The 21-year-old West Palm Beach man accused of impersonating a police officer when he pulled over an exotic dancer and asked her to show him her breasts will spend the next two years in prison, a judge has ruled.
The sentence for Cristian Leon this week comes little more than a month after a Palm Beach County jury found Leon, a former security guard, guilty of one count each of falsely impersonating a police officer and false imprisonment. A first trial on a similar case for Leon ended with a mistrial earlier this year.
Although he faced up to 10 years in prison on hi convictions, Assistant State Attorney Robert Johnson asked Palm Beach County Judge Barry Cohen to sentence Leon to five years in prison.
Leon’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Nicholas Stebinger, had asked Cohen to withhold a finding of guilty and sentence Leon to probation, arguing that his client had not received as much as a misdemeanor traffic or juvenile conviction in his entire life before now.
But Johnson, in his sentencing request, included two prior accusations against Leon. One involved claims that he forced another teen into oral sex when he was 15. In another case from 2015, he was accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend so intensely that he tracked her down to a new school where she had transferred to in order to stop him from following her around Forest Hill High school, where they dated briefly.
Jurors who decided Leon’s fate not hear about those prior allegations.
Johnson in his request for a five-year sentence reiterated the victim’s testimony about how Leon pulled her over in his security guard uniform on March 28, 2016, and asked her to “prove it” when she told him that she was an exotic dancer on the way home from work.
“It is likely that the victim was correct in her assessment that she would have been ‘robbed or raped’ had she not taken action to summon actual law enforcement to the scene of this crime,” Johnson wrote. He added: “The defendant’s egregious misconduct is an affront to all law enforcement officers who serve honorably and uphold their oath of office with integrity.”
In February, another jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in another case in which Leon was accused of impersonating a police officer. In that case, a bar worker at the Clematis club Pawn Shop testified that Leon pretended to be a police officer when he offered her a ride to look for a friend and then tried to force her into performing a sex act on him.
Prosecutors later dropped that case after DNA evidence appeared to clear Leon. Unlike the earlier trial, Leon decided to take the witness stand last month in his own defense against the charges filed in the exotic dancer case.
Johnson and fellow prosecutor Amy Berkman in both trials showed jurors a photograph Leon posted on Instagram around the time of the allegations. In it, Leon was wearing his security guard uniform and captioned the picture with the words “finally hired for West Palm” and included a police officer emoji.
Stebinger and Assistant Public Defender Kelsey Bissonnette argued that both cases resulted from misunderstandings, and Leon himself testified in his April trial that he intended the social media post as a joke.
He said he stopped the alleged victim after she cut him off in traffic on Belvedere Road around 3 a.m., but said he thought she was drunk and was merely trying to caution her to keep her from getting arrested for DUI. He denied ever asking her to show him her breasts.