City Council approves $250K defense fund for accused groper

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The City Council Tuesday authorized the City Attorney’s Office to set aside as much as $250,000 to retain outside counsel to defend former San Diego police Officer Christopher Hays against any lawsuits filed by women who contend he groped and illegally detained them.

The City Attorney’s Office cited a conflict of interest for its request to hire the law firm of Haight, Brown & Bonesteel.

So far, Hays faces one federal lawsuit involving three plaintiffs. The city defends employees against litigation for their actions while the workers were on duty.

Hays, 30, pleaded guilty Aug. 22 to felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under the color of authority by a peace officer. The ex-officer faces up to a year in jail and probation. He remains free on $130,000 bail pending sentencing on Sept. 26.

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

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 claimed Hays groped her after her arrest for shoplifting, according to SDPD Detective Cory Gilmore.

In other council action today, the panel granted final approval to a zoning plan designed to protect the community character of Ocean Beach, and to an ordinance that will regulate vapor inhalers — also known as e-cigarettes — in the same manner as tobacco products.

“Something we heard from businesses, they actually wanted some amount of certainty in how the city approaches e-cigarettes, because it’s a new industry,” said Councilman Mark Kersey, who guided the ordinance through the council. “From their perspective, if you’re a restaurant owner, if you’re some kind of a business owner, you don’t know how you’re supposed to treat these things.”

The ordinance will require store owners who sell e-cigarettes to obtain a police permit, and prohibit sales of the devices, vaping juice and other paraphernalia through vending machines.

The use of vapor inhalers will be prohibited in the same types of places where people aren’t allowed to smoke — such as restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, parks and beaches. Use of the devices will be allowed in vehicles, e-cigarette shops, vaping lounges, and private residences — except for those licensed as daycare centers that have minors present.

Categories: KUSI