A sheriff's deputy was arrested and charged Thursday with groping or touching women who had called 911 for help, the San Diego County District Attorney said. The instances took place over two years and often happened when there were no other deputies around, the DA said.
Deputy Richard Fischer faces eight felony charges and six misdemeanor charges including sexual battery, assault and battery by an officer and false imprisonment charges. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied all allegations.
The charges involve 12 victims, according to Summer Stephan, San Diego District Attorney.
The incidents span two years and four months with the earliest alleged incident happening in May 2015 and the most recent incident occurring in October 2017.
“In three of these cases for service, Fischer returned to the victims’ homes late at night, after the call had been cleared and closed out, without invitation and without lawful, legitimate purpose,” Deputy District Attorney for San Diego County, Annette Irving said in court.
Prosecutors said half of the victims had called the sheriff's department after they were victims of a crime. The other half of the victims were in custody and handcuffed when the alleged assaults occurred.
In three incidents, Stephan said the deputy returned to the victim's home after the initial call when no other deputies were present.
“These are simply allegations,” Fischer's defense attorney Richard Pinckard told Judge David Danielson during the arraignment on Thursday. "Mr. Fischer has a very strong desire to go through this process to clear his name.”
In all, 14 complaints were filed.
Women say Fischer was in uniform and on duty when he inappropriately touched them in their homes or while they were in custody.
On Thursday, Kathy Pillman was in the courtroom in Vista, saying it was scary and anxiety-provoking to be in the same room as Fischer.
"He sexually molested me when I was under his custody,” said Pillman, who claims the incident happened when she was arrested in 2014. “He groped me and kept me in his custody for quite a while.”
Several times the unwanted touching and questioning occurred minutes or even hours after other deputies had left the scene, the women claim.
“Many victims waited to report until they saw that other victims had come forward. This is not unusual with sexually based offenses, but these victims also had the added burden of the offender being in uniform and supposed to be serving and protecting them,” Stephan said.
Fischer was placed on paid administrative leave in October when the first accusation surfaced.
After the criminal charges were filed Thursday, Fischer was placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal case, Sheriff Bill Gore said.
The deputy was taken into custody and ordered held on $100,000 bail which he later posted Thursday.
Fischer owns a home with his wife, has strong ties with the community and does not present a flight risk, Pinckard said.
“There is no violence or injuries that are alleged in this complaint that creates an urgency in terms of public safety,” Pinckard said.
The sheriff and district attorney addressed the media following the court appearance and maintained that the sheriff's department responded quickly once the first allegations were raised in October 2017.
The criminal investigation into these allegations was handled by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. The case was submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney's office for review on January 22.
Here are the charges and the dates and victims attached to those charges.
- October 6, 2017: – Sexual battery , Assault and Battery by an officer, Jane Doe 1
- May 1, 2015 - Assault and battery by an officer, Jane Doe 2
- February 1, 2016 - Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 2
- November 24, 2015 - Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 3
- January 3, 2016 - Assault and battery by an officer, Jane Doe 4
- February 29, 2016- Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 5
- June 19, 2017- Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 6
- August 6, 2016 Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 7
- September 1, 2016 - Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 8
- November 4, 2016 – Assault and battery by an officer , Jane Doe 9
- November 26, 2016 – Assault and battery by an officer, Jane Doe 10
- May 3, 2017 – False imprisonment , Jane Doe 11
- August 20, 2017- Assault and battery by an officer, Jane Doe 12
Read about the complaints here.
Any additional victims can call the San Diego County District Attorney's Office directly at (619) 531-4040.
The DA added that some of the women were under arrest while others had called 911 to get help with a domestic violence situation or a residential burglary when they encountered Fischer’s advances, Stephan said.
“When any deputy conducts themselves in an inappropriate manner it not only impacts every deputy in the sheriff’s department but every peace officer in this county and across the country. That’s why we take them so seriously because we depend on that trust between the public that we serve and law enforcement,” Gore said.
He went on to say, "I would ask that the public judge the law enforcement agencies, the sheriff’s department or whatever other agency is involved, by how we handle that misconduct and I think in this case when it came to our attention we put all the appropriate resources to bear on this investigation."