FBI agents walked into Hialeah’s police department Friday morning and arrested a decorated officer who has faced allegations over the past four years that he sexually assaulted and threatened four girls and women.
By the afternoon, federal prosecutors had charged the man with violating the civil rights of two women, one a minor, by unlawfully detaining them and pressuring them for sex while working as a police officer. He is also accused of threatening them with the use of a dangerous weapon, his police-issued firearm.
In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami said the man had directed a minor to remove her clothing “for his own sexual gratification.” Prosecutors said the man exposed himself to a second victim and “grabbed” her. He was also on duty at the time.
Later in the day, Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velázquez called a news conference to announce that the man would be “terminated from employment with the Hialeah Police Department immediately.”
The minor referenced in the charges is now 22. She sued the man and the city.
The two-count civil rights indictment carries up to life in prison — because of a “kidnapping” factor — on the first charge and up to 10 years on the second. Following a hearing in federal court, the 32-year-old former officer received a $250,000 bond. He faces an arraignment hearing on Wednesday. He must surrender his firearms and concealed weapons permit.
The man was involved in an earlier investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in 2016, when prosecutors declined to file sexual battery and false imprisonment charges against him. But the FBI’s public integrity squad took up the case, focusing on whether he used his authority as a police officer to pressure the girls and women into having sex with him.
The long-running allegations against the former officer gained new attention in November when the Herald published an investigation into how the police chief and state prosecutors handled his case. The Herald investigation determined that the lead prosecutor for the state attorney’s office did not interview three of the four accusers and lost portions of the case file. It also found that the chief brought the man back to active duty before he was formally cleared and did not discipline him despite sustaining an internal affairs complaint.
In 2015, four women and girls accused the former officer of sexual abuse, including a teenage girl who said he forced her to perform oral sex on him when she was 14 years old.
Two alleged victims said the former officer pressured them for sex in separate incidents. A fourth woman said he handcuffed her and sexually assaulted her while masturbating in his police truck, according to hundreds of pages of law enforcement public records obtained by the Herald. The woman died months after telling police that the former officer had assaulted her. Miami-Dade Police Department detectives concluded she jumped out of a moving car while intoxicated.
The former officer had been relieved of duty in 2015 while Hialeah’s internal affairs investigators probed the allegations and the state attorney’s office considered filing charges. IA detectives apparently discovered that the former officer had brought eight other women into the station without filing reports, a violation of departmental policy.
Ultimately, state prosecutors declined to bring charges, saying the victims would not be reliable witnesses in court and that there was no corroborating evidence. The former officer was reinstated as a patrol officer and was also given a raise.
The former officer was relieved of duty again earlier this year and assigned desk work while the FBI was conducting its investigation.
Sexual assault allegations, especially involving a decorated officer and minors, are taken very seriously. If you have been charged with sexual assault, your first call should be to a Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer. A conviction of a sex crime will follow you around for the rest of your life. By ensuring that you have legal representation from the start of your case, you can be assured that you have someone strongly advocating on your behalf and making sure your rights are protected. Our Miami Sexual Assault Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can represent you during all interrogations and strategize a powerful defense in the event your case goes to trial.
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If you were falsely accused of sexual assault, you are likely terrified of the legal process ahead of you. The unfortunate truth is that your life may be significantly impacted in numerous ways. However, by responding quickly and efficiently with our Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys by your side, you may be able to confront the allegations head on and eventually put this whoel misunderstanding behind you.
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