Christopher Hays and attorney at the Sept. 26, 2014 sentencing. Photo credit: 10News Live webcam.
Christopher Hays and attorney at the Sept. 26, 2014 sentencing. Photo credit: 10News Live webcam.

Updated: 4:36 p.m. Sept. 26, 2014

A former San Diego police officer who pleaded guilty to groping and illegally detaining four women while on duty was sentenced to one year in jail and three years probation at a hearing at the downtown courthouse Friday.

Christopher Hays, 30, pleaded guilty Aug. 22 to false imprisonment and misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under the color of authority by a peace officer.

Hays — a father of two sons — was ordered to report for custody next Friday.

He broke down and put his head in his hands as Judge Charles Rogers announced the sentence. The defendant’s wife, Erika, sobbed uncontrollably as she left the courtroom. Hays apologized to the victims and his family for any pain he caused, saying “It’s not something I’m very proud of.”

The judge said he was disturbed by the fact that after pleading guilty, Hays told a probation officer that “he didn’t do anything wrong.” Rogers noted Hays’ lack of insight into what happened while acknowledging the defendant’s good qualities.

The judge said the defendant’s victims must have felt “helpless” when confronted by a police officer sworn to protect them.

“I think punishment is warranted,” the judge said.

Three women testified in April that they were groped and forced to perform inappropriate acts after being searched by Hays between October and December of last year. The four-year veteran resigned the day after he was charged in February.

A fourth woman claimed Hays groped her after her arrest for shoplifting, according to SDPD Detective Cory Gilmore.

“Please protect me. He (the defendant) has to know what he did was wrong,” Jane Doe 1 wrote in a letter to the judge.

Another woman, identified as Jane Doe 4, told the judge she has trouble sleeping in her own bed after Hays followed her to her apartment and had her expose her breasts and told her to touch his groin.

“He’s a disgrace to the uniform,” she said.

Deputy District Attorney Annette Irving said Hays was banking on the notion that his victims would never tell what he did to them.

Hays is a former Marine who served in Iraq and whose father-in-law is Assistant San Diego police Chief Mark Jones.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong said Hays did a lot of good and was “not going around trying to victimize people.”

“He’s the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back,” Armstrong said. “He’ll do anything to help people.”

His case is one in a handful involving SDPD officers accused of misconduct in recent years.

The string of SDPD misconduct cases began with ex-Officer Anthony Arevalos. The 18-year veteran was convicted in November 2011 of felony and misdemeanor charges involving five women he pulled over in the Gaslamp Quarter, including multiple counts of sexual battery by restraint, asking for a bribe, and assault and battery by a police officer. He is now in prison.

Hays’ sentencing comes one day after the City Attorney’s Office said that the city will pay $5.9 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by one of Arevalos’ victims. About a dozen settlements have been reached between the city and women connected to the Arevalos case.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said that in all the Arevalos cases combined, including settlement and expenses, the city has had to shell out around $4 million.

On Sept. 16, the City Council authorized the City Attorney’s Office to set aside as much as $250,000 to retain outside counsel to defend Hays against any lawsuits filed by women who contend he groped and illegally detained them.

So far, Hays faces one federal lawsuit involving three plaintiffs. The city defends employees against litigation for their actions while the workers were on duty.

– City News Service