Two South Florida police officers are now on the wrong end of the arrest docket, accused of using their power for sex and a strange enjoyment of being kicked in the testicles. A veteran officer of the Lauderhill Police Department allegedly pulled a car over with two women inside who were leaving a strip club about 4 a.m., according to a report in the Miami Herald. The officer, Franklin Hartley, said he was going to arrest them, but inside had them drive and follow him behind a business, the newspaper reported. He called another officer, Thomas Merenda, to meet him there, too, according to the newspaper.
Hartley is accused of telling the woman she could be arrested as he kissed and fondled her, eventually ordering her to have sex – which she did, the newspaper reported. Merenda then allegedly took his turn, fondling the women, and asking one to punch or kick him in the groin, which Hartley assured the women Merenda enjoyed. Hartley is charged with two counts of unlawful compensation, while Merenda faces one count. The second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, is for public officials receiving an improper benefit – generally money or a special favor, but it also applies to sexual favors in this case. Both also face a misdemeanor battery charge, the newspaper reported. Both men turned themselves in to police last week and are out on bond – and on unpaid leave from the police department – while the cases resolve.
Allegations of police using their power for sex are not entirely uncommon, though they do not often result in criminal charges. The officers in this Florida Sex Crimes case, through their attorneys, have proclaimed their innocence. But the state says investigators found a pair of orange panties at the scene one of the women said belonged to her, and have GPS records from both officers’ vehicles placing them in the parking lot for about 90 minutes during the time of the alleged assaults, the newspaper reported. Now, officers do park their cars for extended periods of time and catch up on writing reports and such, but the timing appears to be suspicious.
Other Florida DUI Attorneys will be closely watching how this case plays out against these two officers. Drivers, especially women, who have DUI cases in which either Hartley or Merenda was the arresting officer will no doubt be paying attention. Regardless of how the criminal case turns, the ethics and credibility of both officers can now be questioned in court and there could soon be cases where defendants say they were arrested because they would not comply with demands for sexual favors. The case is already ugly for this South Florida police department, and has the potential to get much worse. But the reality is officers must be beyond reproach when it comes to making arrests. Decisions should be made on the law alone and defendants should all be treated the same way. When they are not, it is fair game for a Florida DUI attorney to question the officer’s motive in defending his or her client.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.