A former San Diego police officer accused of misconduct on the job – including groping and illegally detaining several women – pleaded guilty to several charges Friday.
Prosecutor Annette Irving confirmed that Christopher 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.
With this plea, Irving said Hays faces a maximum of five years behind bars but may wind up being sentenced to about one year. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 26.
An attorney for Hays said the guilty plea was the best deal for him. After this is all said and done, the attorney said Hays plans to move out of San Diego and back to his home state of Arkansas.
At least four women have claimed Hays inappropriately touched and groped them during pat downs while he was on duty.
At his 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 department and said he was not guilty and felt betrayed by the department.
Hays’ case has put the SDPD under fire this year, further marring the department’s image.
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 sexual battery and false imprisonment charges he committed while in uniform as a police officer patrolling the Gaslamp from 2009 to 2011.