A former San Diego Police Department officer who admitted to misconduct on the job – including assault, battery and illegally detaining several women – cried as he addressed a judge at his sentencing Friday.
“I would like to say that I am sorry for anything I have done that has caused anyone pain,” Christopher Hays said, holding back tears.
“I have always tried to help people and do good, so now that I have hurt someone, it’s not something that I am very proud of," he continued.
Hays, 30, pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment as well as misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under the color of authority by a peace officer on Aug. 22.
With that plea, prosecutors said the ex-cop faced a maximum of five years behind bars but would likely be sentenced to about one year.
Such was the case Friday as a judge sentenced Hays to one year in county jail, plus three years of probation.
At least four women came forward after Hays allegedly inappropriately touched and groped them during pat downs while he was on duty.
In May, NBC 7 spoke with Hays’ wife, Erika Hays, who defended his innocence and said she would continue to stand by her husband.
At his sentencing, Hays spoke about how much he's hurt his family amid this ordeal, and how much he loves his wife and children.
“I am so sorry for what my family has had to endure. I know I have caused them a great deal of pain and suffering, which is something I never wanted to [do],” he said, crying.
“My boys mean the world to me and I will work every day to set an example and also to make them proud. This especially pains me to know how much my wife has gone through because of this. I am so blessed to have her by my side. I love her so much,” Hays added.
The ex-cop said he looks forward to moving past this, building a career and being able to provide for his family again some day.
Prosecutor Annette H. Irving said she was pleased with the judge's sentencing, calling it "just and fair." She said Hays is an example of one bad apple, not at all a reflection of the entire San Diego Police Department.
Brian Watkins, attorney for one of Hays' victims, said that while his client is relieved Hays will be held accountable for his actions, no amount of time in jail will fix the trauma she endured at the hands of the officer.
“Like any victim of sexual assault, she’s very devastated by it. The fact that this guy is an officer makes things worse,” said Watkins.
The attorney said Hays has showed little compassion towards his victims.
“Officer Hays is disturbed. He expressed no remorse towards the victims and apologized only to his family,” Watkins added.
Hays' attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said his client is still coming to terms with all that has transpired.
“He’s lived his whole life never being in trouble. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that he’s pleaded these charges,” said Armstrong after the sentencing.
Armstrong said that, with good behavior, Hays could possibly get out of jail in six months and begin a new life with his family. Armstrong said Hays plans to eventually move out of San Diego and back to his home state of Arkansas with his wife and kids, where he may pursue a new career as a welder.
At Hays’ preliminary hearing in April, three alleged victims identified only as Jane Doe One, Two and Three described their interactions with the officer in uniform.
Jane Doe Two said Hays allegedly gave her a pat down that included lingering over every part of her body. Jane Doe Three accused Hays of dropping his hand towards his groin and asking her to touch his body.
Hays – a four-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department – was charged with the misconduct crimes in February. Hours after his arraignment, he resigned from the SDPD, saying he was not guilty. He said he felt betrayed by the department.
Hays’ case has put the SDPD under fire this year, further marring the department’s image, which has faced a wave of public scrutiny for quite some time.
When news broke of the alleged sexual misconduct crimes, then-Chief William Lansdowne ordered an outside audit of the police department from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Lansdowne’s successor, Chief Shelley Zimmerman, supported the audit.
“We are not going to tolerate this misconduct and betrayal of our badge and our profession,” Zimmerman said in March.
In addition to Hays, SDPD Officer Donald Moncrief was accused earlier this year of touching a woman inappropriately during an arrest in the South Bay and allegedly exposing himself to the woman.
Moncrief was never formally charged and left his job with the SDPD. In late April, he filed a claim against the city and the SDPD seeking damages for defamation, among other things.
Meanwhile, former San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos is currently serving prison time for multiple felony counts of sexual battery, assault and asking for bribes while in uniform as a police officer patrolling the Gaslamp from 2009 to 2011.
On Thursday, attorneys and city officials announced that a San Diego woman who was victimized by Arevalos will receive $5.9 million in a legal settlement negotiated between the victim and the City of San Diego.
The woman, known only as “Jane Doe,” filed a claim of police misconduct after an interaction with then-officer Arevalos inside a 7-Eleven store bathroom on March 8, 2011.
According to prosecutors, Arevalos conducted a routine traffic stop on Jane Doe and then suggested the two of them go into the nearby convenience store. The two entered the restroom with the agreement that she would give him her panties, and in exchange he would not charge her for a DUI.
Jane Doe's lawsuit was one of 13 filed by victims of Arevalos, who was convicted in November 2011.