WASHINGTON – Rep. Bob
Filner's alleged altercation with an airline employee in
Virginia on Sunday, which led to an assault-and-battery
charge against the San Diego Democrat, wasn't his first
such run-in, according to a 2003 Justice Department
The report alleges that Filner went to an immigration
detention facility in El Centro at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22,
2003, and demanded to see a detainee. After officers told
him he could not enter the facility, he slipped past them
into a secure area and refused to leave when ordered to do
so. He then tried unsuccessfully to push his way past
detention officers to get farther inside the facility,
according to the report.
Filner became argumentative and the detention officers
called El Centro police. The police came to the facility,
but no charges were filed, according to the report. Filner
eventually was allowed to visit with the Pakistani
detainee. The congressman apologized to the immigration
officers on his way out of the facility, the report said.
The allegations are similar in nature to those made
after Sunday's Dulles International Airport incident. A
United Airlines baggage employee said Filner pushed his
way past her extended arm and entered a restricted area.
The airport police were summoned. They interviewed Filner,
the airline employee and witnesses, but did not detain
However, the airline employee, whose identity has not
been disclosed, appeared before a Loudon County, Va.,
magistrate later Sunday night and a summons was issued
charging Filner with a misdemeanor count of assault and
Filner, 64, is to appear in court Oct. 2 in connection
with the charge. The eight-term congressman left the
country Monday morning on an official trip to Iraq and it
was unclear if he had been served with the summons before
departing. His office released a statement Monday calling
the charges “ridiculous” and saying he would address them
more fully when he returns.
Amy Pond, his spokeswoman, did not respond to several
calls placed to her yesterday in connection with both
Copley News Service learned of the 2003 report from
Mike Giorgino, a Republican who ran against Filner in
2004, after he read about the alleged Dulles altercation.
An immigration official yesterday said she remembered
the incident in El Centro.
“I recall a report being filed after the incident,”
said Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs
Enforcement in San Diego. She declined to elaborate.
The author of the two-page report, supervisor Juan J.
Ramirez, wrote that he had been summoned by other officers
to the facility's foyer because Filner was there with the
wife of a detainee and two reporters. The group wanted to
see the detainee. Ramirez told Filner he would have to
wait while they obtained permission for him to visit the
detainee, adding that they were seeking it in an
“Congressman Filner did not accept my response and told
me he had the right to see anybody he pleased,” Ramirez
wrote. “He asked me when was the last time I read the
Constitution and then told me if I did not let him see his
constituent, he would have me arrested.”
The report went on to say that later Filner asked a
detention officer, “Are you going to stop me, big man?”
and to another, he asked, “Are you going to shoot me, are
you going to arrest me?”
A short time later, Ramirez wrote, “I saw Congressman
Filner force his way into control area.” Ramirez and seven
other officers tried to persuade Filner to return to the
“I am a congressman and can do whatever I want,”
Ramirez quoted Filner as saying.
When Ramirez headed to his office to call his
supervisor, Filner tried to follow.
“Congressman Filner tried to push his way through the
officers and even tried to go under them, but did not
succeed,” Ramirez wrote.
Eventually, Filner was allowed in to see the detainee.
As he was leaving, he apologized to Ramirez.
“He accepted responsibility for his actions and
admitted handling the situation improperly,” Ramirez