Former Hialeah Gardens Basketball Coach Accused of Molesting Students in New Lawsuit
Two former students are suing the school district after they say they were sexually harassed by Javier Cuenca (left), a former basketball coach at Hialeah Gardens High School.
photos via Miami-Dade Corrections, Google Maps
At Hialeah Gardens High School, Javier Cuenca was a popular assistant basketball coach — until four students told authorities he'd molested them and in some cases given them steroids.
Now two of those former students have filed lawsuits against their former coach, further detailing their claims that he molested them in the summer of 2013.
The suits are the latest black eye for Cuenca, who pleaded guilty to two reduced charges of felony battery in October. Cuenca avoided jail time and was sentenced to two years of probation, which he might be released from as early as next June. He was terminated by the school district in 2013.
Two of those teens, who participated in basketball practices at the school from June to October 2013, filed the complaints in Miami-Dade Circuit Court earlier this month. The lawsuits say Cuenca sexually harassed the students, who both turned 16 that summer. On at least two occasions, the teens say, the coach asked them to expose themselves and then either touched or tried to touch their genitals.
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Reached by phone this week, Cuenca told New Times he had not yet been served with the lawsuits and could not comment on specific allegations. He said he "most definitely" expected to be off probation by July and would be able to share his side of the story then.
"I don't want to ruffle any feathers. I don't want to stir anything up while I'm on probation," said Cuenca, who previously coached and taught math at the charter school Mater Academy.
The lawsuits, both filed by attorney Robert Rogers, also name the Miami-Dade County School Board as a defendant, saying the school system failed to properly vet Cuenca and should have more thoroughly investigated his suitability to be alone around minors.
Rogers was not available for comment this week. A spokeswoman said that in general, the district does not comment on pending litigation. Last year, the district settled for an undisclosed sum with another minor who accused Cuenca of sexual misconduct in a 2014 lawsuit.
Prosecutors hoped to more harshly punish Cuenca but had a tough case to prove because the coach denied any wrongdoing and there were no witnesses to the alleged abuse, according to a memo from the State Attorney's Office.
The memo said there was no guarantee a judge would allow all the accusers to testify in the same trial and expressed concern that if acquitted, Cuenca would "try to 'prove' the boys were liars and possibly return to coaching teenaged boys and repeat this conduct."
As part of his probation, Cuenca is subject to monthly counseling sessions and prohibited from contacting the teens. He is banned from participating in activities where he would be in a position of authority over a minor and cannot reside in a setting with children. No dates have been set for hearings in the new civil cases.
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