Cop With Alleged Gay Adult Past Put on Leave

Joanne Cachapero
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Police officer and reality show contestant Mike Verdugo has been put on administrative leave from his job as a policeman, pending an investigation by the Hollywood, Fla., Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, to determine whether or not Verdugo appeared in a gay bondage film in 1996.

An article in today’s Miami Herald quoted Hollywood police spokesperson Lt. Manny Marino as saying that Verdugo was on leave, with pay pending on the results of the investigation.

Verdugo came under scrutiny when he became a finalist on HGTV’s “Design Star” reality competition, in which several contestants are pitted against each other to see who is the best interior designer. He was eventually eliminated from the competition and, reportedly, the show also is conducting its own investigation into the claims.

Earlier this week, several gay blogs posted clips and photos of a model that looks similar to Verdugo and has similar tattoos, who appeared in the 1996 title “Rope Rituals.” The film’s producer told the Miami Herald that he believes that the actor in the film is not Verdugo.

''I think they've got the wrong guy,'' producer Christopher O'Neal said. According to O’Neal, the model that is thought to be Verdugo appeared under the name Jeremy Wess, and that the ID provided by the model did not have Verdugo’s name on it and was not issued in Florida.

Though there has been no comment from the Hollywood Police Department on possible action that would result from the investigation, Verdugo has retained attorney Alberto Milian, who was quoted extensively in the media on Thursday, defending his client’s record as a police officer.

``My client is a distinguished member of the law enforcement community for over 10 years,” Milian said. ``My client has done absolutely nothing wrong. Nothing unethical. Nothing to bring discredit upon his police department, except serve his community.''

Verdugo’s sexual orientation was revealed to his colleagues in the police department in 2004.