More men say they're victims of alleged Pacifica rapist
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Several more men have come forward saying they're victims of a San Mateo County man who's already charged with raping other men, according to police.
Prosecutors last week charged Joseph Paul Courtney, 32, of Pacifica, with numerous felony counts including sodomy by use of force, sodomy by anesthesia or use of a controlled substance, sodomy of an unconscious victim, possession of child pornography, second degree robbery, and allegations that he tied or bound his victims.
The district attorney's complaint also includes an allegation that Courtney committed the alleged offenses knowing that he has AIDS.
Captain Joseph Spanheimer, a Pacific police spokesman, said Monday that five or six more victims have come forward since police announced Courtney's arrest July 28. Police are "working closely" with the San Mateo County District Attorney's office and new charges may be filed, he said.
"As far as I know, they're all men," Spanheimer said of the people Courtney's accused of victimizing. He said some were minors when the alleged incidents occurred.
Courtney, who's in custody in Redwood City's Maguire Correctional Facility on $5 million bail, already faces the possibility of life in prison based on his current charges. He hasn't entered a plea. His next court date has been set for September 12 in order "to see whether additional charges involving additional victims will be filed," according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
"On three separate occasions involving three separate male victims, [Courtney] met with the victim for consensual sex twice at his residence and once at a Comfort Suites Motel," Wagstaffe said in a case summary.
"On each occasion," Wagstaffe continued, Courtney "drugged the victims with GHB (date rape drug) and other drugs, knocking them unconscious."
Additionally, the DA said, Courtney "and unidentified male associates proceeded to have sex with the unconscious victims and on one occasion showed the victim the video recording of the unconscious sex by multiple men."
In an email, Spanheimer said, "While the identities of other suspects are being developed, we are not able to release any names or descriptions as doing so may compromise the investigation."
The charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred in May, September, November, and December 2015, but Spanheimer said that the incidents started in 2007, and police had been investigating Courtney "for almost a year" before his arrest.
Spanheimer said in a news release that, "Investigators found that Courtney often used websites and smartphone 'apps' to contact his victims," and that he'd "also had contact with minor males for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse."
Several of the charges would require Courtney to register as a sex offender if he's convicted.
Steven Chase, Courtney's attorney, said in an interview, "The charges sound horrible, but when looked at in view of the facts," there's a "very, very gray area."
"I'm not sure that a crime has been committed," Chase said.
"From what I can tell," he said, the case involves "people engaging in indiscriminate sexual behavior, the kind of which we saw more in the 1960s than you see now," and people "voluntarily engaging in the use of drugs."
"Once a police department gets involved in something like this, it tends to become a witch hunt," Chase said, with people coming out of the woodwork saying, "Me too, me too."
He declined to say whether Courtney identifies as gay, but he said, "I think what's driving these charges is homophobia. I believe that as great advances as we've made in the last few years for the rights of gay individuals. ... The fear of them still is pervasive, particularly in a small town like Pacifica. Take that for what it's worth."
Chase said he'd seen police reports on the three incidents Courtney is currently charged in, and "a bunch" of text messages involving "conversations back and forth." He declined to share details of what's in the texts.
"There's much more coming," he said. "There's supposed to be 3,200 pages of text messages I haven't seen."
Courtney is "a kind and thoughtful person," Chase said. Asked how his client's doing, he said, "He appears to be depressed. He's very concerned about his family," and his dog. He added that Courtney's "been quite forthcoming with me in everything I've asked him."
He wouldn't say what Courtney's told him about what happened.
Asked in an email whether it's accurate that Courtney is living with AIDS, Chase responded, "I can't comment on any health condition my client may or may not have ... for a variety of reasons, including [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] issues. That is something for the prosecution to prove, if they can."
Courtney declined an interview request with the Bay Area Reporter made through a deputy at the Redwood City jail Friday.
A woman at a house in the 700 block of Saint Lawrence Court in Pacifica that's listed as Courtney's address told the B.A.R. , "I'm not going to talk to you."
A man who was in a house a couple doors down said Courtney's "a nice kid" who "always waved," but he declined to comment further and wouldn't give his name.
Police say people with information in the case can call (650) 738-7314 and ask for an investigator or call the tip line at (650) 359-4444.