A former San Diego police officer accused of groping and illegally detaining four women must stand trial on felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor sexual battery charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Christopher Hays, 30, faces up to three years and eight months in state prison if convicted.
Following a preliminary hearing that stretched into a second day, Judge Charles Rogers ruled that enough evidence was presented for Hays to proceed to trial on two felony and three misdemeanor counts.
In making his ruling, Rogers found that testimony Tuesday from three of four alleged victims was “credible, truthful and accurate.”
The judge said the women didn’t exaggerate or minimize what happened to them, adding that lightning normally doesn’t strike twice. “Here, we’ve got it striking four times,” he said.
Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong unsuccessfully argued that the felony false imprisonment counts were at most misdemeanors, maintaining that the alleged victims were not held against their will by violence or menace. Armstrong also contended the alleged victims lacked credibility and their stories didn’t make sense.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Irving countered that Hays, as a police officer, held a unique position of trust in the community and the alleged victims were afraid of the consequences if they didn’t comply.
Three women testified Tuesday that they were groped and made to perform inappropriate acts after being contacted and searched by Hays, a four-year SDPD veteran who resigned the day after he was charged in February.
A fourth woman also alleged that Hays groped after her arrest for shoplifting, according to SDPD Detective Cory Gilmore.
Jakema R. testified that Hays contacted her about 4 a.m. Oct. 30 as she waited for a bus on El Cajon Boulevard. The woman said Hays directed her to a dark area behind a building where she was staying and patted her down.
“He’s groping me,” she said, “not missing (any) corner of my body. It was more of a sexual touch. I felt violated. I just wanted it to end as fast as it started.”
She testified that Hays explained his frustrations between how a male officer has to search a female suspect as opposed to a female officer.
The woman said Hays got aroused as he groped her.
“He said he had a wife and kids at home, but he had a thing for black girls,” Jakema testified.
She said Hays asked her to pat him down, then he got in his patrol car and left.
Jakema said she didn’t try report the incident because she has an extensive criminal record and didn’t want any trouble.
Another woman, identified as Melanie W, testified that she was contacted by Hays about 5 a.m. Dec. 23 near 50th Street and El Cajon Boulevard.
The woman, who is homeless, she said got lost while recycling after arguing with her boyfriend. Hays offered her a courtesy ride to a home where she was staying nearby, she said, and told her upon their arrival that he needed to search her.
She said the officer came up from behind her as she approached the front door.
“He was not just searching me,” Melanie said. “He was touching me.”
“Where did he touch you? Deputy District Attorney Annette Irving asked the witness.
“Everywhere,” the woman testified.
Melanie said Hays asked her why she was with a Vietnamese boyfriend and wondered what Asian men had that Caucasian men don’t.
Melanie said she didn’t initially report the incident because she didn’t want any trouble for the people she was staying with and didn’t think anybody would believe her.
A third woman, Amber P., testified that the defendant stopped her and her boyfriend about 11:35 p.m. Dec. 23 as they walked from a bar on El Cajon Boulevard.
Hays confirmed that the couple had been drinking, then gave the boyfriend some money to catch a trolley home, the witness testified.
She said that once her boyfriend was gone, Hays had her pull on her bra and lift it away from her body to make sure she didn’t have anything illegal on her. She said she told Hays she wanted to go home, but he insisted on giving her a ride because she was drunk.
The woman said Hays asked her if she lived alone, and she said yes.
Once at her apartment, Hays followed Amber into her apartment, where a friend was sleeping on a couch, Amber testified. She said Hays was “definitely surprised” to see the woman sleeping on the couch, describing his reaction as “creepy.”
Hays kept “popping” a pair of black plastic or latex gloves on his hands and asked Amber where her bedroom was, she testified. She said she walked back to the bedroom, where Hays told her to put on some pajamas that were on the bed.
“I said, ‘Right now?’ He said yes. I said no.”
Amber said Hays again asked her to shake out her bra again, this time lifting her shirt and exposing her breasts. She said Hays then thrust his hips forward and told her to touch his groin area.
“I thought, I’m going to get hurt if I don’t listen to him,” she said. “I gotta get out of here. He had all the control and all the power.”
Amber said she changed the mood and offered Hays some cookies to take home. She banged some pots in the kitchen and her friend woke up.
As Hays left, he said, “I know where you live. I’ll be back,” Amber testified.
She said she told her friend, called her boyfriend and eventually reported the incident to police.
When contacted by a supervisor three days later, a distraught Hays asked, “If I resign will this all go away?” Gilmore testified Tuesday.
Hays — who remains free on $130,000 bail — will be back in court May 7 for arraignment.
–City News Service