A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Monday to assaulting 16 women while on duty and in uniform, including women who had called the department for help or to report a crime.
Richard Fischer 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.
A plea agreement was reached on the day the trial was scheduled to begin.
An amended criminal complaint was filed with the seven charges against 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 accuse Fischer of hugging or kissing them without consent, groping their bodies and even forcing them to perform oral copulation during incidents between 2015 and 2017 in several communities including Vista, Lakeside, El Cajon and San Marcos.
Fischer faces up to five years in prison, four years on parole and a lifetime registration as a sex offender when he is sentenced.
Until his guilty plea on Monday, 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."
He said the allegations are contrary to his personal and professional background which includes eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps Forces 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.
According to criminal complaints, the first assault occurred on July 20, 2015 and continued to occur through August 2017, six months before he was arrested and charged on Feb. 22, 2018. He was ordered to stand trial in June 2018.
Several of the women have testified that 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.
To see a full timeline of the criminal case against Fischer, click here.
In a statement, Lt. Justin White said the sheriff does not tolerate criminal or immoral conduct by employees.
"The men and women of the Sheriff's Department work hard to earn the trust of our community. Fischer's actions only deteriorated those efforts and do not in any way represent our continued dedication to providing the best public safety services to the people of San Diego County," White said.
Judge Dan Goldstein, who presided over the case, ordered all parties involved not to discuss matters in public.
San Diego criminal attorney Marc Kohnen, who is not invovled in the case, told NBC 7 there is a chance Fischer's plea deal could open the door for the ex-deputy to once again serve in law enforcement.
The maximum penalty Fischer is facing is five years behind bars, but the minimum is probation.
If Fischer was granted probation and successfully complete it, he would be able to petition to have his felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors, according to Kohnen.
If the felony convictions are reduced and Fischer does not have to register as a sex offender, Kohnen says there's a chance under certain circumstances Fischer could return to law enforcement.
Fischer is scheduled to be sentenced December 10.