A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy who was sentenced in December to nearly four years in prison for assaulting more than a dozen women while on duty was released from jail earlier this month, according to the sheriff's department.
"On May 15, 2020, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department received an order from the Superior Court setting forth the custody credits for Richard Fischer," the sheriff's office told NBC 7 on Wednesday. "The Sheriff's Department complied with the order and applied the appropriate custody credits. Richard Fischer was then released from custody on that day."
Richard Fischer, 33, assaulted 16 women while on duty and in uniform, including women who had called the department for help or to report a crime. He pleaded guilty to four felony counts of assault and battery by an officer, two counts of misdemeanor assault by an officer and one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment.
When word first came out about Fischer's May 15 release, there was some speculation that he might have gotten out early due to the pandemic. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, however, said the former deputy had been instead given credit for time he had spent at home with GPS monitoring prior to sentencing.
"I can say that he was not released early, if that’s what you’re wondering," said Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office. "He was actually supposed to be released in February. On the date of sentencing, the probation office incorrectly calculated his credits. By law he is entitled to credit while he was home with GPS monitoring."
Sierra said that Fischer is now at home, having resumed the monitoring.
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Fischer's plea agreement was reached on the day the trial was scheduled to begin. An amended criminal complaint was filed at that time with the seven charges involving 16 women, far fewer and less severe than the 20 charges the district attorney's office had at one point filed against the former deputy; all charges of sexual assault were dropped.
The women accused Fischer of hugging or kissing them without consent, groping their bodies and even forcing them to perform oral copulation during incidents between July 2015 and August 2017 in several communities, including Vista, Lakeside, El Cajon and San Marcos.
In December, Fischer was sentenced to three years and eight months in local prison, followed by 16 months of mandatory supervision with GPS monitoring. At that time, it was believed he could end up serving as little as 22 months in prison.
Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein also ruled Fischer will not have to register as a sex offender based in part on psychiatric evaluations that determined Fischer did not have sexual pathology, but rather, “an emotional motive structured around power.”
One of Fischer's victims spoke in court and described the long-term effects of her encounter with the former deputy.
“I have no life. For two years, I’ve lived in fear and constant stress. I’ve become an emotional wreck. It’s gotten so bad, that it’s affected me mentally and physically and is the underlining cause of numerous recent health problems,” the victim said.
At the sentencing, Fischer’s attorney said the former deputy was remorseful and apologetic and called the sentence “fair and appropriate."
“Mr. Fischer has acknowledged that he tarnished the badge and he is deeply remorseful. He’s deeply remorseful and sends his apologies not only to the victims in this case, but also to their families and to fellow women law enforcement officers,” said attorney Gretchen Von Helms.
Until his guilty plea, Fischer had repeatedly denied he assaulted women while under the color of authority, at one point telling NBC 7's Artie Ojeda, "These false allegations are extremely hurtful and disheartening."
Fischer once said the allegations were contrary to his personal and professional background, which includes eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and eight years as a police officer and sheriff's deputy.
Fischer worked as a civil affairs specialist during his time in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2005 to 2013. He told NBC 7 he was involved in gathering intelligence while deployed in Afghanistan.
He first started as an officer with the Southgate Police Department in 2008. He joined the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in 2011.
Several of the women have testified that they came into contact with Fischer because they were victims of a crime and had called the sheriff's department for help.
Prosecutors said Fischer would return to victims' homes late at night after the call had been cleared from dispatch records and no other deputies were present.
To see a full timeline of the criminal case against Fischer, click here.
Fischer's release on May 15 comes just a week after San Diego County settled one of more than a dozen lawsuits filed by accusers; in that case, the settlement was for $225,000.