Miami Gardens Cop Accused of Groping Mentally Ill Woman Would Like to Keep His Job, Please

Miami Gardens Sgt. Javier Romaguera is being sued for an alleged on-duty sexual assault of a mentally ill woman. Surveillance footage shows him leading the woman into a hotel room in 2016.
Miami Gardens Sgt. Javier Romaguera is being sued for an alleged on-duty sexual assault of a mentally ill woman. Surveillance footage shows him leading the woman into a hotel room in 2016. Screencaps via WPLG
Last week, the Miami Gardens Police Department fired Sgt. Javier Romaguera, a cop with a long history of unethical and arguably illegal behavior.

Hired in 2006, he was accused three years later of filling out a bogus police report, saying he had street contact with a man who was actually in jail at the time. The next year, he was caught making another inaccurate police report. His reputation for fudging the truth eventually became so bad that the State Attorney's Office stopped using him as a witness and refused to prosecute cases in which he was the sole arresting officer.

Finally, in July 2016, surveillance cameras captured footage of an on-duty Romaguera entering a hotel room with a mentally ill woman who said the sergeant groped her and refused to let her leave. After the woman filed a complaint, the police department quickly put him on desk duty.

Fresh off his recent termination, Romaguera is now suing Miami Gardens for unfairly disciplining him. Conveniently, the lawsuit makes no mention of the sexual misconduct investigation. Instead, Romaguera claims he was discriminated against and "treated differently because he is a Cuban male."

Romaguera's attorney, Shawn Birken, did not respond to a phone message from New Times. Miami Gardens spokeswoman Tamara Wadley declined to comment on the case, citing a policy regarding pending litigation.

Romaguera contends he was twice unfairly chastised by interim police Chief Cynthia Mechanic. On March 22, 2016, he says, Mechanic took issue with his decision to reprimand a subordinate instead of writing a report. Then, on July 22, 2016 — about two weeks after the hotel room incident — Mechanic chewed him out for violating the chain of command when he emailed the internal affairs division with concerns about a new officer who had joined the force, Romaguera claims.

Shortly after these events, he was placed on a 90-day "performance plan" and reassigned to work the front desk. Though he was terminated in February 2017, the police union intervened and the termination was changed to paid suspension. Finally, on October 25, he was officially terminated.

"[Romaguera] was discriminated against due to his national origin (Cuban) and his sex (male)," his complaint alleges.

As of now, Romaguera is still facing a lawsuit from the mentally ill woman who says he fondled her in 2016. The then-23-year-old was running into traffic when someone called police to report her as suicidal, the suit claims. When Romaguera arrived at the scene, he volunteered to drive her home but instead took her to the Stadium Hotel, where he paid for a room with his personal credit card. The woman says he touched her breasts and then left the room after giving her instructions not to leave. She was in the room for more than 20 hours without food or medication, according to the lawsuit. The case is scheduled for a mediation hearing later this month.

Attorneys for Miami Gardens have not yet responded to Romaguera's discrimination complaint in court. His lawsuit asks for attorneys' fees, back pay with interest, and damages "for his mental anguish and humiliation."
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb