Deputy breaks silence about on-duty groping allegations

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego County Sheriff's deputy spoke out Thursday for the first time since being charged with groping and sexually assaulting more than a dozen women while on duty.

Richard Fischer, 32, faced the media outside the new Central Courthouse downtown Thursday morning  with his wife and his new attorney, Manny Medrano, in an attempt to "clear his name."

These charges are simply untrue. I vigorously deny them," Fischer said.

Judge Daniel Goldstein ordered Fischer to stand trial on charges of assault and battery by an officer, sexual battery and false imprisonment.  Fischer faces 14 years and eight months in prison if convicted on all charges.

Fischer told reporters Thursday the charges against him were false and he "vigorously denies them."

"Every night my wife and I pray that my good name will be cleared and exonerated," he said. "A good name is more precious than many riches. And that’s more true today than it’s ever been."

His attorney painted a picture of Fischer as a church-going husband and father who has devoted his life to serving his country. Fischer spent eight years serving in the Marine Corps and eight more years in law enforcement as an officer and deputy.

Fischer's attorney asked the public to question the credibility and motive of the alleged victims and witnesses in the criminal case. He said the evidence is no incriminating.

"Where there is smoke, there's fire. In this case, there is no fire when it comes to these allegations," Medrano said.

"I'm innocent until proven guilty," Fischer told reporters. "Don't convict me on innuendo."

Nineteen women have filed lawsuits against Fischer in civil court, alleging that he assaulted them while on patrol.

Medrano said Fisher and his wife have been happily married for four years and are united as they fight through their "nightmare." The attorney said the case boiled down to a "she said, he said," with no eyewitness, no confession from Fischer, and "significant" credibility problems with alleged victims.

Fischer's wife did not speak at the news conference.

At the end of a five-day preliminary hearing in June,  Deputy District Attorney Annette Irving told Judge Daniel Goldstein that Fischer "preyed" upon the alleged victims while on duty and in full uniform, mostly late at night.

"He had the authority to detain these women," the prosecutor said. "He had power over these women, who were all vulnerable. These women needed help, not sex."

Fischer asked the alleged victims for hugs, touched the breasts of some and moved the hand of one woman over his crotch while they hugged for a third time, according to Irving.

"She said, `What are you doing!" Irving told the judge. "He tells her, `Don't tell anyone."'

Fischer's attorney at the time, Richard Pinckard, questioned the credibility of many of the alleged victims and said many had felony convictions. Pinckard and defense attorney Chris Kowalski previously argued that the women had consented to letting Fischer hug them. Kowalski said the hugging of one woman was not appropriate, "but is it criminal?"

Fischer surrendered to authorities in late February before his initial arraignment. He was placed on paid administrative leave when the first allegations against him came to light last October. The six-year veteran was removed from paid-leave status in January