MIAMI - Child pornography charges have been dropped against a veteran South Miami police detective who was arrested last September.
Detective Joseph Mendez was charged with eight counts of child pornography last year after nude photos of a female were found on his cellphone.
Mendez's attorney, Douglas Hartman, said the images were not of an underage female, but rather his youthful-looking girlfriend who, at the time, was about 27 years old.
"They filed charges when they shouldn't have. They didn't do a proper investigation," Hartman said. "They never even searched for the identity of the person in the pictures. ... The young lady who was pictured gave them a sworn statement, so they have no case whatsoever."
Despite Thursday's partial victory in court, Mendez is still charged with giving alcohol to minors and a new charge of showing obscene material to a minor.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating Mendez in June 2014 after it received a complaint of misconduct by a fellow South Miami police adviser in the Explorers Program. Agents said the complaint alleged that Mendez had inappropriate interactions with multiple underage female cadets, some of which were sexual in nature.
According to an arrest report, Mendez picked up one of the female cadets from her home and told her he wanted to play a game called "dare double dare." He then dared her to "flash her breasts," the report said.
The girl claimed she told Mendez that she was not comfortable doing that, and he told her that she would have to drink alcohol then. She claimed that Mendez also showed her naked photos of a female and asked her to guess her age.
The report said Mendez dared another girl to allow him to slap her buttocks and eventually kissed her while drinking beer.
Mendez told agents that he bought the girls alcohol to loosen up and get "fresh ideas" for the Explorer competitions, the report said.
Agents at the time said several thousand images of undressed males and females were found on Mendez's personal cellphone, eight of which depicted sexual performances by children.
Mendez is scheduled to appear in court again July 7.
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