Former Lauderhill Cops accused of kinky traffic stop must pay $6.2 million to victims

By: April Carson



When two women were stopped by a Lauderhill police officer for driving while intoxicated, he allegedly offered them a choice: Have sex with me or I'll take you to jail for DUI.


The officers are Thomas Merenda and Franklin Hartley. This incident took place on May 24, 2012.


One of the officers had a request that was extra special: "Hit me below the belt, baby. I'm not kidding."


The women were urged to strike him by his partner. "He really likes it when people hit him in the crotch." However, the women were hesitant.


Both officers are on unpaid leave while the case goes through the court system. Franklin Hartley, 33, has been a police officer for five years. He turned himself in to cops last night and was released on $7,000 bail for two second-degree felony counts of unlawful compensation — which is defined as a public servant obtaining an illegal benefit — and one count of battery, a first degree misdemeanor.


In addition, Capt. Thomas Merenda, a 34-year veteran of the force and father to two children, turned himself in Thursday night and was released on $4,500 bond for one count of unlawful compensation and one count of battery.


According to the complaint, Hartley stopped a black Toyota Yaris around 4 a.m. that morning, shortly after the two women had left the Vegas Cabaret, an adult club, at 5428 N. University Dr. According to the report, he threatened to arrest them. He instructed them to follow him to a remote area behind a business at 7300 W. Commercial Blvd., according to police records. Merenda was called and met them there.


Hartley “began to kiss and touch the victim’s breasts. Hartley told them he “didn’t want to arrest them for prostitution” and proposed a sex act instead, according to Lauderhill Lt. Michael Lacey who wrote it in the arrest affidavit. Hartley then ordered her to have sex. And the woman obediently followed his instructions.



Afterward, Merenda conducted a "pat down" on the women, groping them. Lacey wrote that before releasing the ladies, Merenda requested one of them to punch him in the "nuts." The woman was hesitant at first but eventually complied because "he assured her it was alright and this turned him on," according to Lacey.


The woman complied with the officer's command, and she delivered a powerful kick to Merenda's groin.


“It's a stretch of the imagination,” Merenda's defense attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said of the prosecutors' allegations.


“Striking someone in the crotch is not a reward or an advantage, which is what unlawful compensation means under law,” he continued. “I'll introduce you to my unicorn if you can bring me a guy who enjoys getting hit in the testicles.”


The attorneys for Hartley and Merenda have both pleaded not guilty to pending felony and misdemeanor charges.


Schwartzreich said his client is a decorated army officer who has received accolades for his work with disabled persons. Merenda, according to Schwartzreich, is married and has two children. “His wife supports him 200 percent,” he added.


“My client is completely blameless of these charges and we anticipate him to be exonerated in court,” Schwartzreich added.


“They were all looking forward to having a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the situation,” said Anthony Livoti, who is also the Fraternal Order of Police's general counsel. “I believe Officer Hartley will be acquitted when that investigation has been completed.”


Still, Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan said he was “disgusted” by the allegations.


“If they are true, it would be an absolute disgrace to the department and to the city,” Kaplan told the Sun Sentinel. “I hope and pray that it is not true.”


Prosecutors claim they have a strong case, including a pair of orange panties discovered at the scene that one of the women claimed as hers; a printout from both police cars' GPS trackers that shows the vehicles at the site for at least 90 minutes on May 24, 2012; screen shots of text messages and a photo of Hartley on a victim's phone, as well as testimony from several women describing Merenda's pleasure in being kicked and punched in the crotch.


"I am extremely disappointed with the nature of these allegations and, if proven true, the consequences should be severe," Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling stated in an emailed statement. "I have directed an internal affairs investigation be conducted and if the allegations are substantiated, the officers will be held accountable to the fullest extent."


Bradford Cohen, the attorney for the unnamed victims, said his clients have been waiting a long time for the cops to be charged.


"We are looking forward to seeing them brought to justice,” Cohen added. “This is a first step, but we have a long way to go.”


The woman who accused Hartley of raping her was awarded $4.5 million in a federal civil case; the second woman was awarded $1.7 million.


For more information on this case, check it out on Pressreader.com.











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About the Blogger:


April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com


To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav


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