VISTA, Calif. -- A former San Diego County sheriff's deputy who groped, hugged and tried to kiss more than a dozen women while on duty was sentenced Tuesday to 44 months behind bars followed by 16 months of post-release supervision.
Under his sentence, however, Richard Fischer will not have to register as a sex offender.
Fischer pleaded guilty in September to four felony counts of assault under color of authority, two misdemeanor counts of assault under color of authority and one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment. The charges stemmed from attacks between 2015 and 2017 on 16 women, some of whom he arrested and others he met while responding to 911 calls the victims made.
The former U.S. Marine could have faced up to five years in prison under the terms of his plea agreement. Fischer also originally faced 20 felony and misdemeanor charges and was looking at potentially more than 25 years to life prior to the plea agreement.
Fischer will serve 22 months in a county jail before he is eligible for release. Following his release, he'll be subject to GPS monitoring and will have to undergo psychological evaluations. He'll also be barred from obtaining another job in law enforcement.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Goldstein told Fischer, "You operated with impunity, believing that you would never get caught. And you operated like that because you thought nobody would ever believe (the victims.)"
Whether he would have to register as a sex offender was a substantial part of Tuesday's sentencing hearing. None of the charges to which Fischer pleaded are sex crimes, though Goldstein had discretion to consider requiring him to register as a sex offender.
Among the judge's considerations was a letter that the majority of the victims submitted earlier this year, in which they stated they wanted a resolution to the case and would not make any requests regarding his sentence or sex offender status. Some of the victims stated they took into account the impact sex offender registration would have upon Fischer's family.
Goldstein also considered a trio of psychological evaluations concluding that Fischer represented a low risk of re-offending, and that much of his conduct was steered by the power dynamic his badge afforded him.
Based on those issues, Goldstein ruled against ordering sex offender registration.
However, the judge said custody was needed due to the harm he imposed on his victims, as well as the harm to the public trust in law enforcement. Goldstein said the case has "chilled womens' ability to communicate with law enforcement," and could make them less likely to contact law enforcement, even if it's sorely needed.
"Unfortunately, you've disgraced your uniform, you've disgraced these deputies who are in my department every day," Goldstein said, referring to the bailiffs in his courtroom. "You've disgraced the Marine Corps. I can't imagine what you were thinking."