Former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy Richard Fischer, who admitted to assaulting 16 women while on duty, is back in custody to finish out his sentence after the San Diego District Attorney's Office discovered he was given credit for time he never served.
"Former Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer was inaccurately awarded custody credits for time that was counted as house arrest under the law," said Tanya Sierra, a spokesperson for the DA's Office. "During the height of COVID when the courts were mostly closed, the DA’s Office was contacted by the defense regarding Fischer’s credit calculation. A stipulation was entered into between the DA’s office and the defense based on the miscalculated credits. When the DAs office determined an error had been made and the credits awarded to Mr. Fischer in the stipulation were not accurate, the DAs Office filed a motion to vacate the previous agreement and correct the error. The judge granted the DA’s motion which resulted in the reinstatement of 949 days of custody. As a result, Fischer was ordered back into custody and is serving his local prison sentence at the Vista Detention Center. His release date is anticipated to be in March 2023."
Fischer assaulted 16 women while on duty and in uniform, including women who had called the department for help or to report a crime. He pleaded guilty to four felony counts of assault and battery by an officer, two counts of misdemeanor assault by an officer and one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment.
Dan Gilleon, attorney for the victims, sent NBC 7 the following statement Monday night:
“All of my clients felt betrayed by the District Attorney’s Office when Richard Fischer struck a last-minute plea deal behind closed doors. They felt betrayed again when they had to learn from the media that he had been released a few months later. I’ll put it this way, we’re not holding our breath that the County of San Diego will hold one of their own to account for his crimes.”
Fischer was sentenced to three years, eight months in prison in December of 2019, and was released in May the next year after being given credit for time served on house arrest while he was on trial.
When word first came out about Fischer's release, there was some speculation that he might have gotten out early due to the pandemic. The DA's Office, however, said the former deputy had been instead given credit for the time he spent on house arrest.
"I can say that he was not released early, if that’s what you’re wondering," Sierra told NBC 7 last May. "He was actually supposed to be released in February. On the date of sentencing, the probation office incorrectly calculated his credits. By law he is entitled to credit while he was home with GPS monitoring."
On Monday, the DA's Office confirmed Fischer's time-served was miscalculated and ordered him to complete his sentence at the Vista Detention Center.
Fischer's plea agreement was reached on the day the trial was scheduled to begin. An amended criminal complaint was filed at that time with the seven charges involving 16 women, far fewer and less severe than the 20 charges the district attorney's office had at one point filed against the former deputy; all charges of sexual assault were dropped.
The women accused Fischer of hugging or kissing them without consent, groping their bodies and even forcing them to perform oral copulation during incidents between July 2015 and August 2017 in several communities, including Vista, Lakeside, El Cajon and San Marcos.
Fischer's sentence included a 16-month GPS monitoring period to follow his incarceration. When he was sentenced, it was believed he could end up serving as little as 22 months in prison.
Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein also ruled Fischer will not have to register as a sex offender based in part on psychiatric evaluations that determined Fischer did not have sexual pathology, but rather, “an emotional motive structured around power.”
One of Fischer's victims spoke in court and described the long-term effects of her encounter with the former deputy.
“I have no life. For two years, I’ve lived in fear and constant stress. I’ve become an emotional wreck. It’s gotten so bad, that it’s affected me mentally and physically and is the underlining cause of numerous recent health problems,” the victim said.
At the sentencing, Fischer’s attorney said the former deputy was remorseful and apologetic and called the sentence “fair and appropriate."
“Mr. Fischer has acknowledged that he tarnished the badge and he is deeply remorseful. He’s deeply remorseful and sends his apologies not only to the victims in this case, but also to their families and to fellow women law enforcement officers,” said attorney Gretchen Von Helms.
Until his guilty plea, Fischer had repeatedly denied he assaulted women while under the color of authority, at one point telling NBC 7's Artie Ojeda, "These false allegations are extremely hurtful and disheartening."
Fischer once said the allegations were contrary to his personal and professional background, which includes eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and eight years as a police officer and sheriff's deputy.
Fischer worked as a civil affairs specialist during his time in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2005 to 2013. He told NBC 7 he was involved in gathering intelligence while deployed in Afghanistan.
He first started as an officer with the Southgate Police Department in 2008. He joined the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in 2011.
Several of the women have testified that they came into contact with Fischer because they were victims of a crime and had called the sheriff's department for help.
Prosecutors said Fischer would return to victims' homes late at night after the call had been cleared from dispatch records and no other deputies were present.
Fischer's May release came just a week after San Diego County settled one of more than a dozen lawsuits filed by accusers; in that case, the settlement was for $225,000.