Mar 31, 2021
After a sheriff’s deputy admitted to on-duty sexual misconduct with 16 women, San Diego County is reportedly footing the bill for his legal defense as well as a barrage of civil lawsuits. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the County has already paid over $4.6 million in taxpayer funds. Over $570,000 of that has gone to Joseph Kutyla, a private attorney hired to defend former Deputy Richard Fisher.
County officials stated they were without other options, and had to outsource the legal defense work to a private attorney.
“Because conflict of interest rules prevent County Counsel from representing both the county and Deputy Fischer, the county has retained independent counsel to advise and defend Deputy Fischer,” spokesman Michael Workman said in an email to the Union-Tribune.
After he pleaded guilty to multiple sexual misconduct charges, the criminal case against Richard Fisher essentially ended last May when he was released after serving five months in custody. He had initially been sentenced to 44 months. The civil litigation against Fisher, however, is only just beginning.
The Union-Tribune reports that San Diego County has settled 12 separate civil lawsuits for over $4 million, while continuing to litigate eight others.
In February 2018, ex-deputy Fisher was arrested on suspicion of committing eight felonies and six misdemeanors. The arrest came just three months after multiple women began filing civil lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Department. In the complaints, women alleged that the deputy groped or fondled them. The criminal complaint indicates Fisher inappropriately touched at least 12 women he came in contact with during the course of his work shifts.
Fisher is accused of committing numerous inappropriate acts, including:
One woman claimed Fisher fondled her breasts after pulling her over. The woman’s lawsuit indicated Fisher said, “Oh, I hope your husband doesn’t mind” while committing the inappropriate act.
Another complaint alleges Fisher fondled a woman upon learning her driver’s license was suspended. “I apologize if it seems like I’m holding your hands but you’re just so hot,” Fischer said, according to the complaint. The complaint also indicated he held the woman’s hands behind her back, groping her through her clothes while commenting on the shape of her body.
Fisher pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges at his initial court appearance. Before striking a plea deal, he had faced 20 charges, including an allegation of forcing a woman to perform a sex act. KTLA reported that, as part of Fisher’s plea deal, prosecutors dismissed that criminal complaint (including the alleged sexual assault). A new complaint was filed with seven charges, and all 16 women were named as victims.
PSM is an acronym given for ‘police sexual misconduct.‘ The National Institute of Health conducted a study between 2005-2008 in St. Louis that analyzed women’s risk factors for PSM. 25% of the participants reported a lifetime history or PSM. Among women who suffered PSM, the following statistics emerged:
The study concluded with the following statement:
Community-based interventions are critical to reduce risk of abuse of vulnerable women by police officers charged with protecting communities.
In 2018, research from Bowling Green State indicated that U.S. police officers were charged with forcible rape 405 times between 2005 and 2013. The Buffalo News compiled a database indicating that between 2005-2015 a law enforcement official was caught in a case of sexual abuse or misconduct at least once every five days.
A researcher from the Barnard Center for Research on Women told The Crime Report she believes these statistics are significantly influenced by underreporting, and may only be the “tip of the iceberg.” Andrea Ritchie notes that police sexual misconduct (PSM) victims may have less motivation to report abuse when compared to other sexual assault survivors. In fact, Ritchie contends PSM survivors rarely come forward at all.
“The people we tell people to report sexual assaults to are the police,” Ritchie told The Crime Report. “Survivors of sexual assault by police are the only survivors of sexual assault who have to report the assault to the people that committed it. That’s a huge reason they’re not reported.”
In Los Angeles, to report a crime anonymously call 800-222-8477. The LAPD’s rape hotline is 626-793-3385.
Following a sexual assault of any kind – inappropriate touching, fondling, workplace harassment, rape, etc. – the survivor’s health should be the first priority. A physical and psychological examination should be undergone to ensure the victim is not injured or experiencing any negative effects. Follow-up examinations are recommended, as many symptoms of trauma can take time to develop.
California sexual assault survivors are eligible to file civil lawsuits against a responsible individual perpetrator or institution. A civil lawsuit is an excellent means of seeking justice, and the first step towards recovering a financial damages award. Civil lawsuits are separate from criminal suits.
At Dordulian Law Group, for decades we have witnessed firsthand the trauma sexual assault can wreak. DLG’s Founder and President, Sam Dordulian, began his career prosecuting sex crimes as a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. Dordulian founded DLG to be a unique type of firm, providing top-rated and unmatched legal representation as well as access to the emotional and psychological support many survivors need. Our Sex Crimes Division is headed by a team of Sexual Assault Justice Experts (SAJE) who dedicate their lives to securing justice for sex crime survivors.
The Dordulian Law Group SAJE Team is comprised of:
If you have been victimized by PSM or any type of law enforcement sexual misconduct, you deserve a dedicated advocate who will fight for you and help you obtain justice. At DLG, survivors have an entire team of dedicated advocates via SAJE. Survivors who choose the Dordulian Law Group advantage have 24/7 access to four tiers of all-encompassing representation.
Selecting a firm to handle your sexual assault case can be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Be sure to find a firm that values you, your claim, and your ultimate well-being. Don’t allow just any firm to take on such an important responsibility, or leave your fate in the hands of a settlement mill.
Contact DLG today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 today to learn more about why we’re the best sexual assault lawyers in California, with over 20 years of experience and more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts recovered for clients like you.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.