Ex-SDPD officer pleads guilty to assault

SAN DIEGO - A former San Diego police officer who groped and illegally detained four women while on duty pleaded guilty Friday to felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under the color of authority by a peace officer.

Christopher Hays, 30, faces up to a year in jail and will be placed on probation at a hearing Sept. 26.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong said Hays pleaded guilty under a section of the law that allows a defendant to plead guilty not because he committed the crimes but because it was in his best interest.

Before the plea bargain, Hays was looking at nearly four years in prison if convicted.

"This was the best deal for him," Armstrong said outside court. The attorney noted Hays is looking forward to moving back to his home state of Arkansas.

Hays was initially arrested Feb. 9 on two counts of felony false imprisonment and three counts of misdemeanor sexual battery in connection with four alleged victims, all women in their late 20s to late 30s, who claim they were victimized between October and December 2013. They told investigators that Hays, assigned to the Mid-City Division, improperly touched them through their clothing.

The investigation into Hays began in late December 2013. Since his arrest, a total of nine accusers have come forward. The allegations of misconduct date back to August 2012. Hays resigned Feb. 19.

Three women testified in April that they were groped and forced 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 said Hays groped her after her arrest for shoplifting, according to SDPD Detective Cory Gilmore.

Hays remains free on $130,000 bail pending sentencing. He is a former Marine and married father of two. His father-in-law is assistant San Diego police Chief Mark Jones.

Hays' sentence is light compared to former SDPD officer, Anthony Arevalos. In 2012, Arevalos was sentenced to almost nine years in prison for demanding sexual favors from women he pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter.

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