Former Glendale police officer Anthony Pacho, accused of fondling the breasts of four female shoplifting suspects last summer while on duty at the Glendale Galleria, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court to lesser charges in a plea-bargaining arrangement with prosecutors.
In exchange for Pacho's plea, the district attorney's office dropped one of the four charges of felony sexual battery and reduced the other three to the less serious charges of misdemeanor illegal search of the three other teen-age girls.
"The facts brought out make us believe that Pacho's conduct was less aggravated than we understood when we filed the case," Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Diamond said.
Pacho, 27, was fired from the Glendale Police Department last November after an internal investigation led to his arrest. He was accused of fondling the breasts of 10 female shoplifting suspects during searches in a back room at the police substation in the Galleria shopping mall.
During a preliminary hearing earlier this year, a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge ruled that Pacho, a three-year police veteran, touched the breasts of only four of the victims and only the sides and armpits of the others.
Defense attorney Barry Levin contended that Pacho's actions were not "sexually inspired," but rather were the result of his police training in which the side of the hand is used to search female suspects between and under the breasts for possible weapons or drugs.
Diamond added that Pacho's conduct consisted of "touching the suspects very quickly rather than actually fondling them." Two of the victims were 16 years old and the other was 17 when the incidents took place last June.
Levin said after Wednesday's court appearance that he is pleased with the outcome of the case.
"We said all along that this was merely a case of illegal search and had nothing to do with sex," Levin said. "We're absolutely pleased with the disposition."
Pacho, who did not discuss the ruling on the advice of his attorney, will be sentenced April 18 by Superior Court Judge Ronald S. W. Lew.
Pacho could be sentenced to a maximum of 18 months in Los Angeles County jail and fined $3,000.
Pacho, a resident of West Covina, had been working at the Galleria police substation since November, 1983. Levin said the former officer had not decided whether he will ask for a Civil Service hearing in an attempt to return to the police force.