More accusers come forward in SDPD officer groping case - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

More accusers come forward in SDPD officer groping case

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SDPD Officer Christopher Hays SDPD Officer Christopher Hays

SAN DIEGO (CNS/CBS 8) - Two more accusers are coming forward in the sexual assault case against a San Diego Police Department officer.

Officer Christopher Hays, a four-year SDPD veteran, turned himself in about 1:30 p.m. Sunday at a sheriff's substation on Rancho Bernardo Road, per an agreement between the District Attorney's Office, the San Diego Police Department and his attorney.

The 30-year-old former Marine and married father of two -- whose father-in-law is Assistant San Diego police Chief Mark Jones -- posted bail shortly after being booked into jail on suspicion two counts of felony false imprisonment and three misdemeanor sexual battery counts, according to jail records. He is scheduled to be arraigned on February 18.

If convicted, he faces 7 1/2 years behind bars, San Diego police Lt. Kevin Mayer said.

If the allegations are proven to be true, "this would be a termination case," SDPD Chief William Lansdowne said.

No charges have been filed. The case remains under review, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Hays had been under investigation on suspicion of improperly touching women while detaining them for various reasons, ranging from a domestic violence call to a suspected shoplifting incident, according to SDPD officials.

He has been on paid leave since the first allegation arose in late December. In mid-January, the case was forwarded to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, which was tasked with reviewing it and filing charges. He has since been placed on unpaid leave.

Four alleged victims told investigators that Hays, assigned to the Mid-City Division, improperly touched them through their clothing, with no "skin-to-skin contact," Lansdowne said last week.

Two other cases remained under investigation -- one which allegedly involved sexual contact, Lansdowne said. Attorney Dan Gilleon is representing one of those new accusers, who claims Hays used intimidation and threats to force her into performing a sex act in his patrol car.

"He could be looking at more charges with the fifth and sixth victim," Lansdowne said.

Gilleon says Hays was a predator who went after women with questionable pasts, knowing they'd never be believed if they came forward.

"For example, I hear that one of the four (accusers) was a prostitute, I hear one of the four was homeless," Gilleon said.

Lansdowne said the investigation into the allegations was thorough from when the first accuser stepped forward in late December. Investigators also reviewed Hays' cases over the past four years. However, many of the cases showed contact but no name, Lansdowne said.

It was the second time in three years that a member of the San Diego Police Department has been accused of sexual misconduct with female detainees.

In 2011, then-Officer Anthony Arevalos was accused of sexually assaulting five women during traffic stops for suspected drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter. He was later convicted and sentenced to almost nine years in prison and is currently seeking a new trial. So far, the city has agreed to pay out $2.3 million to settle lawsuits filed by Arevalos' victims.

The attorney for Arevalos during his criminal trial says the public needs to keep an open mind about the Hays case.

"There is going to need to be hard evidence that these accusers are telling the truth, it can't be just their word," said Gretchen von Helms.

The criminal defense attorney says the alleged victims who came forward or admitted after the investigation surfaced need to be carefully looked at to see if why they waited to come forward; were ashamed or if they have something to gain.

"This is a difficult situation all the way around for both for the public, for these women who have come forward, for the police officers but not just this police officer but all police officers who have to deal with this in their work," said von Helms.

Chief Lansdowne says right now these are allegations but will be thoroughly investigated and if the claims are true the officer will be held accountable.

"I've been asked about officer Arevalos, he's in prison because this department investigated that case and put him in prison and this officer if the allegations are proved to be true will go to prison," he said. 

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