Hello probation. Goodbye dignity.
Monday's coda to the career implosion of former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is yet another cautionary tale for powerful men: You could end up like Filner, jobless and disgraced, with your deepest secrets laid out in the cold, precise language of a probation officer’s report. Or you could keep your hands to yourself.
After pleading guilty to felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery, Filner was sentenced in a San Diego courtroom Monday: He will be on probation for three years, including three months in home confinement. He can’t run for office during his probation, must undergo mental health treatment and will give up part of his pension.
The probation report evaluates Filner and his misdeeds, including mitigating circumstances (no prior record) and aggravating circumstances (he took advantage of his elected position).
Filner lives alone, owns a house in Chula Vista and gets about $70,000 a year in pension payments. But that much was already public record.
What the probation report also details are very private issues: He recently underwent a root canal and broke a finger on his left hand. He is seeing a doctor for interstitial cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome. He is seeing a psychologist, as well as a psychiatrist. And he takes half a dozen prescription medications, including two (Lexapro and Buspirone) that are often used to treat anxiety and one (Lamictal) that is used as a mood stabilizer.
Seriously, this is not the sort of stuff you want the world to know. But it’s exactly the sort of things the world learns when you are guilty of behavior so egregious it lands you in criminal court.
In case you've forgotten just what the former mayor did, here's how the probation report describes the actions that led to the false imprisonment charge. The report notes that it was the third time the victim, who is only described as Jane Doe 1, said Filner put her in his infamous headlock:
"On about 03/06/2013, Jane Doe 1 attended a dinner party where the defendant was also present. After dinner, as everyone was leaving the party, the defendant was standing next to her as she stood up to get ready to leave. The next part happened quickly: she felt his arm coming around her neck and she could not avoid the ‘headlock.’ She was pinned and could not move, and the 'headlock' was definitely not a hug, it was a tight grip.
"She could not turn or push away because of a recent back injury resulting from a car crash. She felt if she tried any harder to get away, or turned too far, she would injure herself. She said, ‘What are you doing, Bob?’
"As the defendant leaned in to kiss her, she turned her head because she did not want to be kissed on the lips. The defendant then kissed her eye and 'slobbered' on her cheek. The kiss happened quickly and was ‘really gross.’ She was eventually able to disengage by elbowing him and pushing him away.
"She did not tell anyone about the incident at that time because she did not want to make a scene at the party, and was embarrassed because she let him get close enough to get her into a headlock again."
One other thing that’s important to note about Filner’s probation report: His inappropriate touching spree cannot be attributed to his age — 71 — or his having grown up in a less-enlightened era or the mistaken idea that he was just being affectionate.
"Clearly, the defendant’s effort to avoid detection by witnesses suggest he was aware his behaviors and intended actions were wrong and most certainly inappropriate,” said the report, submitted by San Diego County Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins and Senior Probation Officer Charles Ledbetter.
Further, they said, Filner deserves to be held to a higher standard than others who have committed similar crimes because he betrayed the trust placed in him as mayor. “The impact on the victims cannot be overstated,” said the report.
When Filner met with a probation officer Nov. 7, he declined to discuss the facts of the case, on his attorney's advice. But he said he understood the severity of his offenses and gave assurances he would comply with his rather unrigorous punishment.
“My own sense of morality,” he vowed, “will allow me to successfully complete probation.”
Of course, if he’d had any of that sense earlier, none of this would have happened in the first place.