ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Bob Filner was sentenced Monday to three months of home confinement and three years of probation for harassing women while he was mayor of San Diego, completing the fall of the former 10-term congressman who barely a year ago achieved his long dream of being elected leader of the nation's eighth-largest city.
Filner, who resigned amid widespread allegations of sexual harassment, pleaded guilty in October to one felony and two misdemeanors for placing a woman in a headlock, kissing another woman and grabbing the buttocks of a third.
Superior Court Judge Robert Trentacosta's sentence was the same as what prosecutors recommended in a plea agreement with Filner. The 71-year-old former mayor faced a maximum penalty of three years in prison for the felony and one year in jail for each misdemeanor.
Filner apologized to victims and told the judge that he would work to earn back the trust of those he betrayed and recover his integrity — a sharp contrast to his defiant resignation speech nearly four months ago in which he said he was the victim of "a lynch mob."
"I want to apologize to my family, who have stood by me through this ordeal, to my loyal staff and supporters, the citizens of San Diego and most sincerely to the women I have hurt and offended. ... Certainly the behaviors before this court today will never be repeated," he said in a brief statement.
Filner cannot seek or hold elected office while on probation and will be monitored by GPS during his home confinement, which begins Jan. 1. Exceptions to home confinement include medical, mental health and therapy appointments as well as travel to religious services.
Melissa Mandel, supervising state deputy attorney general, said victims in the criminal complaint did not want to address the court. She said Filner had demeaned, humiliated and embarrassed them.
"Today is the day that Bob Filner begins to pay his debt to the citizens of San Diego," she said.
Filner sold himself to voters as a champion of civil rights, she said, but his behavior revealed a "very different person."
"Only time will tell if Filner is the changed man he claims to be," she said.
Filner, who is twice divorced, was convicted of felony false imprisonment for what a probation officer's report described as putting a woman in a headlock after a dinner party on March 6 and attempting to kiss her on the lips. The woman, identified in the probation report as a longtime Filner acquaintance in the tourism and hospitality business, told authorities that he kissed her eye and "slobbered" on her cheek as she turned away. She elbowed him to get free.
The misdemeanor counts of battery were for kissing a woman on the lips without permission at a "Meet the Mayor" on April 6 and grabbing another woman's buttocks at a May 25 rally to clean up Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. None of the victims have been identified.
Nearly 20 women have publicly identified themselves as targets of Filner's unwanted advances, including kissing, groping and requests for dates. His accusers include a retired Navy rear admiral, a San Diego State University dean and a great-grandmother who volunteers answering senior citizens' questions at City Hall.
The charges do not involve Filner's former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, who expedited the mayor's downfall by becoming the first to go public with sexual harassment allegations in July. She has filed a lawsuit against Filner and the city, claiming her boss asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.
Gloria Allred, McCormack Jackson's attorney, told reporters that Filner was "one lucky man" for being spared jail time. She and McCormack Jackson sat in the front row during sentencing.
"Mr. Filner, count your blessings. Your freedom is a gift which you do not deserve," Allred said outside the courthouse.
Filner disappeared from public view after leaving office Aug. 30, less than nine months into a four-year term. His attorney, Jerry Coughlan, told reporters that his client was spending his days meeting with him, therapists and family. Coughlan brushed aside a question on whether Filner would run for office again.
"If he's drafted to run after three years, maybe he will. I have no idea," he said.
Filner received letters of support from two ex-wives, a son, his first wife's current partner, a Baptist pastor and a former fiancee who ended their engagement while he was mayor. The authors do not offer any theories on what motivated Filner's behavior toward women.
"Although he has more work to complete on his journey of recovery, I believe he has already made significant strides in a short time and I expect that he will continue to do so until he achieves his goals," wrote Bronwyn Ingram, the former fiancee who said previously that she ended the engagement after he sent sexually explicit emails to other women and set up dates in her presence.
Filner was elected San Diego's first Democratic mayor in 20 years, promising to put neglected neighborhoods ahead of entrenched downtown business interests. Two city councilmen seeking to replace him in a special election runoff — Republican Kevin Faulconer and Democrat David Alvarez — have embraced Filner's neighborhoods-first mantra while scarcely mentioning the former mayor by name.
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines emerged from bankruptcy protection and US Airways culminated its long pursuit of a merger partner as the two completed their deal Monday to create the world's biggest airline.
It's the latest in a series of mergers that will leave four airlines controlling more than 80 percent of the U.S. air-travel market. With less competition, the airlines have successfully limited the number of seats, boosting prices and returning to profitability.
American's old parent, AMR Corp., is gone, replaced by the new American Airlines Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker remotely rang the opening bell of the Nasdaq Stock Market, flanked on stage by executives and labor leaders of both airlines and in front of a crowd of cheering employees.
"Our goal here is to go and restore American Airlines to its position as the greatest airline in the world," Parker said. The largest airline as recently as 2008, American struggled through a decade of huge losses and fell behind United and Delta in size.
For passengers, the merger won't mean many immediate changes. Whether the deal leads to higher ticket prices, the issue at the heart of legal challenges from the government and consumer groups, remains to be seen.
Parker dismissed the notion that fewer airlines will lead to higher airfares because, he said, the new American plans to keep all the service currently offered by American and US Airways.
"Airline prices are like prices in other businesses — they track with supply and demand, and we're not reducing any of the supply," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Elite members of the two frequent-flier programs will get reciprocal benefits in early January, with other changes being phased in, executives said. The airlines expect to soon be able to book passengers on each other's flights, increasing the destinations available to customers of both.
It will take about two years to combine American's fleet and workforce with those of US Airways, Parker said. US Airways will join Continental, Northwest and other airlines that now exist only in the memories of employees and longtime travelers.
Airline mergers are notoriously troublesome. United has been plagued by computer-network problems since combining with Continental, leading to outages and flight delays. Airlines' technology systems handle everything from passenger information to weight and balance calculations on every flight. Then there is the difficulty in merging two sets of employees who, in this case, are represented by different unions. US Airways has been down that path before — it still hasn't fully integrated pilot crews since its merger with America West, and that deal closed in 2005.
Unions at American received Parker like a conquering hero. Their support for a merger led by US Airways executives was a turning point when AMR CEO Tom Horton still hoped to keep his airline independent. For their efforts, the unions won stock in the new company.
On Monday, Parker made symbolic moves to extend a hand to labor — painting over parking spaces once reserved for executives, and asking Nasdaq to inscribe a commemorative opening bell to the employees instead of to him. Still, the honeymoon could be a short one.
"His greatest challenge is keeping positive sentiment on his side," said Vicki Bryan, an analyst with bond-research firm Gimme Credit. "He's at the peak of 'happy' right now. He's got to keep the unions happy; he's got to keep the computers running; he's got to keep the balloon in the air."
In morning trading, new shares of American Airlines Group were up 45 cents to $24.55.
The doctor isn't in, but he can still see you now. Remote presence robots are allowing physicians to "beam" themselves into hospitals to diagnose patients and offer medical advice during emergencies. A growing number of hospitals in California and other states are using telepresence robots to expand access to medical specialists, especially in rural areas where there's a shortage of doctors. These mobile video-conferencing machines move on wheels and typically stand about 5 feet, with a large screen that projects a doctor's face. They feature cameras, microphones and speakers that allow physicians and patients to see and talk to each other. Dignity Health, which runs Arizona, California and Nevada hospitals, began using the telemedicine machines five years ago to diagnose patients suspected of suffering strokes — when every minute is crucial to prevent serious brain damage. The San Francisco-based health care provider now uses the telemedicine robots in emergency rooms and intensive-care units at about 20 California hospitals, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics and mental health. "Regardless of where the patient is located, we can be at their bedside in several minutes," said Dr. Alan Shatzel, medical director of the Mercy Telehealth Network. "Literally, we compress time and space with this technology. No longer does distance affect a person's ability to access the best care possible." Dignity Health is one of several hospital chains that recently began using RP-VITA, which was jointly developed by InTouch Health and iRobot Corp. It's approved for hospital use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Hospitals are now using this type of technology in order to leverage the specialists that they have even better and more efficiently," said Dr. Yulun Wang, CEO of Santa Barbara-based InTouch Health. Nearly 1,000 hospitals in the U.S. and abroad have installed InTouch telemedicine devices, including about 50 RP-VITA robots launched in May, according to company officials. The company rents out the RP-VITA for $5,000 per month. When a doctor is needed at a remote hospital location, he can log into the RP-VITA on-site by using a computer, laptop or iPad. The robot has an auto-drive function that allows it to navigate its way to the patient's room, using sensors to avoid bumping into things or people. Once inside the hospital room, the doctor can see, hear and speak to the patient, and have access to clinical data and medical images. The physician can't touch the patient, but there is always a nurse or medical assistant on-site to assist. On a recent morning, Dr. Asad Chaudhary, a stroke specialist at Dignity Health, beamed into a robot at the neuro-intensive care unit at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael to evaluate Linda Frisk, a patient who recently had a stroke. With his face projected on the robot screen, Chaudhary asked Frisk to smile, open and close her eyes, make a fist and lift her arms and legs — common prompts to test a patient's neurological functioning. "If you develop any weakness, any numbness, any problem with your speech or anything else, let us know right away," Chaudhary told Frisk before the robot turned around and left the room. "It's just like being with the patient in the room," Chaudhary said. "Of course, nothing can replace seeing these patients in person, but it's the next best thing." Frisk, 60, who was flown into the hospital for treatment, said she was surprised when she first saw the robot, but quickly got used to the doctor's virtual presence. "You feel like he was right there," said Frisk, who lives near Merced. "Although I am a little spoiled and like to see him in person." Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved