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Los Angeles (AFP) – San Diego’s ex-mayor, who resigned amid a wave of sexual harassment complaints, has pleaded guilty to abusing women in his employ Tuesday in a deal aimed at avoiding jail time.

Bob Filner, 70, stepped down in August after being accused of sexually harassing and molesting nearly 20 women while he served as mayor of the California city.

In court Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to three charges, brought by California state: two counts of misdemeanor battery and one count of false imprisonment.

“This conduct was not only criminal, it was also an extreme abuse of power,” said state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“No one is above the law.”

The charges carried possible jail terms of up to four years, but under the terms of the plea deal, Filner is likely to avoid that.

According to the agreement, Filner will have to surrender his mayoral pension from the day the crime was committed, March 6, 2013, through the day he resigned.

The ex-mayor will be under house arrest for three months and remain on probation for three years. He will also be barred from seeking public office ever again, and will be required to undergo psychological treatment during his probation.

If he violates the terms of the agreement, he will have to serve six months in jail.

“This was Mr. Filner’s chance to put all of this behind him. His conduct, he admitted in court, and has admitted, was inappropriate, over the top, and today admitted it was criminal,” said his attorney Jerry Coughlan.

“Mr. Filner profusely apologizes to each person he might have harmed, and this permits the various women to put all of this behind themselves too, and to know that (this) conduct will not occur with anyone else in the future,” Coughlan stressed.

Filner will be formally sentenced on December 9.

He was accused by 18 women of acting inappropriately, though only one, his former communications director, filed a lawsuit.

After the first allegations came to light, Filner admitted to “wrong and inexcusable behavior.” But when he resigned several weeks later, he decried the “hysteria of a lynch mob” surrounding the case and insisted he “never sexually harassed anyone.

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