gavel.jpgA San Francisco attorney accused of sexually assaulting at least three women he met through Craigslist since March pleaded not guilty earlier this week, prosecutors said today.

Robert Hoffman, 50, faces nine felony charges including rape, forced oral copulation and sexual battery, district attorney’s spokeswoman Erica Terry Derryck said.

Hoffman allegedly sexually assaulted a 36-year-old East Bay woman in March, a 19-year-old San Francisco woman in June and a 25-year-old East Bay woman earlier this month, prosecutors said.

He apparently arranged meetings with all three victims after placing ads in the “Men Seeking Women” section of the popular classified ads website, and each went to his apartment near Aquatic Park where he reportedly became physically aggressive, police and prosecutors said.

Some of the victims tried to leave but were prevented from leaving, and were forced into sexual acts, police said.

Police said they had investigated a possible fourth case, but prosecutors only filed charges involving the three victims.

Hoffman worked as an employment lawyer in the city, Derryck said. Calls to Hoffman Employment Lawyers on Pine Street, where he apparently worked, were not immediately returned today.

He was arrested on Aug. 5 and pleaded not guilty to all charges on Monday.
Hoffman appeared in court this morning to set a date for a preliminary hearing. He did not speak at the hearing.

The preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 31 and is expected to last a day and a half, prosecutors said.

Hoffman remains in custody on $3 million bail. The bail had initially been set at $5 million, but was lowered by a judge after his arraignment.

“Sexual assault is one of the most violent and reprehensible crimes that can be committed, and it takes an incredible amount of strength and fortitude for victims to come forward,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement.

“I thank the men and women of the district attorney’s office and San Francisco Police Department for their ongoing, thoughtful investigation of this case and support of the victims who came forward,” Gascon said.

San Francisco police are asking anyone who may have encountered Hoffman at his apartment or elsewhere to call them at (415) 553-1071.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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