LAUDERHILL (CBSMiami) – Two Lauderhill police officers, at the center of a sexual battery investigation, have surrendered at the Broward County Jail and are facing serious charges.
Officer Franklin Hartley and Officer Thomas Merenda are being charged by the Broward State Attorney’s Office with illegally receiving sexual favors from two women, as well as inappropriately touching them, following an early morning traffic stop in May 24, 2012.
Both officers bonded out of jail and are on paid administrative leave.
Officer Hartley, according to authorities, stopped a car with two women inside who had just left the Vegas Cabernet Nightclub, a gentlemen’s club in Lauderhill, and had reportedly been drinking. Officer Hartley then took the license and registration of the driver and told both women that he could arrest them. He then directed them to drive the car behind a Lauderhill strip mall, where Officer Merenda met the group.
Officer Hartley, according to police, and the passenger had lengthy detailed sexual encounter. Once it was over, Officer Merenda allegedly told the driver to strike him in the genitals. The driver hesitated, authorities said, but Officer Hartley encouraged her to do so because it derived pleasure for Officer Merenda. The driver eventually complied with the Officers request, striking Officer Merenda in the genitals.
Before the passengers were released, according to authorities, the officers allegedly groped the two women.
Chief Andrew Smalling of the City of Lauderhill Police Department released this statement regarding the incident: “I and the men and women of the Lauderhill Police department are truly disappointed with the nature of the allegations made against these two officers and if they are proven to be true, the consequences should be severe. The alleged actions of these two officers are in no way any reflection of the character and integrity of the many hard working men and women of the Lauderhill Police Department.”
Officer Hartley is charged with two counts of Unlawful Compensation, a second-degree felony, and one count of battery, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Officer Merenda is charged with one count of unlawful compensation and one count of battery.
The attorney for Merenda, Eric Schwartzreich, said the charges against his client are surprising.
“Unlawful compensation is defined as a benefit or an advantage,” explained Schwartzreich. “As a member of the male population, I can say that never in a million years is it a reward to get hit in the family jewels.”
A second-degree felony is punishable up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison and a first-degree battery misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail.
Bradford Cohen, an attorney for the victim’s, said they are pleased that Hartley and Merenda are being charged.
“They couldn’t be more thrilled in terms of these individuals are not going to be able to do the same thing they did to my clients to anyone else,” Cohen told CBS 4′s Carey Codd.
Cohen said the women are still dealing with the effects of the encounter.
“They’re doing the best that they can,” he said. “It was a very traumatizing experience.”