Aug 9, 2023
A former San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy previously sentenced for sexual assault and misconduct involving over a dozen women was released from jail last week. Forced to wear an electronic monitoring system on his ankle, Richard Fischer is now free despite San Diego taxpayers continuing to pay “for the sins of the former sheriff’s deputy,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
San Diego County has paid more than $9.5 million to settle 21 lawsuits against Fischer, according to the Union-Tribune. The disgraced deputy has been accused of numerous sexual assaults, including incidents of groping, fondling, and abusing women while in uniform and on duty.
The $9.5 million in payouts to sexual assault survivors does not include an additional $1 million San Diego County has paid to the private attorneys defending Richard Fischer in civil court, the Los Angeles Times said.
“Beyond the blight on the county treasury and the emotional toll paid by Fischer’s victims, the sheer number of [sexual assault] claims and the response to them as they piled up have fomented distrust,” the Times added.
Fischer’s original sentence entailed 44 months in county jail. NBC San Diego reported in January that he pleaded guilty to charges such as assault under color of authority for accosting 16 women between 2015 and 2017.
Additional charges against the former deputy and his respective pleas entered included:
Fischer was then released in May of 2020 following five months in custody (upon receiving credit for 956 days for time served in pre-trial home detention). CBS 8 reported in September 2022 that those 956 days were granted mistakenly by the county based on “pre-sentence custody credits that he didn’t earn.”
“When the state and the county realized the error, the parties went back to court to rectify the mistake and order Fischer back to prison,” CBS 8 said.
“The judge agreed but Fischer appealed the decision, asking the judge to allow him to keep the 956 extra days. At the same time, the trial court judge allowed Fischer to remain free until the appeal was heard.”
Fischer’s freedom ended with the September 2022 appellate court ruling, which read in part:
“We conclude that Fischer’s arguments lack merit. We accordingly affirm the trial court’s order that vacated the grant of an additional 956 days of pre-sentence custody credits and remanded Fischer to custody to serve out the remainder of his local prison sentence.“
After being ordered back to jail in early 2022, Fischer was released again in April of that year pending appeal of a judge’s order that he be monitored for 16 months via a GPS ankle bracelet and “stay away from the victims.” He was booked again into custody in January 2023, only to be released last week after reportedly qualifying for the specialized ankle monitoring program.
Last week’s release of Fischer was “earlier than expected,” according to a statement from sheriff’s officials to the Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles Times noted that attorneys defending Fischer in a “spate of civil” cases related to the sexual assault allegations have “continued to decline to discuss why they waited years to agree to settlements.”
Three cases were settled against Fischer in the last month, with survivors being awarded more than $1 million each.
But the litigation process has taken over five years, according to the Times, with many criticizing the county for forcing victims to wait “years for compensation and closure.”
County officials declined to issue a comment to the Los Angeles Times regarding the nearly $10 million in payments to resolve the Fischer sexual assault lawsuits.
Civil sexual assault lawsuits began being filed against Fischer and San Diego County in 2017.
“The publicity resulting from the early claims sparked a barrage of new complaints from women who reported similar experiences after encountering Fischer,” the Los Angeles Times said.
The sexual assault victims who came forward all alleged consistent misconduct on the part of former deputy Fischer, and none of the women had prior relationships with one another.
Some of the allegations made against him included:
“While the allegations piled up, the women accused then-Sheriff Bill Gore of protecting his deputy by slow-walking the department investigation,” the Times said.
In terms of any disciplinary action or investigations into the allegations against Fischer, Sheriff’s Department officials reportedly handled all efforts internally at the beginning. Additional steps included:
But the multiple civil lawsuits were placed on hold while the criminal proceedings played out, according to the Los Angeles Times. Fischer denied all charges initially, asserting that he would be vindicated in the criminal trial.
“Richard Fischer has dedicated his entire adult life to public service,” the former deputy’s defense lawyer said at the time. “These allegations are wholly inconsistent with who Mr. Fischer is. He categorically denies each of the allegations and looks forward to clearing his name.”
Moments before he was scheduled to go to trial, however, Fischer pleaded guilty to seven criminal charges related to sexual misconduct involving 16 women while on the job.
“He had faced 20 counts and up to 14 years in prison but received a much lighter sentence,” the Times said.
The Los Angeles Times further reported that the countless sexual assault allegations against Richard Fischer were not the only such claims lodged against deputies under former Sheriff Gore.
“Two years ago, a former deputy was convicted of rape, lewd acts on a child and other charges. Also in 2021, another deputy was sentenced to prison for committing illegal sex acts on a 14-year-old girl,” the Times confirmed.
Some similar sexual assault allegations include:
The Times reported that former San Diego County Assistant Sheriff Rich Miller was allowed to retire in 2018 after twice being accused of sexually harassing department workers.
“Miller collected $194,541 in retirement pay last year, according to the Transparent California database of public salaries and pensions,” the Times confirmed.
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