Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Exotic Dancers Claim|Officers Raped Them

(CN) - Two South Florida strippers claim in court that police officers from Broward County sexually assaulted and threatened them after finishing their shift at a popular gentleman's club.

In a complaint filed in Broward County, plaintiffs identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, say that shortly after 4 a.m. on May 24, 2012, after they left work at the Vegas Cabaret in the City of Lauderhill, they were stopped by two police officers without a cause.

Does 1 and 2 say that prior to May 24, the City of Lauderhill through its police department built a "geo-fence" around the Vegas Cabaret to keep officers Franklin Hartley and Thomas Merenda away from the perimeter of the cabaret.

Plaintiffs claim that the City knew that Hartley and Merenda posed a threat to women, but still kept them on duty.

The GPS in officer's Hartley marked police vehicle revealed that "he parked his police car outside the City created geo-fence so his presence in the area of the Vegas Cabaret would not be detected by the City and waited for a victim," the complaint says.

Plaintiffs say that when Hartley saw them leave the cabaret he followed them out of his jurisdiction, to the City of Tamarac, and then he activated his blue police lights to make them pull over.

He then took the vehicle registration, insurance documentation, identification and ordered them to follow him to another location, they added.

According to the complaint, the GPS in Hartley's police car and video surveillance recovered from nearby stores showed that plaintiffs followed him from a Taco Bell to an isolated location in the back of a closed tire shop.

"During the drive Hartley uses both the police radio and his personal cell phone to contact Merenda to plan the sexual assault ..." the complaint says.

The women claim that the GPS on officer's Merenda police car also showed that he traveled from a nearby Dunkin Donuts store to the secluded back area of the tire shop.

The complaint says that when Merenda arrived he blocked the plaintiffs' car, turned off his lights and proceeded to get Doe 2 out of her car, while Hartley took Doe 1 by her arm and ordered her out of the passenger seat and took her in the opposite direction of her friend.

"Over the course of the next hour and a half Jane Doe #1 was forced to perform oral sex on Hartley, and Hartley then used his penis to penetrate Jane Doe #1 vaginally without her consent. During the attack and in order to commit his crimes, Hartley repeatedly threatened Jane Doe #1 with arrest and kept her within his grasp. Hartley did not wear a condom when he committed the sexual battery," the complaint says.

After the sexual assault, plaintiffs claim that the officers forcibly walked them to them back to the police cruisers, where the officers again proceeded to touch the womens' breasts and genitals.

The sexual attack continued till 6 a.m. when Hartley and Merenda released the victims, and drove back to the police station before the end of their shift at 6:30 a.m., the complaint says.

Doe 1 claims that she later discovered that she became pregnant after the sexual assault, and she had to undergo two medical procedures to terminate the pregnancy.

The complaint alleges that a search warrant revealed that marijuana, strippers' phone numbers and condoms were found inside the officers' police vehicles.

It continues to say that Hartley and Merenda often engaged in sexual conversations with co-workers and conspired to commit sexual crimes, and even though the City of Lauderhill knew about their erratic behavior and had received several complaints they failed to supervise them, and to take corrective action against them.

Hartley and Merenda felt safe "to commit sexual crimes and have sex on duty because it was common knowledge that supervision was non-existent and even if someone complained the Officer would never be properly investigated or disciplined in any meaningful manner," the complaint claims.

The city always takes the word of its officers even after receiving evidence indicating their guilt, and always questions the word of the civilian, the complaint says.

"Defendant City of Lauderhill, through its officers and agents, intentionally failed to institute a meaningful investigation/disciplinary system which held officers accountable for their misconduct," the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that on June 14, 2013 after years of complaints for police officers' misconduct and crimes, the City of Lauderhill "destroyed all internal affairs files, all sworn witness statements from all citizen complaints and all use for force reports from 1995 to 2008.

Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages on claims of negligence.

They are represented by Greg M. Lauer from Lauer & Currie PA in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The City of Lauderhill's attorney, Earl Hall, nor the City's mayor, Richard Kaplan responded to an emailed requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.