Thirteen men were arrested in Hollywood, Florida, last week after local police conducted a sting operation on an adult entertainment store.
Hollywood Police Department allegedly sent two undercover officers into the Pleasure Emporium after receiving complaints about sex acts in the store. According to a police report, the officers paid $25 each to enter private rooms at the back of the store, where they found two men engaging in sex acts. They and eleven other men were subsequently arrested.
However, an attorney for one of the thirteen men has accused police of running a cruising sting, and encouraging the men to commit sexual acts prior to arresting them.
Attorney Abbie Cuellar told them.us that officers allowed the men to complete the sexual acts — which reportedly included masturbation and oral sex — and then leave the store before they were arrested.
“If they touched themselves for one second, then under the police department’s logic, wouldn’t that have been enough?” she said, adding, “It makes me feel like we’re back in the ’60s and we’re in New York City, back when the bars were being raided.”
Cuellar’s client subsequently lost his job in a Broward County hospital after media, including the Miami Herald and local TV stations, reported the story with mugshots and full names. She claims he is now severely depressed.
“He was persecuted in Cuba because of his sexuality,” Cuellar told the Miami New Times. “He was thrown out of his home and thrown out of school because he was gay. He fled as a result and thought America was going to be this beacon of ‘freedom.’ He now basically has lost everything he has worked for…. He is horribly suicidal.”
The Herald has since amended its story to remove the names and photos of the men, noting that the original article was “deemed inappropriate under the Miami Herald’s editorial standards.”
Responding to questions from the New Times, Hollywood Police Spokesperson Miranda Grossman said that the sting operation was a worthwhile use of taxpayer money, and that the police’s stance was that the backrooms of the Pleasure Emporium are a “public place.”
However, Cuellar refuted that assessment, saying the paid nature of the rooms inside an adults-only building meant they weren’t a public space.
“Clearly, this was a private setting within a private setting — you would have to pay to get into it,” she told New Times. “It’s not in a residential neighborhood. There’s no danger a kid would ever walk past, even…. I don’t understand the point of this arrest other than smearing and humiliating these men.”
According to New Times, police conducted a similar operation in February, which saw six men arrested. The latest raid was carried out despite several complaints to Hollywood Police about the previous sting.