A former San Diego County Sheriff’s Department deputy who admitted to groping a teenage girl while standing behind her at a restaurant in Vista was sentenced Wednesday.
Timothy Wilson Jr., 33, appeared in a North County courtroom to learn his fate for the lewd act involving a minor. Wilson was sentenced to 365 days in jail and five years of probation. He has already spent the past 166 days in jail. The former deputy is also required to register as a sex offender for life.
According to investigators, Wilson visited a Panda Express restaurant in Vista Village on the evening of March 21. As he stood in line behind a teenage girl, he reached out and touched her inappropriately.
Security cameras inside the restaurant recorded the incident.
The victim told investigators that by the time she turned around to see who was behind her, Wilson had walked away and was almost out of the building. She said he ran to a black sedan parked near the restaurant and drove off.
After the incident, Wilson – who worked for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) – used his log-in credentials for the SDSO’s database to access information on the investigation dozens of times, prosecutors said.
“He did so on repeated occasions numbering 44 times between March 22, 2018, and May 9, 2018, when the search was conducted on the database itself,” the prosecutor said.
On the first page of the department-issued notepad, he had written the case number, the charge and the home address of the victim, prosecutors said.
Wilson also went so far as to download photos of the victim onto his personal cell phone and labeled them with the file name “white pants” and emailed them to himself.
On May 9, an SDSO employee alerted supervisors that he believed the suspect in the groping case to be Wilson, Sheriff Bill Gore said.
Wilson was taken into custody May 18 while working at the Vista Detention Facility; he was booked into San Diego Central Jail.
When asked why it took a month for the department to find the suspect in its own ranks, Gore said the employee reported his suspicions on the same day he saw the video.
Wilson pleaded guilty on Oct. 3 to one count of committing a lewd act on a minor and another count of unlawfully taking computer data, according to the San Diego District Attorney's Office.
One day after the groping incident, the 14-year-old victim shared her story with NBC 7 the day after the incident with hopes that it would give others the courage to speak up in similar situations, though she didn't want to at first.
"I was kind of not sure about it because I am shy and it was like weird," she said. "But I was thinking how it can help a lot of people and so I was like, 'Yeah, I need to say it.'"
When the victim's mother, Jennifer Tanis, found out it was a sworn deputy who was arrested for the crime she couldn't believe it.
"It is very disappointing. We are still in shock," Tanis said following Wilson's arrest. "That someone in his position would betray the community's trust like that."
At Wilson's sentencing hearing, Judge Daniel Goldstein took a moment to commend the teenage victim for having the courage to report the crime.
Following the sentencing, Tanis said she plans to sue San Diego County for negligence because her family feels the county could’ve done more to protect the victim’s confidential information accessed by Wilson in the database.
"No child should ever have to say, ‘Me Too,’" Tanis, holding back tears, told reporters outside the courtroom. "But when a child does have to report sexual assault, they should be able to take comfort knowing their private information – such as where they live – is secure and confidential."
"The California Constitution, under Marcy’s Law, requires law enforcement to protect the confidential nature of a victim and all of the information that goes with that," said Michael Licari, the victim’s attorney.
Judge Goldstein addressed Wilson’s accessing of the data at the sentencing hearing.
"This seems to be slipping by everyone in America right now. It is not okay to access criminal justice data and leak it or use it for somebody else’s purpose," he said.
Tanis said the sexual assault has left her daughter feeling vulnerable. To this day, she hesitates when she’s getting dressed, wondering if perhaps she shouldn’t wear certain things.
With the criminal case now over, Tanis and her family are entering an even bigger battle – one for change across the nation involving victims of sexual assault.
"I will not stop, I will not be quiet, I will not go away until this is fixed," Tanis added.
NBC 7 reached out to San Diego County for comment on the case but officials said the county does not comment on pending litigation.
Wilson was a 10-year veteran of the sheriff’s department. He attended San Diego State University, where he earned a degree in criminal justice. Wilson’s defense attorney said Wilson has a 12-year-old daughter.