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Filner Enters ‘Alford Plea’ on Airline Employee Assault Charge

Correction Appended

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) entered a plea in court Monday admitting there is enough evidence to convict him of trespassing at Dulles International Airport in August — but in doing so, the eight-term Congressman entered an “Alford plea” and was therefore able to avoid actually admitting guilt. Filner’s Alford plea in Loudon County General District Court reduced an original misdemeanor charge of assault to trespassing, his office confirmed. Filner had been set to go to trial on the assault charges on Dec. 4. Instead, he was fined $100, effectively resolving the case. The Congressman’s troubles began on Aug. 19, when his luggage was delayed after he arrived at Dulles on a United Airlines flight. Filner went to the baggage office and apparently entered an employee-only area, pushing past employee Joanne Kay Kunkel in the process. Kunkel alleged in a criminal complaint filed later that day that Filner had screamed at her and other airline employees and refused to leave the office when asked to do so. In a statement released Monday, Filner acknowledged that he entered the office but said he did not know at the time that he was trespassing. “When I asked to see a supervisor, the baggage personnel told me that they were the only two in the office and both of them were busy with other passengers,” Filner said in the statement. “But I saw other employees in an adjacent, back office. At the time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that entering an airport office under these circumstances would be considered trespassing. But I understand now that, since I was told to stay out, it can be considered trespass.” Filner apologized for his role in the incident, saying he overreacted and “behaved discourteously.” But he also maintained that he “did not strike, push, or shove anyone.” “Nor did I seek any sort of special treatment because I was a Congressman,” he said. “I was just trying to find out where our flight’s bags were.” The aftermath of the incident still might not be over, however: The House ethics committee voted to investigate in September. Correction: Nov. 27, 2007 An earlier version of this report misstated part of the terms of Filner’s plea.

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