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Legal claim says deputy groped San Diego State student in 2012 and detectives pressured her not to file complaint

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San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer, left, pleaded not guilty in February to sexual misconduct charges. A legal claim accuses Fischer of misconduct in 2012 and says the department knew, contradicting county assertions that it learned of complaints only last year.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A former San Diego State student filed a claim against San Diego County this week, alleging that a sheriff’s deputy groped her after a 2012 traffic stop and that detectives investigating the behavior pressured her not to file a formal complaint.

The allegations were lodged against Deputy Richard Fischer, who was arraigned in February on more than a dozen criminal counts after 14 different women accused him of sexual misconduct under color of authority. A legal claims is a precursor to a lawsuit.

The latest allegation brings the number of women who say they were victimized by Fischer to 17. It also contradicts the county’s assertion that officials were never notified of complaints against Fischer until late last year.

Lt. Karen Stubkjaer reiterated the county’s position in a statement on Friday, saying Sheriff Bill Gore opened criminal and administrative investigations late last year — as soon as he learned of accusations against Fischer.

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“The department did not receive a complaint regarding these allegations prior to this,” Stubkjaer wrote. “The cases involving Fischer have been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office and the office of county counsel. Fischer remains on unpaid leave pending the outcome of these investigations.”

According to the most recent legal claim, which identifies the woman only as T.R., Fischer pulled her over as she was driving home in September 2012. The incident occurred shortly after 3:30 a.m. on Interstate 8 near the Montezuma Road exit.

“Deputy Fischer told T.R. that the tint on her windows was too dark and was illegal to have,” the claim states. “Deputy Fischer did not ask for her driver’s license, registration or proof of insurance. Instead, Deputy Fischer walked back to his car and returned a few minutes later claiming he could smell alcohol on T.R.’s breath.”

Fischer never administered field-sobriety or breathalyzer tests, according to the claim, and was flirtatious during the encounter. Instead, he followed the woman to her home just south of San Diego State.

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Once there, “Deputy Fischer told T.R. he was doing her a favor by not arresting her for drunk driving,” the claim states. “Deputy Fischer was smiling and laughing. He was giddy. Deputy Fischer gave T.R. an awkward hug and said ‘I’ll see you later.’ The hug was not normal. He hugged her and then rocked her back and forth. T.R. did not ask for the hug.”

Fischer obtained the woman’s phone number and then left, the claim states, adding that he returned multiple times over the next two days and texted the woman up to 20 times.

“The text messages were flirtatious and Deputy Fischer stated he wanted to see her again,” the claim said.

According to the claim, two internal-affairs detectives visited T.R.’s home days after the encounter wanting to speak to her. The woman was not home, but detectives returned the following day. They told T.R. that the GPS system on Fischer’s patrol cruiser showed he had been at the home several times.

Basic investigative practices were not adhered to, the claim added.

“The detectives did not ask her for a copy of the text messages between Deputy Fischer,” the claim said. “They didn’t even ask her about the content of the messages. The detective pressured T.R. not to file a complaint, saying ‘You don’t really want to file a complaint, right?’ T.R. could tell they wanted her to say ‘no.’”

If no formal complaint was filed, no formal investigation would have been opened.

A week or so after the first pair of detectives interviewed T.R., two other detectives contacted the student, the claim says. She told them the same story she had given the first two investigators, the claim said. She never heard from them or Fischer again.

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In a phone interview Friday, T.R. told the San Diego Union-Tribune that because she lives in Orange County she only learned of the Fischer case three weeks ago, when she saw the deputy’s picture on a Los Angeles area newscast.

“I saw the photo of him and started freaking out,” she said.

The claim from T.R. is not the first allegation that sheriff’s officials knew about Fischer’s behavior prior to last fall. According to previously filed claims, a woman identified as K.P. wrote a letter to the department in 2016 warning that Fischer was guilty of sexual misconduct.

“He is a predator, not an officer,” wrote K.P., who included her phone numbers and email address but never heard back from the department.

Sheriff’s officials have said they have no record of receiving that letter.

T.R. said she came forward because she was bothered that department officials did nothing about the information they had on Fischer in 2012 and more women were victimized. She said Fischer abused his authority as a law enforcement officer.

Attorney Dan Gilleon, who represents T.R. and more than a dozen other woman in the Fischer case, alleged victims of Fischer, said his latest claim raises serious questions about what Gore knew about Fischer and when.

“The 2012 investigation of T.R.'s incident not only blows up Sheriff Gore’s denial of the May 4, 2016, letter from K.P. (in which she reported sexual molestation while handcuffed), it suggests Sheriff Gore willfully misrepresented the facts to the citizens of San Diego,” he said.

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The incident between Fischer and T.R. occurred less than a year into Fischer’s career with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. He was hired in December 2011 and was assigned to an unspecified jail as a detentions deputy. He did not become a deputy on patrol until 2014, Stubkjaer said.

Dist. Atty. Summer Stephan filed 14 criminal charges against Fischer in February. He is facing almost 15 years in prison if convicted at a trial scheduled later this year. The county counsel’s office is evaluating a spate of civil claims on behalf of the women, and has settled four of those lawsuits for more than $900,000.

In November 2017, after one woman’s complaint to the Sheriff’s Department was reported by the Union-Tribune and then other news organizations, other women began reporting misconduct by Fischer.

By late last year, more than a dozen women had filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Department about Fischer. In December, three of the women spoke publicly about their cases and accused Gore of dragging his feet on the investigation to protect the department and his deputy.

The sheriff rejected that notion. Gore and Stephan jointly announced the arrest and arraignment.

jeff.mcdonald@sduniontribune.com


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