A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced Wednesday to a year behind bars for groping a 14-year-old girl in a Vista restaurant, then later accessing investigative files and downloading the girl’s photo and personal information.
Timothy Wilson, who was a 10-year-veteran of the department and worked at the Vista jail, pleaded guilty in October to touching the teen. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawfully taking computer data.
According to authorities, Wilson accessed the investigative file approximately 44 times.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein also ordered Wilson, 33, to serve five years on probation. Additionally, the former deputy is required to register as a sex offender for life.
During the sentencing hearing, the judge chastised Wilson for repeatedly accessing the investigative file in the case. Doing so, the judge said, had violated public trust.
“This is completely inappropriate conduct and it undermines law enforcement,” Goldstein said. “If you mess up on probation, I guarantee I am sending you to prison. This is really bad. You should be ashamed.”
During the hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Owens read a statement from the teen victim, who was in the courtroom.
“A grownup should never touch kids the way you touched me… ,” the girl wrote. “The police said he had our address written down and that's really scary. Because of him, I know what it means to live in fear and how it can change your life.”
The Union-Tribune does not identify victims of sex offenses.
After the hearing, defense attorney Marcus DeBose said his client “did want to make it very clear to the world that at the time everything happened, he was not aware that there was a minor involved.”
Also after the hearing, the teen’s mother, joined by her civil attorney, Michael Licari, announced her intention to sue the department. She specifically cited the defendant’s access to investigative files.
“What happened to my daughter should not have been possible,” the mother said. “Yet somehow, no one at the Sheriff’s Department noticed when Deputy Wilson accessed my daughter’s private information 44 times.”
She said she wants policies put in place to safeguard access to investigative files involving child victims.
Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Lt. Karen Stubkjaer said the department could not comment on the potential suit.
As to safeguards, Stubkjaer said the Sheriff’s Department “has the ability to limit access to certain investigatory files when necessary,” and noted it has been done before. In this case, she said, there was no indication upon the reporting of this incident that there would be a necessity to limit access by Department peace officers.”
“Once we learned that the suspect in this case might be a deputy, detectives worked diligently and quickly to confirm the man's identity and to develop probable cause to effect an arrest,” she said.
According to authorities, the teen was standing in line at a Panda Express restaurant near downtown Vista on March 21 when a stranger grabbed her buttocks. The girl reported the incident.
About three weeks later, San Diego Crime Stoppers issued a request for the public’s help to identify the man seen in security video.
A co-worker recognized Wilson and reported him.
The prosecutor said Wilson began checking the file on the case starting the day after the groping incident, before he had been identified as a suspect in the case. By the time of his arrest, he had checked the file dozens of times.
Owens said Wilson downloaded investigative photos of the girl, as well as her home address. And on his home computer, investigators found the photos in a file labeled “white pants,” which is what the teen was wearing when she was groped.
A search of Wilson’s phone also turned up photos of other women — people who his attorney said were all adults.
Wilson has been in custody since his arrest May 18 while at work at the Vista Detention Facility. He was placed on unpaid leave and has remained jailed in lieu of $200,000 bail.
Under the plea deal, he must serve all 365 days of his sentence. That includes the approximately 165 days he has already served.