Cheryl Wolosz tells me she feels sick. "I just threw up," she says, her voice trembling over the phone. "They told me he's coming back to work next week. I cannot believe this is happening. They are not going to do anything about him. He shouldn't be a cop."
Wolosz is talking about North Miami Police Det. Fred St. Amand, the department's 1998 Officer of the Year and its highest-ranking Haitian-American officer. St. Amand has been hailed as a hero who has risked his life in dangerous undercover assignments. Last year, for instance, he spent nearly 30 hours in a cat-and-mouse game with a group of kidnappers who were holding four children for ransom. St. Amand worked undercover, posing as a friend of the children's family, and eventually secured their release after a shootout that left one of the kidnappers dead.
According to Wolosz, however, there is another side to St. Amand. She claims he sexually harasses women and has committed lewd and lascivious acts in front of her. On three separate occasions, she maintains, St. Amand has exposed himself and masturbated in her presence. "Three times he's masturbated and ejaculated in front of me," says Wolosz, who is a code-enforcement officer with the City of North Miami.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is now pursuing the allegations, which came to light approximately six weeks ago. Last month investigators tore up portions of carpeting from the office inside the police station where Wolosz and St. Amand work. Sources say the carpet samples have tested positive for semen. Investigators have asked St. Amand to provide a blood sample so a DNA comparison could be made, but the detective has refused.
At least three other women have come forward to give statements to the State Attorney's Office, claiming they have been sexually harassed by the 28-year-old St. Amand. The allegations are all the more troubling in light of the fact that the officer is part of a squad that investigates domestic violence and allegations of sexual assault.
Code inspector Wolosz, who is 45 years old, says prosecutors have told her they doubt they can bring criminal charges against St. Amand because there were no witnesses to the incidents she described. They are expected to recommend the department handle the matter administratively. North Miami Police Chief Tom Hood declined to discuss St. Amand's situation, citing the pending investigation.
During the course of the probe, St. Amand has taken leave from the department, using accrued vacation time. And with the investigation appearing to go nowhere, Wolosz says St. Amand is expected to return to work this week. "Now I'm scared to death of him," she admits. "Now that he knows that I told, I'm afraid he's going to come after me."
She never wanted any of this to become public, she insists, believing that the department would never fire or seriously discipline St. Amand and risk provoking the ire of North Miami's increasingly influential Haitian-American community. (St. Amand comes from a wealthy and prominent Haitian family.) "It's a very political thing," Wolosz contends.
St. Amand did not return phone calls seeking his comment. His attorney, Roderick Vereen, says his client has done nothing improper. "If the State Attorney's Office brings charges against my client, they'd better be ready for a civil lawsuit," he warns. He claims the allegations are both politically and racially motivated, and timed to scuttle St. Amand's promising career just as he is being considered for promotion to sergeant.
Vereen vows that if this case goes to trial, the issue won't be St. Amand's character but rather Wolosz's. He promises to explore Wolosz's sexual history, and claims to have uncovered episodes in her past that will prove to be both enlightening and embarrassing to her. "Her sexual prowess is at issue," he says, "her sexual misconduct will be at issue."
Responds Wolosz: "They are going to drag my name through the mud."
Wolosz says her problems with St. Amand started in the summer of 1998, when he began making sexually suggestive comments to her. "He is always grabbing himself and playing with himself through his pants," she alleges. Then one day in August, she recalls, they were alone in their office when St. Amand exposed himself. "He just walked into the corner and said, 'I'm so stressed out I'm going to relieve myself,'" she recounts. "And he started masturbating. I said, 'Fred, are you crazy?' I didn't want to get up and leave; I was on the phone when it happened. I just thought this guy was disgusting."
Over the next several weeks, Wolosz says, similar incidents occurred on two other occasions. He always did it when they were alone and she was on the phone. She explains she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of chasing her out of the room. "He was quick about it," she says. "He would get this big smile on his face and he would say, 'Have you ever seen a black dick before?' I would just put my hands over my eyes and try to ignore him."
After the third incident, she reports, she arranged her schedule so she would never again be alone with St. Amand. "I just avoided him after that," she says.
St. Amand's attorney says Wolosz's account lacks credibility. "Masturbating is not something that happens in seconds," Vereen submits. "What the hell was she doing in there?" He also wonders why she didn't leave the room, and more important, why she didn't report the alleged incidents to her superiors.
Wolosz answers that she didn't do anything because she didn't want to go through the embarrassment of recounting what she had seen. But she did tell a friend at the police department. In late May that friend mentioned to a sergeant what had allegedly happened to Wolosz, and the sergeant immediately reported it to the department's Internal Affairs Unit and to the State Attorney's Office. Wolosz says when she was summoned by investigators this past month, she reluctantly agreed to provide a statement. She asserts she was told her name would remain confidential, but within days everyone in the department was talking about her allegations. "I'm humiliated because now everybody knows and nothing is going to be done," she says. "I understand now why women don't come forward."
In addition to Wolosz, the State Attorney's Office has interviewed several other women who claim St. Amand, who is married, made unwelcome advances. One of those is a teenage girl who was part of the police department's Explorer program. At the time, St. Amand was the advisor to the program, which allows teens to learn about police work. "He used to call me at home a lot," says the girl, who asked that her name not be published. "He would call me at odd times, like ten o'clock at night, because he knew I had my own phone line."
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She says he would ask her if she had a boyfriend (she was seventeen years old then, just shy of her eighteenth birthday) and what she was wearing as they spoke. "He said we should go out sometime," she recalls. She told him she couldn't go out with him because he was married, but he countered that she should forget about that. "He'd be really flirtatious," she adds, "to the point where I wouldn't feel too comfortable with him."
So uncomfortable, in fact, that the girl reported St. Amand's behavior to the Explorer's previous advisor. The matter worked its way to the detective's boss, she says, and shortly after that St. Amand was removed from the program. She spoke with investigators from the State Attorney's Office last week, and corroborated at least one element of Wolosz's story. St. Amand, she says, was always grabbing his crotch in public. "Everyone would always make comments about that," the teen recalls, adding that she hopes the department responds to the allegations of misconduct. "It's about time someone did something."
Cheryl Wolosz, on the other hand, doesn't believe anything will happen. She agreed to talk to New Times, she says, because she is fed up with the department covering St. Amand's mistakes. "There are a lot of things the department has been letting him get away with," she claims.
Besides the investigation stemming from Wolosz's allegations, the State Attorney's Office is conducting a separate investigation of St. Amand, this one examining his handling of dozens of domestic-violence cases. St. Amand received a written reprimand last year for failing to investigate those cases in a timely manner. St. Amand's attorney, Roderick Vereen, says he is unaware of the additional inquiry and therefore cannot comment on it.