Broward County

Lauderhill officers hit with charges after kinky sex accusation

When a Lauderhill officer stopped two women for driving drunk, prosecutors say, he offered them a deal: Have sex or I’ll haul you in for DUI.

His buddy, a fellow Lauderhill officer, had an extra special sexy-time request: Hit me below the belt, baby. I mean it.

When the woman hesitated, his partner encouraged her: Go ahead, hit him, he really enjoys getting hit in the crotch.

That’s what the Broward State Attorney’s Office says happened the morning of May 24, 2012, and on Friday both officers were placed on unpaid leave while the case plays out in court.

Franklin Hartley, 33, has been on the force for five years. He surrendered to police Thursday night and is out on a $7,000 bond, facing two second-degree felony counts of unlawful compensation — which is defined as a public servant getting an illegal benefit — and one count of battery, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Thomas Merenda, 34 and a 12-year veteran of the department, also turned himself in Thursday night and is out on a $4,500 bond, facing one count of unlawful compensation and one count of battery.

According to the arrest report, Hartley pulled over a black Toyota Yaris about 4 a.m. that morning, soon after the two women had left the Vegas Cabaret, an adult club, at 5428 N. University Dr.

According to the women, Hartley threatened to arrest them. Instead, he told them to follow him to a dark area behind a business at 7300 W. Commercial Blvd. He called Merenda to meet them there, according to the arrest report.

Hartley “began to kiss and touch the victim’s breasts while reminding her she could be arrested,” Lauderhill Lt. Michael Lacey wrote in the arrest affidavit. He then ordered her to have sex, the report says. She complied.

Afterward, Merenda conducted a “pat down” of the women, groping them, Lacey wrote.

Before letting the women go, Merenda asked one of them to punch him in the “nuts,” the report states. The woman was hesitant but “he reassured her that this was OK and this turned him on,” Lacey wrote.

Hartley also encouraged her, saying Merenda “really enjoys this.”

The woman did as she was requested, and kicked Merenda in the groin.

Merenda’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, called the prosecution’s case a stretch of the imagination.

“Getting struck in the testicles is no way a reward or an advantage, which is the legal definition of unlawful compensation,” he said. “If you can introduce me to a male that likes being struck in the testicles, I will introduce you to my pet unicorn.”

Schwartzreich described his client as a decorated officer, who has been recognized for his work with disabled adults. Merenda, he said, is married with two young children and his wife supports him “200 percent.”

“My client is completely innocent of these accusations and we look forward to him being vindicated in a court of law,” Schwartzreich said.

Hartley’s attorney, Anthony Livoti, who is the general counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police, said they “were all looking forward to having a complete and thorough investigation of the matter.”

“I believe when that takes place, Officer Hartley will be found not guilty,” Livoti said.

But prosecutors say they have a considerable amount of evidence to support their case, including a pair of orange panties found at the scene which one of the women claimed as hers; a print out from both police cars’ GPS trackers that put the vehicles at the scene for at least 90 minutes the morning of May 24, 2012; screen shots of text messages and a picture of Hartley on a victim’s phone, and testimony from several women describing Merenda’s enjoyment of being kicked and punched in the groin.

“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,” Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling wrote in an email statement.

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

“They are looking forward to both officers being brought to justice,” Cohen said.