Sheriff’s deputy accused of abusing his power to sexually assault men

By Calvin Palmer

A Florida sheriff’s deputy who became the first openly gay deputy to win the Employee of the Year Award for the Oakland Park Division was arrested earlier this week for abusing his power to intimidate at least eight men into performing sex acts with him during traffic stops in Oakland Park.

Jonathan Bleiweiss, 29, has been charged in only one of the alleged incidents. The 14 charges include three counts of sexual battery by a person in authority, four counts of battery and one count of stalking.

He is being held in Broward Main Jail without bond and will probably face additional charges, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti said.

“He was disgraceful and he abused his power,” Lamberti said. “And he preyed on one of the most vulnerable people in our community: undocumented immigrants.”

Investigators think Bleiweiss, a seven-year veteran of the force, had been sexually assaulting men while on duty since at least August 2008.

He targeted young men between the ages of 17 and 30, mostly Latino and all of them in the country illegally, from countries such as Mexico and El Salvador, said Detective Graciela Benito.

Driving a marked patrol car, dressed in uniform and toting a gun, Bleiweiss would pull a vehicle over in a sham traffic stop or approach a man as he waited to be picked up for work.

He would then place his victim against his cruiser and pat him down, moving closer to the groin area before inserting his hands in the man’s pants, Benito said. He performed oral sex on some of the men and masturbated others.

“They said if it had been anybody else, they would have reported the incidents, but it was different because he was a law enforcement officer,” Benito said. “They come from countries where there’s a fear of officers, and they brought that with them.”

An attorney for two of the victims contacted the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in April, thinking the deputy worked with that agency, Lamberti said.

The Sheriff’s Office began to investigate that month, when it became clear that the alleged molestations were taking place in Oakland Park, one of 14 cities that employ the agency.

Bleiweiss was taken off road patrol in mid-July after he returned from a two-week vacation. The last known incident happened in June while the deputy was still on street duty.

“I’m absolutely bewildered that he would do this,” Lamberti said. “This is one of the most egregious acts I’ve seen in my 30 years here.”

[Based on a report by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.]

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