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'Design Star' police officer put on leave

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Mike_tattoosHollywood police have put patrol officer Michael Verdugo on leave until the department determines whether the HGTV Design Star contestant appeared in a 1996 porn film.

''Verdugo has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of a fact-finding Internal Affairs investigation,'' Hollywood police spokesman Lt. Manny Marino said Thursday.

Earlier this week, several Internet bloggers posted photographs and video clips from a 1996 gay bondage film called Rope Rituals featuring an actor who closely resembles Verdugo. Both men have similar faces and tattoos on their biceps.

The producer of the film, Rope Rituals, said he does not believe Verdugo appeared in the film. ''I think they've got the wrong guy,'' Christopher O'Neal said.

Verdugo has done nothing to bring disgrace to himself or the police department, his lawyer said Thursday afternoon.

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

Verdugo should be judged on his longtime record as a police officer, Milian said.

''Once someone has been vetted for that job and proven as serving the community, they should be judged on that record and nothing else,'' he said.

Verdugo, 34, has not been accused of any crime. Milian declined to discuss specifics of the case because of the pending investigation.

Milian said Verdugo has been ''unfairly scrutinized'' because he is gay.

''When you're gay in America and involved in the military or law enforcement, it hasn't gone to a level playing field,'' Milian said. "That's coming from someone who served 18 years in the reserves.''

Milian described the Internet allegations as "salacious.''

''We need to be more mature as a society,'' Milian said. "I'm not the same person that I was at 17 as I am at 48.''

Verdugo joined the Hollywood Police Department in 2001, five years after Rope Rituals was filmed in San Francisco.

The officer has not been accused of any crime. He joined the Hollywood Police Department in 2001, five years after Rope Rituals was filmed in San Francisco.

According to O'Neal, the actor in the film -- billed as Jeremy Wess -- showed him a driver's license with another name, not Verdugo's.

Driver's licenses and passports are routinely used for porn actors' identification, O'Neal said.

''We get that on all the models,'' said O'Neal, who declined to give any other information about the actor, except that the driver's license shown to him was not from Florida.

''We sign a confidentiality agreement,'' he said.

Last month, Verdugo appeared as a contestant on the HGTV reality show Design Star, in which he and others competed in design tasks hoping to win a shot at their own network TV show.

His appearance resulted in much publicity, both locally and nationally. On an episode taped months ago and broadcast on Sunday, TV judges removed him and another contestant from the competition.

As a result of the pictures and videos that began to crop up on the Internet a few days ago, HGTV began its own investigation, said Lynn Davis, the network's public relations director. ''Our investigations and conversations about this are confidential,'' Davis said Wednesday night.

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i have seen the video on dudetubeonline.com the guy is hot and has very stylized tattoos. Just match the tattoos to the man. easy. and he is a brave man...kinda small to be showing it all

Why does anyone really care about this? It does not affect his job, unless every time he issues a ticket, he salutes also.

who is the one that discovered this gay bondage film?

Who cares. Leave the guy alone and let him do his job. This man is extremely talented and is just being hatted. People need to stop being jealous and stop hating!

What is his real record at Hollywood PD? Has he had previous issues with Internal Affairs? Has he had disciplinary issues with his supervisors?

OMG who cares?.
The guy is talented in design (I'm actually watching the show every Sunday) and have served well as a Police Officer, the porno film was recorded 5 years before he joined the Police Department and there's no probe so far that he was actually on it, it could be him it could be not, America has become in a First World Country with a Thrid World Country mentality, if he is the guy on the film well, maybe he didn't have money, maybe he use it good and decided to pursue a respectable path, leave him along!. He will become more famous thanks to all the hate and absurd mentality of some people, on the meantime a big shot on the Education Department is making all the money he wants while teachers have being left w/o a job so lest focuse on the important things here people al least for once.

I hope it was him...cudos to a courageous (and gorgeous) man! Keep up the good work!

I as a gay Latino man am so proud of him for all he has accomplished. What if he was in the film? he is not hurting anyone or hurt anyone when the film was done. I think people should focus on their own lives and just let other people do the same with their lives. I hope the Hollywood Police department does the right thing and keeps him on the force, we need more great people like officer Verdugo keeping the bad guys at bay. If for any reason he chooses to concentrate on desingning, he will do great there also.

People always want to knock someone down when they are on top. Leave this guy alone. Both Marilyn Monroe and Venessa Williams did some naked shots before they got famous....Should their careers ended because of it? Let this guy utilize his talents and enjoy his life.

I love lance <3.

As a heterosexual Taxpayer, I demand Michael Verdugo be allowed to remain on the police force of Hollywood, FL.

Michael Verdugo has a stellar career within the Hollywood Police Department including high-risk undercover assignments involving drug-traffickers from foreign countries.

The United States & especially Florida have been kept safe, as well as our children, who have been kept from harms way that cocaine brings to our young people by a direct result of Michael Verdugo's actions working undercover.

Michels Verdugo also has several successful undercover assignments involving seizures of cocaine in the hundreds of kilo's & the seizure of cash in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

These credentials far out weigh some act he may have done as a young teenager which has absolutely no merit on Michael Verdugo's ability to protect & serve Hollywood, FL. & the U.S. from drug-traffickers infiltrating our borders to deliver cocaine.

This is the exact type of person I expect to find in our law enforcement when I shell out my tax dollars each year.

Hollywood Police Department, you have a true asset to your department in your hands . . . . Don't allow it to slip away !!

- Proud Taxpayer,

.

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