SAN DIEGO (CN) — A woman claims in court that San Diego deterred her from suing it for her abuse by a sexually predatory policeman by telling her that filing a lawsuit would make her look “greedy.”
Melanie Wilson sued the city and former police Officer Christopher R. Hays on May 13 in Federal Court.
Hays pleaded guilty in August 2014 to false imprisonment and misdemeanor counts of assault and battery against four women while on duty. Three women testified at trial that Hays groped them. He served 5 months in jail and was released in March 2015, according to City News Service. The city paid nearly $ 1 million to settle claims against Hays, according to City News Service. He now lives in Arkansas.
Hays is the son-in-law of current Assistant Chief Mark Jones, a 30-year veteran of the force. During his time at the police academy, Hays’ field training officer told supervisory officials that Hays’ performance was “well below average” and he should not be hired, according to the complaint.
Wilson claims that Jones used his influence to prevent the academy from “washing out” his son-in-law. She says the department learned of Hays’ misconduct in January or February 2014: that he would “illegally and forcibly solicit and/or obtain sexual favors from women he dealt with during the course of performing his duties as a police officer.”
Wilson says Hays encountered her in the early morning of Dec. 23, 2013, as she was collecting items to recycle, offered her a ride home, and then claimed he had to search her, and did, groping her the while: “touching her breasts and vagina, and lingering over every part of her body.”
Hays then talked to her for 90 minutes, told her he was a “cool cop,” asked her what color underwear she was wearing, “boasted about his sexual actions in bed,” and other sexually aggressive topics, Wilson says.
She says she did not report him because she feared no one would believe her. She did report it when police detectives contacted her in early 2014. Wilson says she cooperated with the District Attorney’s Office investigation of Hays, but city officials discouraged her from filing a lawsuit.
“Wilson did not know, nor would a reasonable person in her circumstances have known until April 2016, the city and the SDPD had engaged in the practices or committed the failures, as alleged in this complaint, that caused Hays to commit the misconduct and crimes, and/or that she was injured as a result of the city’s and the SDPD’s policies and procedures or failure in policies and procedures,” the complaint states.
The complaint rehearses similar city reactions to other abusive officers, such as Anthony Arevalos, who served four years in prison for sexually assaulting women during traffic stops.
Wilson claims San Diego police have an “unwritten SDPD policy that encourages a two-tiered system of justice,” included not ticketing SDPD officers, fixing tickets when they are cited, and discouraging officers from reporting police misconduct.
A 100-page study of the SDPD released last year by the Police Executive Research Forum found no single department policy led to the arrest of nine SDPD officers accused of sexual misconduct on duty, but that a “number of weaknesses” contributed to it.
Wilson’s attorney Dan Gilleon said victims are victimized again when investigating officers “discourage lawsuits against their own.”
“Hays dodged a bullet when the district attorney allowed him to plead guilty to battery by cop instead of sexual battery,” Gilleon said in an interview.
“Now he gets to run to Arkansas without a sex offense on his record. This lawsuit will set the record straight.”
The City Attorney’s Office declined comment.
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