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Pacifica Man Pleads No Contest to Rapes

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Joseph Paul Courtney
Joseph Paul Courtney  (Source:San Mateo County Sheriff's Office)

A Pacifica man accused of drugging and raping more than a dozen other men is expected to serve almost 30 years in prison after pleading no contest in the case.

Joseph Paul Courtney, 33, who had faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, entered his plea Friday, August 11 to charges of 14 felony sexual assaults, including seven counts of sodomy by use of drugs, six counts of sodomy by force or threat while acting in concert, and one count of sodomy of an unconscious person, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Pacifica Police Detective Steve Stump testified at Courtney's preliminary hearing in April that several victims had reported that Courtney had given them GHB. The incidents occurred between June 2008 and July 2016.

During his testimony, Stump gave graphic descriptions of the assaults.

In one incident, he testified, a 23-year-old man said that in September 2015 "several" people sexually assaulted him at Courtney's home. The incident began with the victim having consensual sex with Courtney, who gave him GHB that he "consumed over a span of several hours." He got sick and "lost consciousness" for about three hours.

The victim reported that when he woke up, his hands had been tied to the bed by neckties, "he was being sodomized" by someone he didn't know, and Courtney was forcing his penis into his mouth. He was also vomiting.

Then, Courtney had sex with the victim as he was forced to perform oral sex on the other man, Stump said.

Despite what had happened, the victim stayed at the house, and soon after the incident, he and Courtney masturbated together, Stump said.

Along with his no contest plea Friday, Courtney admitted to allegations he'd committed offenses knowing that he has AIDS. Nine of the victims said they became HIV-positive after their contacts with Courtney, according to prosecutors.

Steven Chase, Courtney's attorney, said that one of the men wasn't diagnosed until a year and a half after he'd been with Courtney.

Asked in an email about why Courtney pleaded no contest, Chase said, "Whenever someone is facing an ungodly amount of years if found guilty of all charges against them, it is best to pursue a settlement that you can live with. ... The prosecution made him an offer that provided a glimmer of hope of getting out before he was an old man."

Case added, "Joseph is a complex young man with a great heart and a kindness that belies the charges against him. A zealous police officer pursued every avenue he could to find cases against Joseph. Trial would have been a crap shoot."

Courtney remains in Redwood City's Maguire Correctional Facility on $10 million bail. His next court date is October 6 for sentencing. He's expected to be sentenced to 30 years in prison, but with credit for good behavior, he could be released after serving 25 and a half years.

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