Mistrial declared in West Pam Beach cop impersonation trial


A Palm Beach County jury could not reach a verdict Friday in the case of a 21-year-old West Palm Beach man accused of impersonating a police officer two years ago to try to coerce a woman into sex.

Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer declared a mistrial in Cristian Leon’s trial after a six-member jury deliberated for nine hours and announced they could not decide unanimously whether or not he was guilty of one count each of kidnapping, falsely impersonating an officer during the commission of a felony, and attempted sexual battery tied to an April 1, 2016 incident where a woman said Leon lured her into his car under the guise of helping her look for a lost friend outside the Clematis Street nightclub Pawn Shop.

Assistant State Attorneys Robert Johnson and Amy Berkman will likely bring the case to trial again. Feuer set a new hearing in the case for Tuesday and could set the date of the new trial then.

The now 23-year-old nightclub employee was the first witness prosecutors called at the start of the two-day trial Wednesday. She said Leon told her he was a West Palm Beach Police officer and told her that he would help her find her friend just before 2 a.m. if she got into his white sedan.

She said that when she got in, he drove her around and then told her he wouldn’t let her out of the car unless she performed a sex act on him.

“I still believed he was a police officer when I got in the car,” she said on the witness stand, later adding: ‘It’s like, you don’t think these kinds of things can happen to you until it does.”

Although the alleged victim said she was sure Leon was her would-be attacker, Assistant Public Defenders Nicholas Stebinger and Kelsey Bissonnette reminded jurors that the woman later failed to pick Leon out of a lineup, said her fake cop had a tattoo on his right bicep while Leon had a tattoo on his left, and made other claims about her assailant’s appearance that were inconsistent with how Leon looked at the time.

Another key piece of evidence in the case and a point of contention was a social media post Leon made right before the attack. It was a photo of him dressed as a police officer, with the caption: “Finally hired for West Palm” followed by a police officer emoji.

In an April 1, 2016 interrogation with West Palm Beach Police, Leon shrugged off the photo.

“I was fooling around with friends. I mean, no one took me seriously,” he said.

In a separate case, Leon is accused of pulling over an exotic dancer on Belvedere Road just days before the nightclub incident. That alleged victim, now 29, said Leon identified himself as a cop and questioned her about her driving, then asked her to show him her breasts.




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