WASHINGTON — A California congressman who was to stand trial on assault and battery charges next week over an altercation at Dulles International Airport entered a plea to a lesser charge Monday and was fined $100.
Rep. Bob Filner's trial was to begin Dec. 4 in Loudoun County, Va., on charges that he pushed a United Airlines baggage claim worker. The incident occurred Aug. 19 as the Chula Vista Democrat tried to enter an employee-only area after his baggage was delayed in arriving.
On Monday, the charges were reduced to trespassing and Filner entered what is known as an Alford plea -- meaning that he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that there was sufficient evidence for a conviction if the case went to trial.
In addition to paying the fine, he must write an apology letter to the employee within two weeks, the Associated Press reported.
"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 released by his office. "I understand now that, since I was told to stay out, it can be considered trespass. That's why I'm entering what I understand is called an Alford plea: I did, in fact, go back there."
In his statement, Filner apologized for the incident, but denied the accusations of physical violence.
"I want to make clear that I did not strike, push or shove anyone. It's very important to me that the record be clear on this point," he said. "Nor did I seek any sort of special treatment because I was a congressman. . . . I overreacted, I behaved discourteously, and I shouldn't have."
The incident may still be examined by the House Ethics Committee, which in September created a subcommittee to look into the matter once the outcome of the court case was known.