State House candidate Roy Hardemon refers to himself as a “model citizen.”
“I’m always helping and putting people first,” Hardemon said. “Every project that I’ve done I’m a model for the community. Follow my Facebook page and you’ll see the things I’ve already done and continue to do.”
Hardemon’s Facebook page shows the Democrat standing next to basketball hoops at Bannerman Park and houses on Northwest 58th street that he “made happen.”
What it doesn’t make any mention of is Hardemon’s lengthy criminal history.
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For the past 30 years, Hardemon’s life has been a revolving door with the criminal justice system. He was unable to recall how many times he has been arrested when asked by a Miami Herald reporter.
Hardemon, 54, has been arrested 19 times since 1987 and charged with 35 different crimes, 12 of them felonies. The charges range from felony battery and kidnapping to municipal violations for trespassing.
When asked about his arrests, Hardemon, a community activist in Liberty City and uncle of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, said most of them were for disobeying police.
“I’ve been arrested for trespassing with the Urban League,” he said.
Hardemon was arrested four times for trespassing, six times for resisting an officer without violence and twice for disorderly conduct, charges that can be associated with civil disobedience.
Yet he was arrested in 1994 on charges of armed burglary, battery, criminal mischief and kidnapping. All four charges were felonies.
Hardemon says the more serious charges on his record are because of “domestic issues.”
All of the 12 felony charges were dropped or pleaded down to misdemeanors. So his record only shows nine convictions for misdemeanors and ordinance violations. He is still eligible to vote and hasn’t spent any time in jail.
Hardemon’s latest arrest was for another “domestic issue,” and the case is still active.
On Aug. 27, 2014, Hardemon pulled his truck into Bunche Park Plaza in Miami Gardens to talk to his fiancée, Charlene Hudson. The conversation quickly escalated into a heated argument.
It’s unclear what started the altercation. Hardemon says Hudson owed him money and she overreacted when Hardemon came to collect.
“She was my friend and I was going to get my change on what she owed me,” he said.
Hudson insists the dispute had nothing to do with money, and that Hardemon is “making himself look bad” by not telling the truth.
“He got jealous because I was up with a couple of people, it wasn’t about no money,” Hudson said.
Whatever the motive, the argument became violent. According to court records, Hardemon called Hudson over to his truck and punched her in the face before dragging her along the ground as he pulled away. He eventually let go, leaving scarring “road rash” injuries on Hudson’s shoulder, elbow and knee.
Hardemon takes issue with the police description of events, even though he pleaded guilty. He says that Hudson was not dragged, but that she jumped into the window of his truck to attack him as he drove away and eventually fell off in the parking lot. He doesn’t deny punching her.
“She jumped in head first,” he said.
Hudson has a different interpretation of events. She says that Hardemon punched her as she approached the truck and then grabbed her as he drove away.
“He pulled me into the window and pushed me back out the window,” she said.
Hardemon referred to the incident as a “tit-for-tat, a lover’s quarrel.” But he pleaded out the case — the felony battery charge was dropped in exchange for his pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.
The reason, Hardemon says: He didn’t want a potential felony conviction on his record so he could more easily run for office in 2016, even though the arrest ruined his plans to run for office in 2014.
“When it happened I was just getting ready to go qualify [for office] so I left it alone,” Hardemon said. “They just let me pop out with a misdemeanor.”
But the misdemeanor conviction meant that Hardemon was required to complete probation by May 2016. He had one year to complete 50 hours of community service, pay court costs and finish mandatory domestic-violence classes at a local clinic.
Hardemon failed to complete the classes after one year, and is currently on the ballot despite violating his probation.
“I thought it was one class,” Hardemon said. “I continued with the classes, but one of the classrooms closed.”
Probation violations can result in jail time, but the court decided to extend Hardemon’s probation in May by three months. Hardemon told the Miami Herald that he has already completed the domestic violence classes and is waiting to have his paperwork processed.
Hardemon and Hudson, who are no longer engaged, said they are friends now. They no longer communicate on a regular basis but are still cordial with one another and have mutual friends in the neighborhood.
“It’s like water under the bridge. It shouldn’t stop him from running, but he shouldn’t jump on a woman,” Hudson said. “My family knows what happened and we still talk with Roy.”
Hardemon is running against six other Democrats for an open seat in House District 108 race. The election is Aug. 30.
Hudson says she plans to vote for someone she knows quite well.
“I’m going to vote Roy,” she said. “I know he’s a good person and he’ll get a lot of things fixed.”