Attorney says officer denies accusations of sexual misconduct

SAN DIEGO - The attorney for San Diego police Officer Christopher Hays says his client denies the accusations against him.

Hays was booked into jail Sunday on suspicion of two counts of felony false imprisonment and three misdemeanor sexual battery counts filed in connection with four other alleged victims, all women in their late 20s to late 30s, according to San Diego police officials and jail records.

Hays' attorney, Richard L. Pinckard, released the following statement, which read in part:

"Making a detailed statement without the benefit of the facts is neither prudent nor conducive to the fair and effective administration of justice. I am confident that most intelligent people reasonably understand that accusations are not evidence, regardless of how salacious the accusations might be.

In the days and weeks to come, we will be carefully reviewing the information gathered during the police investigation with a specific focus on the credibility and motivations of the people providing the information.

What I know at this point is that Officer Hays denies the allegations. He is a decorated officer, having demonstrated selfless courage by entering a burning house and rescuing people from inside. The character traits for that level of valor are wholly inconsistent with the nature of these allegations."

In 2012, Hays was hailed as a hero by the Burn Institute for saving a woman's life. Hays was first on the scene and charged through a burning apartment building to save her.

"Hays scrambled up the stairs to bring her out the front door as the flames continued to advance toward him. He somehow managed to get through the heat. He then grabbed the frightened woman," a statement from the group read.

If convicted of the allegations against him, Hays would face 7 1/2 years behind bars, San Diego police Lt. Kevin Mayer said. If the allegations were proven to be true, "this would be a termination case," San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said.

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 involved sexual contact, Lansdowne said.

Attorney Dan Gilleon represents a sixth accuser in the case. Gilleon said his client, who came forward over the weekend, was forced to give Hays oral sex in October 2012 after he pulled her over. Gilleon said she felt "humiliated and degraded but didn't think anyone would believe her."

Gilleon said there were warning signs, though, that he claims were ignored because Hays' father-in-law is an assistant chief with the police department.

"We know that Mr. Hays had a serious problem in the academy," Gilleon said. "At the academy the training officers zeroed in on Hays and said, 'This guy shouldn't be in the force.' That check and balance is really important to make sure bad cops don't get into the force. They weed them out first. That was overridden because of the nepotism, essentially."

Hays 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.

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