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Former deputy accepts plea deal

Ex-Riverside County lawman would serve just over a year after being accused of sexual assault, harassment.

December 06, 2006|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

A former Riverside County sheriff's deputy accused of sexually assaulting three women and sexually harassing an elderly woman between 2004 and 2006 struck a plea agreement with prosecutors Tuesday that will send him to prison for just over a year.

John Wayne Leseberg, 43, had been charged with more than a dozen felony counts, including sexual battery, assault by a public officer and attempting to dissuade witnesses from testifying. If convicted, the Sun City man could have faced a sentence of more than 15 years, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Lafferty.

Lafferty said settling the case was "in the best interest of all those involved" because it prevented witnesses from going through a difficult trial.

Leseberg was accused of assaulting the first woman after driving her home from the Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station, where she had been detained for public intoxication. He was also accused of sexually assaulting a second woman at her home while responding to her domestic-violence call to police.

A third woman, who was 75, said Leseberg stripped off his uniform and sat naked on her couch while following up on a robbery investigation.

A fourth woman, who was a transient and former nurse, told investigators Leseberg repeatedly took his clothes off in front of her and asked her to inspect his body for growths and rashes.

Leseberg, a 15-year veteran, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two charges of residential burglary, each a felony, and three charges of indecent exposure. He will be sentenced in February.

Irvine-based attorney Joseph G. Cavallo said he thought the plea agreement offered a just resolution to the case. He said Leseberg acted inappropriately but that the dozen felony counts against him were an unfair result of a "one-sided and prejudicial" investigation.

"At some point, the district attorney's office came to the realization that this case needed to be resolved," Cavallo said. "This trial would have been circus," he said, noting that he had serious questions about the credibility of some of the witnesses. "My client's motivation was to not cause his family or the department any further embarrassment."

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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