Congressman Reaches Deal Over Baggage Office Case

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) made a deal yesterday with Loudoun County prosecutors that reduced the misdemeanor assault and battery charge he faced for allegedly pushing an airline employee at Dulles International Airport.

Filner was instead charged with trespassing and fined $100. His plea, known as an Alford plea, means he does not admit guilt in the Aug. 19 incident, which involved a dispute over baggage, but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction.

According to an August Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police statement, Filner tried to enter an area of United Airlines' baggage claim office that was off-limits to passengers. He "pushed aside the employee's outstretched arm and refused to leave the area when asked," the statement said.

Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman (R) said yesterday that further investigation found the incident was not as serious as first thought.

"It was minor contact," he said. "Our job is not to just go out and convict people. Our job is to bring justice. And the ultimate punishment, a $100 fine, is what this case is worth."

Yesterday, after an appearance in Loudoun County General District Court, Filner apologized.

"Like millions of other Americans, I was frustrated by a delayed flight, delayed luggage, and no information or empathy from the airlines," he said in a statement. "However, I wrongly took out my frustration on the 'front office' baggage employees. . . . I overreacted, I behaved discourteously, and I shouldn't have."

Filner denied being physically abusive to the United employee. "I want to make clear that I did not strike, push, or shove anyone," he said. "It's very important to me that the record be clear on this point."

Filner faced up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine if he had been convicted on the original charge. The House Ethics Committee said in September that it planned to investigate the incident after the case was prosecuted. William V. O'Reilly, the committee's chief counsel, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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