Former Miami Gardens Police Sgt. Javier Romaguera's reputation is so tarnished the U.S Attorney's Office refuses to prosecute his cases. But he says he's just a Good Samaritan who's been wronged.
You might remember Romaguera. He was fired last fall and subsequently sued after a woman said he kidnapped her and sexually assaulted her in a room at Miramar's Stadium Hotel July 11, 2016. Video confirmed he took her there. The plaintiff says Romaguera forcibly fondled her breasts though she screamed for him to stop. Her lawyers have previously suggested the then-sergeant targeted the woman because she was mentally ill and an immigrant.
"Sgt. Romaguera transported Plaintiff in his fully-marked police car in full uniform in furtherance of a job-related function, namely, providing a courtesy transport to a woman found near midnight walking in the median of a major road, refusing to return to her group home," Romaguera's lawyers wrote. "Transporting victims or non-arrestees is something that MGPD Officers are permitted to do."
Elsewhere in the absurd-sounding filing, Romaguera argues that the woman — a recent Haitian immigrant — did not protest when Romaguera took her to the hotel. She could have left the room at any time. Therefore, he argues, he did not actually "imprison" her — even though she claims she was told to remain inside the hotel room until 1:33 p.m. the following day without access to food or medication.
"Reasonable means of escape were obviously apparent — namely, simply exiting the hotel room, and she admitted that she was able to leave," the legal filing alleges. "For that matter, Plaintiff has never claimed any fear of consequences for leaving her hotel room."
Romaguera also notes that his alleged victim says she suffered insomnia after the incident. But, in perhaps the most callous part of the legal defense, his lawyers argue, she isn't entitled to sue because she is now sleeping better. "The only source of potential emotional injury she identified was a brief period of insomnia after the incident, which she admits has now stopped," the filing states. "Accordingly, Plaintiff has not put forth any evidence of present or future damages (emotional or otherwise) and, therefore, should not be permitted to seek such damages at trial."
The case is set to go to trial in April. The alleged victim's lawyer, Stephan Lopez, argues Romaguera's latest filing is hogwash. "We intend to prove at trial, as the evidence supports, that contrary to the 'courtesy ride' he gave the Plaintiff, it was for no other reason than to sexually assault her," Lopez says. "Sgt. Romaguera obtained a hotel room for [the woman], using his credit card, to facilitate his sexual assault not for any other reason. If he truly had a bonafide reason, he wouldn’t have lied about it and tried to cover it up."
The filing leaves out tons of relevant information. Former WPLG reporter and New Times columnist Bob Norman broke the news of the case. Romaguera reportedly found the woman standing in the middle of a busy street and suffering a mental crisis. He tried to have her committed to a mental institution through the state's Baker Act but learned she did not qualify. So he reportedly wrote in official paperwork that he transported her to an address on Ficus Drive in Miramar. According to WPLG, Romaguera listed his "mileage" in police paperwork and stated he dropped the woman off at the home at 12:46 that morning.
But the home's owner later told Norman that neither a woman nor the cop showed up at the house that night. That's because Romaguera was instead caught on-camera buying a room at the Stadium Hotel. One of the alleged victim's close friends told WPLG that he spent 36 hours trying to find the woman and was told she had been dropped off at the Ficus Drive house. After she instead phoned from the hotel, police picked her up and transported her to a safe location. Her friend then filed a complaint with the department's internal affairs division.
Although Miami Gardens PD terminated Romaguera, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has long been accused of going easy on problem cops, claimed she didn't have enough evidence to charge him with a crime.
MGPD seems to have an issue with cops sexually exploiting women on the job: Ex-corrections officer Roland Clarke, one of the four prison guards infamously accused of locking mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey in a scalding-hot shower until he died, now works for the Miami Gardens force. Rundle was nationally criticized for failing to charge Clarke after the Rainey incident. And now that he's an MGPD officer, he's been caught repeatedly having sex while on duty.
Cops around the country also have serious issues with sexual assault and rape. In a massive 2015 investigation, the Associated Press "uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy, and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse." The AP reported that, because of differing state laws and methods of reporting, the number is almost certainly an undercount.
Romaguera, meanwhile, wants his job back. He claims he was actually being discriminated against for "being a Cuban male." His filling conveniently doesn't mention he was accused of sexual assault.