A former Los Rios police officer was arrested late July on suspicion of multiple sexual assaults, some that date back to his time at American River College, prosecutors said.
Noah Winchester, 32, was taken into custody on charges that he sexually assaulted five victims while on duty, according to San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe as reported by the L.A. Times.
Winchester faces 22 felony charges, including kidnapping with intent to commit rape, rape, sexual penetration and oral copulation under color of authority, sexual battery, criminal threats and forcible sex offenses, Wagstaffe said.
According to CBS SF Bay Area, investigators said he would pull over young women, tell them they did something wrong and he’d arrest them unless they had sex with him.
“They did what we teach people to do, which is follow the directions of a law enforcement officer,” said Wagstaffe. “Not knowing that they were about to be victimized by someone who was putting a dark stain on that badge.”
Winchester was with LRPD from Jan. 1, 2009, to Jan. 16, 2015 before transferring to San Mateo P.D.
During his last two years, he was assigned to American River College, said Los Rios Community College public information officer Mitchel Benson according to the L.A. Times.
“We are appalled to think they could be true,” Benson said.
Benson said the charges were shocking, and that college officials are launching an independent investigation into the allegations.
“If these allegations are proven to be true, that would be horrific for the women who were victimized,” Benson said. “Such criminal behavior is contrary to the core values and mission of the Los Rios Community College District, our Police Department and the good men and women of Los Rios who work so hard to establish relationships and partnerships of trust and service across the four Los Rios Colleges and throughout the greater Sacramento region.”
The San Mateo district attorney began the investigation last fall after initial accusers came forward claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Winchester during his time as an officer for the LRPD, according to ABC7.
Michael Rains, a well-known Bay Area defense lawyer, is Winchester’s attorney. Rains has represented high profile clients such as Barry Bonds during his doping trial and Johannes Mehserle, the BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant.
“Countless times where one witness makes an allegation, others hear about it,” said Rains to CBS SF Bay Area. “And then we all of a sudden have a flurry of allegations, some of which turn out to be true in some cases. Many times, they turn out to be false.”
Winchester pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in early August and his next scheduled court appearance is Nov. 15, 2016.