SAN DIEGO — A San Diego County sheriff’s deputy accused of groping 13 women he encountered while on duty over a two-year period must stand trial on charges of assault and battery by an officer, sexual battery and false imprisonment, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Richard Timothy Fischer, 32, faces 14 years and eight months in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Irving told Judge Daniel Goldstein at the end of a five-day preliminary hearing 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.”
Irving said 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.
“She said, ‘What are you doing!” Irving told the judge. “He tells her, ‘Don’t tell anyone.”‘
Defense attorney Richard Pinckard questioned the credibility of many of the alleged victims and said many had felony convictions.
Pinckard and defense attorney Chris Kowalski 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?”
“It doesn’t look good, but it’s not a crime,” the attorney told the judge.
Goldstein ruled that enough evidence was produced during the hearing for Fischer to stand trial. The judge said the women were the victims of mental and psychological coercion. He said all of the alleged victims were down on their luck and fearful of reporting what happened to them. Goldstein said he didn’t believe the women consented to Fischer hugging them.
“They couldn’t adequately fight him off,” the judge said.
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.
Fischer — who remains free on bail — will be back in court June 20 for a second arraignment.