Pacifica man faces new rape charges
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A San Mateo County man already accused of raping three men has been charged with raping four more men.
Joseph Paul Courtney, 32, of Pacifica, now faces 31 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.
Courtney, who could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, pleaded not guilty to all counts and denied all allegations Wednesday, September 21, according to court documents. He was arrested July 28 and is being held in Redwood City's Maguire Correctional Facility. His bail was raised last Wednesday from $5 million to $10 million.
As he has previously, Steve Chase, Courtney's attorney, suggested in an interview this week that the alleged victims had engaged in sex with his client willingly.
"The DA and I are just trying to wait and see whether this turns out to be a crime, or whether this turns out to be something else," Chase said. He said the charges may have stemmed from "consensual sex."
"It's not like people were dragged off the street and given drugs that they did not ingest voluntarily to have an enhanced sexual experience," he said.
He added, "I don't know whether the new claimants just jumped on the bandwagon after seeing [Courtney's] name in the newspaper," during coverage of the initial charges, "or if they have legitimate beefs."
Chase said he hasn't yet received names or police reports related to the new charges.
"I have no idea where these people came from or what their complaints are, other than the charges are the same for each one," he said. He doesn't know the ages of the victims at the base of the new charges, but he said they're in the 20s to 30s age range.
The earliest date listed in court documents for the alleged incidents is January 2010. The latest is July 2016.
Despite Chase indicating that he and the prosecutor in the case aren't sure whether a crime was committed, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe has expressed no doubt.
Along with the numerous charges recently added to the complaint against Courtney, in a case summary detailing the original counts, Wagstaffe said, "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. On each occasion, [the] defendant 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."
Captain Joseph Spanheimer, a Pacifica police spokesman, said in a news release this summer 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."
Spanheimer has also said that the incidents started in 2007, and police had been investigating Courtney "for almost a year" before his arrest.
In an interview Monday, he said that more victims may be added.
The investigation "is still ongoing," Spanheimer said. "I don't know if anybody's come forward in the last couple weeks."
He couldn't say whether the victims listed in the amended complaint had come forward because of media coverage of Courtney.
Several of the charges would require Courtney to register as a sex offender if he's convicted.
His next court date is November 21 for a preliminary hearing, when a judge will determine if there's enough evidence to hold him for trial.
Courtney has declined an interview request.
Chase said Monday, "Joseph is trying to keep his spirits up. It's hard in jail. It's not the nicest place to be, but he seems to be doing OK."