By KAREN VELIE
A federal grand jury indicted a former San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy on federal criminal charges on Tuesday alleging he abused a female inmate and then obstructing a probe into his actions by lying about the incident in an official sheriff’s office report, the Justice Department announced today.
Joshua Fischer, 40, of Grover Beach is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of falsification of records. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
From Jan. 2017 through Dec. 2018, 40-year-old Joshua Fischer of Grover Beach worked as a SLO County Sheriff’s Office senior correctional deputy.
On Nov. 18, 2018, Fischer allegedly assaulted a bare chested female inmate who had exited her cell, and then returned to her cell. After the inmate returned to her cell, Fischer allegedly grabbed her from behind by her hair while she was still topless and dragged her on the ground into another cell.
Fischer then falsified a SLO County sheriff’s incident report by including false statements that the victim had thrown her shirt on the ground after removing it outside her cell, that she yelled and flailed her arms while re-entering her cell, and that Fischer “was in fear for the safety of the other female arrestee in the cell” because the victim was “still without her shirt, yelling and flailing her arms,” the indictment alleges.
However, the victim did not throw her shirt on the ground after removing it outside the cell, she was not flailing her arms around as she re-entered her cell, but instead her arms were by her side and then near her bare chest when Fischer assaulted her, according to the indictment.
If convicted of both charges, Fischer faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison on the deprivation of rights count and 20 years in federal prison for the falsification of records count.
The FBI investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas F. Rybarczyk of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and Frances S. Lewis of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting this case.
For years, the SLO County Jail has been dogged with allegations of civil rights abuses against inmates and of failures to follow state and federal rules and regulations.
In Jan. 2017, the county violated multiple rules and regulations in the treatment of Andrew Holland, a mentally ill man who died after being strapped in a restraint chair for two days in the SLO County Jail.
Following Holland’s death, the county paid a $5 million settlement to his parents and agreed to make multiple changes at the jail. Those changes included restricting the amount of time inmates can be locked in the rubber room to 72 hours, discontinuing use of the restraint chair and decreasing the amount of time it takes for the transfer of an inmate who has been court ordered to a mental health facility.
More than a year after the FBI mounted a criminal investigation into alleged civil rights abuses of inmates at the jail following Holland’s death, in 2018, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into how the sheriff’s department is complying with federal laws.
In 2021, SLO County agreed to pay a former inmate $175,000 and to correct violations of the American’s with disabilities Act that led the inmate to suffer a broken leg, according to an agreement finalized on June 23 between the United States and SLO County.
An inmate with a prosthetic leg alleged that as a result of being forced to use inaccessible facilities, he repeatedly fell. One of these falls caused him to fracture the femur bone in his partially amputated leg.
“This agreement does not affect any other civil or criminal investigations that the United States is currently conducting or may conduct of SLO County under the ADA or any other federal laws,” according to the agreement.