REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (BCN) - A former San Mateo police officer pleaded not guilty today to 22 felonies for five alleged sexual assaults while on duty in 2013 and 2015, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
Noah Winchester, 31, could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty of all 22 counts. He appeared in court this afternoon with his attorney, Michael Rains, who has represented numerous police officers accused of wrongdoing.
Winchester is scheduled to return to court on Monday for a motion to reduce his bail, currently at $3.1 million. He remains in custody, Wagstaffe said.
The charges against Winchester filed last month include kidnapping with intent to commit rape, rape, sexual penetration and oral copulation under color of authority, battery, criminal threats, and forcible sex offenses.
Winchester is accused of assaulting two victims, including a 17-year-old girl, in the Sacramento area in 2013 while he was an officer with the Los Rios Community College Police Department and three women last year in San Mateo County while he was a San Mateo police officer.
He quit the Los Rios department early in 2015 after more than five years to join the San Mateo department, but questions about his conduct in San Mateo arose when a distressed woman was found in Burlingame at about 5:15 a.m. on Oct. 20.
The woman told police that she had been assaulted. Burlingame police referred the case to San Mateo, where Winchester was swiftly placed on leave and the district attorney's office was called in to investigate.
But suspicions about Winchester had already been raised in 2013 while he was still with the Los Rios department. A woman reported an assault in 2013 to Sacramento police, who referred the case to the Los Rios Community
College District, Wagstaffe said.
Los Rios district spokesman Mitchel Benson said in a statement last month, after criminal charges were already filed, that the college was launching its own investigation. He declined to say when the district knew about the 2013 report by Sacramento police or why it was only launching an investigation in July, months after the allegations against Winchester had already become public.
News that Winchester was being investigated for sexual assaults emerged in May, after the San Mateo County investigation had been continuing quietly for months. Winchester resigned his position in February, but it wasn't until July that the details of the alleged assaults were revealed.
Investigators learned of two previous assaults in San Mateo County -- on Sept. 22 and Sept. 15 -- and two in the Sacramento area on Aug. 30, 2013, and July 2, 2013.
In four cases, Winchester is alleged to have raped the women under threat of arresting or incarcerating them. In others, he is accused of sexual battery while the victims are restrained. In one case, he entered the woman's home and raped her there, according to court documents.