SAN DIEGO - A San Diego police officer accused of using his badge to gain sexual favors used fear to get what he wanted, the attorney of one of the alleged victims told 10News in an interview on Monday.
Local attorney Dan Gilleon said Christopher Hays—a four-year member of the San Diego Police Department who is accused of groping female suspects during searches—"victimized" his client, and his fellow officers, through his alleged actions. 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."
"He came in contact with her, got her in his car in the front seat and drove her home," Gilleon said. "And outside her house is where he said 'listen, either do this or things are going to be bad for you.' And the way she took it was that she was going to go to jail. So basically oral sex or jail. And she chose oral sex."
Gilleon said the woman told her family about the incident, but didn't feel that anyone else would believe her. He said it wasn't until she saw Hays' picture on her Facebook news feed, from a 10News post, that she recognized who he was and decided to come forward.
"So she called police and they didn't get back to her," Gilleon said. "Now I don't know who she talked to, but you would think that would be a hot item for them to get back to her on."
Gilleon said that was surprising, in his opinion, especially in light of the conviction of another officer, Anthony Arevalos, for sexual misconduct. 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.
Gilleon said the allegations against Hays are worse.
"It's a bad one," Gilleon said. "As far as I know, Anthony Arevalos didn't do anything like this."
As far as why the woman would agree to such a thing, Gilleon said it was all about fear.
"If you're in a car with a guy who is willing to do this, what else is he willing to do? And at that moment it was just a judgment call," Gilleon said.
Hays, 30, 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.
Gilleon said he will wait to see if the District Attorney's Office files additional charges Monday but expects other women to come forward.
If convicted, 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.
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. He was being held in lieu of $130,000 bail.
"Mr. Hays victimized my client, obviously, but he also victimized his fellow officers," Gilleon said. "This is an honorable position and he didn't treat it that way."
"I can tell you this stuff happens all the time. It's been happening forever," Gilleon said. "Police have a lot of power and when you get bad people - there are bad people in every industry - when you give them guns and badges what they can do is much more harmful than the rest of us."
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."