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Ex-Cop Avoids Sex Offender Status In Plea Bargain Over Nude Romp

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John Fox Jr. (courtesy Riverside County Sheriff's Department)

John Fox Jr. (courtesy Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)

INDIO (CBS) — A former Cathedral City police officer accused of jumping naked into a pool and making unwanted sexual advances toward several women pleaded guilty on Friday to a misdemeanor charge of lewd conduct.

The plea agreement allowed John Fox Jr. to avoid facing more serious charges, including attempted penetration by a foreign object and indecent exposure, the latter of which requires sex offender registration.

After heading into the pool naked in September, Fox was accused in a declaration in support of an arrest warrant of touching one of the women’s genital areas and other inappropriate behavior.

Attorney Susanne Cho maintained throughout the criminal proceedings that prosecutors had been excessive in filing charges.

“The very fact that the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the four counts is obvious he did not do the crimes alleged,” she said. “It made sense to resolve the case, otherwise we would have to be in court for many months ahead to be completely vindicated.”

Fox, who was relieved of his duties as a police officer in November, is scheduled to be sentenced June 17. He could face several months in prison based on the lewd conduct charge but likely will be allowed to avoid jail time, Cho said.

Deputy District Attorney Kristi Hester said she would reserve comment on the case until Fox is sentenced.

Fox was being prosecuted for allegedly stripping off his uniform and jumping into a pool with a group of women while investigating a loud noise complaint at a Cathedral City house around 4 a.m. on Sept. 29.

Cho said her client was open to a plea agreement in order to move on from the incident.

“Given everything going on, Mr. Fox wanted to close this chapter in his life,” the attorney said. “He is very sorry to his family and his former colleagues and he doesn’t want it to go on.”

Cho said prosecutors agreed to the plea bargain because Fox’s activities were welcomed by the women.

“The District Attorney’s Office reviewed all recordings and all statements of all the witnesses and determined the conduct was inherently consensual,” she said.

After the victim — who had been drinking several beers with her friends — jokingly asked Fox to come into the pool, he stripped and entered the water, wrote senior investigator Susan Zappia in the arrest declaration.

Fox then told the victim it was “her turn to take her clothes off” and the victim, who told investigators she felt “pressured,” voluntarily removed her tank top, Zappia wrote.

Fox then tried to hug and grab the victim, while she pushed him away, Zappia wrote. He then touched her inappropriately with his hand in several areas and his genital areas came into contact with her as well, Zappia wrote.

The owner of the home, who was not swimming, called 911 to report the naked officer, he said. Fox put his clothes back on and left before other officers arrived, according to the public information officer.

In exchange for Fox’s guilty plea to a count of lewd conduct, prosecutors dismissed four other charges against him, including felony counts of attempted penetration by a foreign object, assault by a police officer and indecent exposure as well as a misdemeanor count of sexual battery.

“It is undisputed Mr. Fox disrobed and was invited into the pool, which is the basis for the misdemeanor conduct,” Cho said. “Obviously it is inappropriate because he is a police officer, but it’s not necessarily a
crime.”

Fox had been out of custody since his arrest, having posted $25,000 bail.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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