Miami-Dade County

Controversial State Department hire remembered as student leader in Miami

Steven Muñoz
Steven Muñoz

Before leaving his home in South Miami to attend a prestigious military college in Charleston, South Carolina — where five male freshmen later accused him of sexual assault — Steven Anthony Muñoz earned a reputation in high school as a leader.

While enrolled at Robert Morgan Educational Center, Muñoz served as a member of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Council, attracting the admiration of then-principal Greg Zawyer, who described Muñoz as “a great young man” who stood out from the rest of the student body.

Before graduating in 2007, Muñoz “represented the school really well, and now he’s gonna represent our country,” Zawyer said.

Muñoz , now 27, was recently appointed to serve as the assistant chief of visits for the State Department, responsible for leading staff members in organizing visits of foreign heads of state to the U.S. The appointment has unearthed allegations of sexual assault made against Muñoz by students at The Citadel, the military college he attended from 2007-11.

READ MORE: Trump administration hires Miami native accused of sexual assault at The Citadel

The allegations — that he used his clout at The Citadel as a student leader and upperclassman to grope fellow students, known as cadets — did not result in criminal charges, but they have raised questions about his appointment, while casting a shadow on his decorated academic career. While at The Citadel, he earned Dean’s List honors, served as the Class of 2011 president, presided over the on-campus Republican Society and commanded the Catholic Campus Ministry choir.

In one alleged incident in 2010, a student said Muñoz acted inappropriately during private meetings in his room in which they discussed leadership opportunities at the school, according to a copy of the complaint published by ProPublica. The student said Muñoz would rub his leg underneath his shorts and grope his genitals, afterward telling him the interaction had to be kept secret. In another, a student claimed he woke up to find Muñoz had mounted him, and was kissing him and touching his genitals.

An investigation by The Citadel found that, “based upon a ‘preponderance of evidence,’” the assaults did occur, and Muñoz, then an alumnus, was temporarily banned from campus, according to ProPublica. But in 2013, a local prosecutor declined to seek an indictment, stating there was “no probable cause.”

Muñoz went on to serve as a political director for former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum’s failed presidential run in 2011. In November 2016, when former Cuban leader Fidel Castro was reported dead, Muñoz celebrated in the streets of Little Havana, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Zawyer, who served as the principal of Robert Morgan from 2004-10, said he did not know about Muñoz’s State Department appointment or the allegations against him while at The Citadel, and that he could only comment on his impression of Muñoz while in high school.

He was outgoing, spirited and a tribute to the county school system, Zawyer said.

“You knew he was gonna get into government,” he said.

Phone calls to Muñoz’s home address in Miami went unanswered, as did knocks on the home’s spring-themed front door. Two cars were parked outside. On Friday, Muñoz’s Facebook page was deactivated.

His parents, who live in Miami, were unavailable for comment.

Joshua Peed, who attended The Citadel with Muñoz, told the Miami Herald that he had heard about the assault allegations and was disappointed that they were circulating again.

“I know he was a great candidate for The Citadel; I mean, I know he received significant scholarships and everything to go to The Citadel based on his high-school performance,” Peed said.

He described Muñoz as a leader, who helped guide and mentor him and other “up-and-coming” cadets during their time at the school.

“And that’s why, to me, it’s really just honestly outrageous that these claims are even coming up yet again,” he said. “Because as far as I know him, I mean he’s the greatest guy in the world.”