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December 9, 2013

Ins't home confinement for only three months and a small fine insufficient punishment for a felony false imprisonment charge?

The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this new CNN report headlined "Ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner sentenced to home confinement, fines."  Here are the details:

Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was sentenced Monday to 90 days in home confinement, three years probation, and a series of fines totaling about $1500 as part of a plea deal.

The 71-year-old pleaded guilty in October to kissing or grabbing three women at campaign events or at City Hall -- one a felony false imprisonment charge, the other two misdemeanor battery charges.  The three women were among 19 who accused him of offensive behavior during his tenure as mayor and as a congressman....

GPS monitoring will track his whereabouts during his confinement.  He'll be allowed to go out for medical and therapy appointments, religious services, and meetings tied to his probation.  He'll also be allowed to leave his apartment but stay within the apartment complex....

[T]he prosecution said Filner's behavior harmed the women and the city. Referring to the three women as Jane Does 1, 2, and 3, the state said Filner humiliated, scared, embarrassed, sexualized and devalued them.  Prosecutors also noted that after taking part in two weeks of treatment earlier this year, Filner still denied his crimes "and insisted that he was the victim of a lynch mob."

Filner's attorneys said they did not dispute any of the facts stated by the prosecution. None of the victims chose to be in court for the sentencing.

The felony charge said Filner used force to restrain a woman at a fund-raising event March 6. The misdemeanor charges say he kissed a woman on the lips without her consent at City Hall on April 6 and grabbed a woman's buttock after she asked to have her picture taken with him at a rally on May 25....

Under the plea deal, which was announced in October, Filner would be prohibited from ever seeking or holding public office again, the attorney general's office said.  Filner also would not be able to vote, serve on a jury or own a firearm while on probation. Filner also will have to give up pension credit for his time in the mayor's office after March 6, the date of the first offense.

I am not intimately familiar with all the details of all the unlawful intimate and too-familiar behavior of the former mayor of San Diego. But the fact that this plea deal included a felony count proposed by state prosecutors and accepted by the state court judge suggests that many responsible folks think Filner should be foreover branded a felon. In light of that conclusion, I have a hard time seeing the "slap on the wrist" punishment here to be reasonably sufficient, especially if prosecutors had solid evidence that Filner abused more than a dozen women and that "Filner humiliated, scared, embarrassed, sexualized and devalued" his many victims.

I am not sure if this (seemingly too) lenient sentence for Filner was baked into the plea deal or the result of a sentencing judge not being too troubled by Filner's many crimes.  Whatever the reality, if the victims truly suffered the way the prosecutor asserted, I am sorry for them that they were not there to speak at Filner's sentencing and that their harm may seem disvaluaed by this outcome.  That said, perhaps many of Filner's victims are mostly interested in a huge tort payday, so maybe at least some of them are content with Filner having resources to pay them in a civil suit rather than a huge fine to the state as part of his punishment.

December 9, 2013 at 01:47 PM | Permalink


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… with Filner having resources to pay them in a civil suit rather than a huge fine to the state as part of his punishment.

The better his environment for earning money, the louder the "ding" from the plaintiffs’ cash register bell.

Posted by: Just Plain Jim (Just Another Guy) | Dec 9, 2013 2:13:45 PM

I totally disagree with your assessment here. This seems like a textbook example of how the term 'felony' has been so degraded as to be a basically worthless concept. The original common law felonies-- murder, manslaughter, arson, burglary, robbery, rape, sodomy, mayhem, and larceny--were all indisputably very serious (with the notable exception of sodomy, and maybe some low-level larcenies). You can certainly imagine modern equivalents of equal seriousness, like large-scale financial fraud. However, and I mean no disrespect to the victims in this case, 'kissing or grabbing three women at campaign events' doesn't belong in the same breath with manslaughter and rape.

I actually don't think the punishment is out of line given the pattern on his behavior, but these acts seem very much on the misdemeanor side of the scale.

Posted by: dsfan | Dec 9, 2013 2:21:51 PM

Excellent general points, dsfan, and thus my complaints here may really be about the effort to force Filner to plead to a felony count rather than just a bunch of misdemeanors. But once the decision is made to turn this case into a felony matter, I think the punishment scale ought to be commensurate with that decision.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 9, 2013 2:26:18 PM

I guess it would depend on what the factual basis was for the felony charge, which is different from the "kissing or grabbing" charge. Could be that it fits the technical definition, but is more like harassment, in which case being saddled with the felony IS the punishment (much like straight probation for a possession of controlled substance charge). I tend to agree that this was likely over-charged and that the ability to over-charge was made possible by the fact that everything is a felony these days.

Posted by: Ala JD | Dec 9, 2013 4:05:50 PM

I would give him no confinement time or monetary fines. Just put him on the SO registry for life. He did more to earn that title than most people on the list, even misdemeanors get you on the list.

O Yeah, I forget; the SO registry isn't punitive. I also wonder how many false alerts will be triggered by the GPS.

I also agree that too many things are felonies nowadays.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 9, 2013 4:18:34 PM

Felony charges for squirreling around like this? Much ado about nothing. Where they sisters? Three named Doe? Deer in the headlights? I advise any male to stay outta California after you reach age 65.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Dec 9, 2013 6:46:18 PM

Reading the comments section is almost always educational, and that is true here as well. It's educated me about who really condones what is called the "war on women."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 9, 2013 7:14:50 PM

stay tuned, civil suits are waiting in the wings with gloria allred

Posted by: Grady | Dec 9, 2013 7:40:41 PM

The punishment is the Registry. The rest of that stuff could be dropped and the punishment would be pretty much the same. Filner got a life sentence.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Dec 10, 2013 8:47:18 AM

My mistake, I thought I had read earlier that Filner was going to be required to Register but I just read several sources that say not. Well, of course. What the hell was I thinking?! It's early!

So anyway, forget what I said, he didn't receive any punishment after all. He didn't even have to plead guilty to things he didn't do.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Dec 10, 2013 9:04:16 AM

Bill Otis and I have different views on punishment .
Actually our views are similar , except I believe our difference is more in timing .

He strong believes that the death penalty should remain on the table to punish transgressors and protect the public.
I have had doubts about the death penalty since early teens when I read Scottsboro Boy by Haywood Patterson & Earl Conrad .

I believe that evil predators intending to seriously harm others should be stopped by ANY lawful means possible INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED to killing them before they cause the harm .

Assuming arguendo that I at age 30 were hunted down by a testosterone loaded age 17.31416 year teen , who insisted upon what the State has defined as sexually intimate ; and I ask, “Are you sure, are you REALLY SURE? ! ‼ ; and I act as requested … BAM , BIFF , BOP ... the State want me in prison for several decades .

In the CA case cited , his conduct was outrageous and inexcusable , but I believe the judge did not abuse discretion . His targets were adults and not children .

Posted by: Just Plain Jim (Just Another Guy) | Dec 10, 2013 11:41:48 AM

False Imprisonment sounds a lot worse than what the statute actually requires. Anyway, it sounds like this case is essentially a whole lot of misdemeanors they could have potentially brought or they could aggravate it to a felony instead for less jail time. My guess is that his future career is mostly over and he isn't going to be applying for the kind of jobs where they won't know who he is, so the consequences of being a felon are less serious. Because of that, both sides get what they want (the prosecutors get a felony conviction, the defendant avoids a long incarceration period he could have faced for lots of misdemeanors).

Posted by: Erik M | Dec 10, 2013 6:56:00 PM

Just Plain Jim --

I think it most sensible to consider the death penalty as it exists in the United States now, in the post-Gregg era, and not as it existed 70 or 80 years ago.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 11, 2013 11:41:14 AM

WHAT! I beg to differ, you all make me sick. WHAT about the Victims huh? F.Y.

Posted by: Victim Woman | Aug 16, 2014 4:30:02 AM

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