Why Filner Got a Good Deal
Former Mayor Bob Filner’s decision to plead guilty spares him prison time and an embarrassing trial.
Former Mayor Bob Filner ultimately decided giving into his accusers was the best option.
He pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery Tuesday in exchange for lenience in other areas.
After the agreement with Filner was announced, state and local leaders hailed it as a way for San Diego to move forward and to ensure Filner pays for his misdeeds.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose office secured the deal with Filner, was one of them.
“(Filner’s) conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power,” Harris said in a statement. “This prosecution is about consequence and accountability. No one is above the law.”
But Filner’s decision to admit guilt came with benefits.
Here’s a look at what the former mayor gets in exchange for guilty pleas.
He avoids the spectacle of a trial.
Local and national media outlets reported extensively on each allegation of unwanted advances or touching leveled against Filner. A criminal trial would have drawn even more media attention and perhaps near-constant Court TV coverage.
A plea agreement allows Filner to at least partly save face. Admitting guilt before television cameras and a crush of reporters was humiliating enough but a drawn-out trial would have placed a more enduring spotlight on the former mayor’s misdeeds and embarrassing personal details.
“This was Mr. Filner’s chance to put all of this behind him,” attorney Jerry Coughlan told reporters after Filner’s court appearance.
He doesn’t have to go to prison.
Filner’s agreement with the state attorney general’s office doesn’t involve jail time.
Instead, the former mayor and congressman will be confined to his home for three months, and will be on probation for three years.
If convicted of both the battery and false imprisonment charges, Filner could have faced as much as five years in prison.
He isn’t required to register as a sex offender.
Two defense attorneys say state prosecutors could have easily charged Filner with sexual battery, an offense that comes with mandated registration as a sex offender.
That offense involves unwanted touching of another person’s intimate body parts, which seems to have occurred in two incidents where unidentified women said Filner kissed or groped them without consent, attorney Kerry Armstrong said.
Instead, prosecutors agreed to simple battery charges, allowing Filner to avoid being dubbed a sex offender.
A judge could decide Filner should register but that’s a rare occurrence, Armstrong said.
Defense attorney Marc Carlos also emphasized this as a win for Filner’s attorneys.
“That was probably the biggest bargaining chip on the table, to take away those sexual batteries,” Carlos said. “If they took that off the table, it’s worth whatever plea he had to make.”
Filner’s deal stands even if he doesn’t show up for sentencing.
The former mayor is set to return to the San Diego County Superior Court on Dec. 9 for sentencing.
In most cases, offenders who agree to plea deals must show up to court for sentencing or their agreements with prosecutors are thrown out, Armstrong said.
That doesn’t appear to apply to the Filner case.
Filner didn’t initial a statement committing to this rule in his agreement with prosecutors.
Filner is likely to comply anyway because he could face additional sanctions – or even jail time – if he doesn’t show up for his sentencing but it’s significant that his plea agreement stands regardless.
Filner won’t have to pay additional victims unless there are more criminal or civil cases.
Filner also didn’t check a box that allows the sentencing judge to consider past arrests or “unfiled, dismissed or stricken charges or allegations” when ordering payouts to the court or crime victims.
This is significant given the volume of women who accused Filner of bad behavior. Roughly 20 women publicly aired their allegations against the former mayor and others have reported past encounters to state and local agencies. Prosecutors were also set to empanel a grand jury to consider other charges this week.
Armstrong said Filner’s ability to avoid restitution for those potential victims is yet another win for the former mayor.
Most San Diegans wouldn’t get such favorable terms from prosecutors, Armstrong said.