Potential rape charge delays court date for ARC sextortion suspect

A courtroom sketch of Chris Hirtzel at his hearing on Tuesday. The hearing was pushed back to May 24 as the DA looks to add a rape charge. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. (Courtroom illustration by Allante Morris)

A potential rape charge that the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office says will likely be added to the case of former American River College student Christian Brian Hirtzel, who was arrested on Jan. 22 on 18 counts of six different felonies stemming from sextortion allegations, pushed back his hearing date to May 24.

James Wax, deputy district attorney in the cyber crimes unit, said that an additional accuser came forward between court dates and presented allegations that led the DA to pursue a rape charge.

Wax said the accuser claimed that Hirtzel hacked into online accounts and stole nude photos of her that he then used under a pseudonym to extort her to “have sex with Chris Hirtzel.”

Under his pseudonym, Hirtzel demanded her to videotape herself performing sexual acts with him on several different occasions before eventually having sex with him, Wax said.

Wax added that when Hirtzel was initially approached by the accuser he acted unaware to the situation and said “well, we’re both being extorted, so we should just do it.”

Wax said the rape charge was by duress and being considered because the accusers said that she was coerced into performing sexual acts that she wouldn’t have done otherwise.

In light of these new allegations, the DA requested an increased bail from $100,000 to $250,000. Judge Michael G. Bowman, who presided over the hearing, agreed to the increased bail.

Wax said that the increase in bail was a precautionary measure.

“We haven’t added (the rape charge). It’s likely we may be adding it, but it has to be reviewed,” Wax said. “Based on the new information, we asked for bail to be raised for public safety.”

Wax said that there was a large amount of accusers, but only the nine most provable were used.

With almost all of the cases, Wax said that accusers claimed Hirtzel would often continue to extort them even after they fulfilled his demands and would often still post their photos online.

Wax added that there was theme of “dominance” coming from Hirtzel and he had to let the accusers know that he was “in charge.”

The extortion charges against Hirtzel span across several years, Wax said.

Hirtzel was represented by Sacramento DUI and defense attorney Amber Bellante.

The Current will update this story as more information becomes available.

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Jordan Schauberger
Jordan is a third-semester student on the Current, where he serves as design editor. He is double majoring in journalism and art new media and plans to transfer after graduation.

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