grabbed and kissed her, jamming his tongue down her throat,” Frye said.
The now-public allegations likewise draw a picture of Filner demanding kisses, or even forcing them on women who refuse.
The first instance of unwanted advances described in McCormack’s lawsuit was just before his State of the City address. She told him he would do a great job with his speech, according to the suit.
“I would do a better job if you gave me a kiss,” Filner responded, according to the suit.
Rose says in her meeting with Filner he moved his face toward hers and tried to kiss her on the mouth, before she turned away and told him to stop. She tried to resume the meeting and asked him to go back to his seat, but he said he wouldn’t move until she kissed him. She said he tried to kiss her four separate times.
And the anonymous constituent said Filner never acknowledged her reminder that he had a fiancée.
“He then said he would like to kiss me,” she told the Reader. “I did not acknowledge him. He leaned over and kissed me anyway. I got up and left.”
Political consultant Laura Fink came forward to KPBS to describe a 2005 incident, when she was his deputy campaign manager.
Fink told of a fundraiser when Filner asked her to turn around before patting her butt in front of a group of donors.
Fink sent an email soon afterward to Filner and his then-chief of staff, demanding an apology. She didn’t go public, she said, because it was early in her political career and she feared it would damage her reputation.
Filner is known for dispensing swift retribution to perceived enemies, she said.
“He tends to, in my observation, from the stories that have been told to me, he tends to operate only with folks that are beholden to him in some way, in some public capacity … like me as a young staffer,” she said.
Fink said she’d heard similar stories from political candidates seeking Filner’s endorsement and community leaders meeting with his office for one reason or another.
“All of these women had one thing they shared in common with (Filner) and that was that he had some sort of power over them,” she said.
The description is true of McCormack, who worked for him. It’s also true of Rose, who wanted Filner to help bring national prominence to her organization, America’s Angel Campaign. Same goes for the anonymous constituent, who had met with the mayor to inform him of a pressing issue in her community. And it’s true of Fink.