Plea deal by Kamala Harris AG office for sexual-harassing San Diego mayor was too lenient, critics say

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta had to leave government, because he gave a sex molester a sweetheart deal many years ago.  Even though he did not have the evidence to convict!  Now we find that Kamala Harris, as Attorney General of California gave a fellow Democrat, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a sweetheart deal—even though she HAD the evidence.

“In 2013, about 20 women accused Filner, a two-decade Democratic congressman-turned-San Diego mayor, of sexual harassment and misconduct. Some said he put them in “Filner headlocks.”

Harris’ office drew considerable criticism in 2013 for allowing Filner to plead guilty to state charges of false imprisonment and battery against three Jane Does in exchange for a light sentence. Filner could have faced up to five years in prison, but the plea bargain instead gave him three months of house arrest, three years’ probation, and partial loss of his mayoral pension.

Some of the criticism persists today, with past lenient sentences looking less understandable after a swath of prominent men drummed themselves out of public life over sexual harassment episodes.

As California Attorney General she was lenient on sex offenders, we now know.  She needs to do the honorable thing, like Acosta.  Harris must resign from the Senate and leave the race for President.  What do you think she should do?

Plea deal by Kamala Harris AG office for sexual-harassing San Diego mayor was too lenient, critics say

by Emily Larsen, & Joseph Simonson Washington Examiner,   7/18/19 

Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign biography rests heavily on her career as a prosecutor, including six years as California attorney general. But it omits a plea deal her office negotiated for former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a serial sexual harasser, which let him escape jail time and avoid registering as a sex offender.

In 2013, about 20 women accused Filner, a two-decade Democratic congressman-turned-San Diego mayor, of sexual harassment and misconduct. Some said he put them in “Filner headlocks.”

Harris’ office drew considerable criticism in 2013 for allowing Filner to plead guilty to state charges of false imprisonment and battery against three Jane Does in exchange for a light sentence. Filner could have faced up to five years in prison, but the plea bargain instead gave him three months of house arrest, three years’ probation, and partial loss of his mayoral pension.

Some of the criticism persists today, with past lenient sentences looking less understandable after a swath of prominent men drummed themselves out of public life over sexual harassment episodes.

“The cultural change since #MeToo is having an impact of how prosecutors listen to victims now. I think it all comes down to whether we believe women and how seriously we take these allegations. In serious instances, you need serious consequences,” Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality and senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, told the Washington Examiner. “Powerful people can afford high-profile legal counsel that others don’t have access to. People

[such as Filner]

know how to leverage the system in their favor.”

A spokesman for Harris’ presidential campaign, Ian Sams, said of the Filner episode: “She prosecuted a politician from her own party for sexual harassment, and he pled guilty to a felony. She was broadly praised for taking action, including by the Republican San Diego County district attorney who said it sent ‘a strong message that nobody is above the law, abuse of women won’t be tolerated and victims will be treated with respect.'”

Harris, rising in the Democratic primary polls and now a first-tier rival to front-runner Joe Biden, is critical of departing Labor Secretary Alex Acosta for his role in Jeffery Epstein’s 2008 plea deal, going back to his days as U.S. attorney in Florida.

Epstein, a one-time Wall Street whiz with connections to prominent figures in both parties, pleaded guilty and was convicted in a Florida state court in 2008 of soliciting two women, one of whom was a 17-year-old girl, for prostitution. He served 13 months in “custody with work release” as part of a plea deal where federal officials had identified 36 victims. Under the deal, Epstein was allowed to leave his cell for 12 hours per day to work at his office, chauffeured by a personal driver.

The Epstein deal was a “simple, very light pat on the hand,” Harris said last week on The View.

“I personally prosecuted child sexual assault cases. And they are some of the most difficult cases to prosecute,” said Harris, an Alameda County, California line prosecutor in the 1990s and then San Francisco district attorney from 2004-11. “The thing I found so troubling, disheartening and really unbelievable was the way that Acosta has described the challenge … It’s like saying it’s really difficult to make an omelet … Well, then get out of the kitchen!”

To be sure, the Epstein and Filner cases don’t command a direct comparison. The Epstein case in Florida involved years of allegations the wealthy financier preyed on underage women. In Filner’s case, the women were all adults, and the alleged aggressive behavior happened while he held public office.

But both involve powerful figures given sentences lighter than they would have otherwise received absent their public profile or deep pockets and political influence.

Filner, 76, up to that point had a charmed political life. The Pittsburgh native and San Diego transplant served on the city’s school board for a decade after beating a longtime incumbent in 1982. A decade later he won a newly drawn congressional district, and from 2007 to 2011 led the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Filner reached the pinnacle of his political career in 2012, winning the mayorship of San Diego. Filner promised to improve city services, increase staffing for public safety, bring jobs to the city, and develop stronger regional ties with neighboring Tijuana, Mexico. Harris endorsed him in that race.

Yet the good times didn’t last.

Filner’s communications director Irene McCormack Jackson was the first to come forward about his behavior in June 2013.

She alleged that in an elevator in March 2013, Filner, who was accompanied by a police officer, put her in a headlock and said, “You know I would like to do with these handcuffs?” On another occasion, McCormack said Filner asked her, “Wouldn’t it be great if you took off your panties and worked without them on?”

McCormack filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the City of San Diego, ultimately winning $250,000 in a 2014 settlement.

Then, on July 11, 2013, three of Filner’s longtime supporters held a press conference to call for his resignation as mayor, based on numerous unspecified but “credible” allegations that he had sexually harassed women. Radio station KPBS-FM said that it had been investigating reports of sexual harassment of female staff members for several months and the complaints included “inappropriate comments, kissing and groping.”

Later that day, Filner issued a video statement apologizing and saying that he was seeking professional help to change his behavior.

San Diego businesswoman Patti Roscoe also alleged the mayor had put her in a “Filner headlock” several times and would try to kiss her. “I turned and he just slobbered down my chin,” Roscoe said.

After months of scrutiny and condemnation, including from California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Filner resigned in August. He denied any wrongdoing and summed up the scandal as “a combination of awkwardness and hubris.”

The legal case fell to Harris’s attorney general’s office after San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a Republican who had run against Filner for mayor, recused herself from the case.

In October 2013, Harris’ office announced Filner pleaded guilty to one count of felony false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery for instances associated with three unnamed women.

To many, that seemed awfully light.

In particular, the fact that Filner’s team was able to plea his charges down to mere battery assured that he would not have to register as a sex offender despite alleged repeat defenses.

Nor did Filner have to show up for his sentencing, an unusual clause in his plea agreement that likely helped him avoid further public scrutiny.

San Diego Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins described the arrangement as a “quick, stripped-down, clean resolution,” from a prosecutor who “clearly wasn’t interested in running up the score … [in] a nationally notorious case.” Jenkins

Attorney Gloria Allred, representing Filner’s communication’s director in her sexual harassment lawsuit, said at the time the former mayor deserved more punishment.

“Some may feel Filner has paid the price, I think he is one lucky man,” Allred said after Filner’s plea agreement. “Mr. Filner, count your blessing. Your freedom is a gift which you do not deserve.”

Lenient enforcement of serial harassers often create a dangerous culture for women who are afraid to speak up, Raghu said.

“In general, accountability and consequences are really important for prevention. If you don’t have that, other men will act the same way.”

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.