Prosecutors have dropped charges against a former rookie Homestead police officer who was fired after pointing her department-issued gun at her boyfriend during an argument at a Super Bowl party.
Officer Jenna Maldonado was terminated on March 1, less than a month after the Feb. 7 incident, according to city officials.
“The case is over, unless and until the victim or other witnesses come forward, there is nothing we can do,” Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office spokesperson Terry Chavez said on Thursday, March 18.
The case involves Maldonado, 28, and her boyfriend, Steven Encarnacion.
Encarnacion originally filed a complaint with Homestead police over the incident, but subsequently, he did not respond to several subpoenas served on him in the case.
The complaint taken by Homestead police was not a sworn affidavit, and therefore it is insufficient to prosecute the case, authorities said.
“Right now, as far as we’re concerned, we had no choice but to no-action the case,” Chavez said.
Homestead police have not responded to questions about the statement they took from Encarnacion, or explained why he was not placed under oath when he gave it.
“The complaint was unsworn, and you would need to ask the police why they didn’t take a sworn statement from him [Encarnacion],” Chavez explained.
Maldonado was charged with one count of aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony, on Feb. 23. The charge could have carried a three-year minimum mandatory sentence, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. There were several dozen witnesses to the encounter.
Nevertheless, at the request of prosecutors, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Reemberto Diaz issued an order closing the case on Monday, March 15, which effectively dropped all charges against Maldonado. No other information or details were included in the court files explaining the decision to close the case.
“The victim supplied an unsworn complaint to the internal affairs unit at the Homestead Police Department about an incident that occurred in Metro Dade Police Dept.’s jurisdiction,” Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman wrote in a March 17 deposition form. “Metro Dade Police Dept. Followed up on the complaint. The victim and witnesses were subpoenaed for pre trial files and failed to appear, twice.”
Maldonado’s attorney, Sean P. O’Connor, could not be reached for comment. But according to records on file at the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Courts Office, a $5,000 bond that Maldonado posted to get released from jail has also been returned.
Hardiman handled the case for the State Attorney’s Office’s Public Corruption Division. The decision to close the case was also approved by Joseph M. Centorino, who heads the Public Corruption Division.
Homestead City Manager Sergio Purrinos has not responded to repeated questions about the closing of the case.
Maldonado was a reserve officer with the Homestead Police Department. Homestead police suspended Maldonado on Feb. 10.
According to the police report, Maldonado and Encarnacion lived together for roughly the last six years. On Feb. 7 at about 10:30 p.m., Encarnacion was at a Super Bowl party hosted by a friend in the unincorporated Redlands area of Miami-Dade County.
Maldonado called Encarnacion, upset that he had not returned home yet to take care of the children so that she could go out with her friends. A short time later, she called Encarnacion again, and said she was on her way to the party, and that she had her gun in her lap.
Encarnacion asked another man to drive him home to avoid any further problems at the party. But as Encarnacion and the other man were leaving, Maldonado pulled up next to the vehicle in which the men were traveling and pointed a gun at Encarnacion. The other man backed up his vehicle and pulled over to the side of the house.
That’s when Maldonado walked toward them, pointing her gun at Encarnacion. She then pushed his face as she yelled at him that she wanted him out of the house. Encarnacion reached for the gun twice and let it go. He then walked to the back of the house as she followed him, according to the police report.
As Encarnacion walked away, Maldonado was still pointing her gun at him, yelling, “We’ll see who’s the duck now,” the arrest report states.
The report also states that Encarnacion tried several times to leave the party to avoid the confrontation, by walking away. But Maldonado, with gun drawn, followed.
Maldonado is the daughter of former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell, who was defeated in the 2009 elections. Bell bonded Maldonado out of jail.
Maldonado was hired into the city’s Reserve Police Officer Program on Nov. 18, 2009. The program pays a $1 annual salary, and officers work part-time hours to obtain experience. Reserve officers are also allowed to work off-duty details for private companies, which pay them through the police union.
Maldonado was serving a one-year probationary period in the Homestead Police Department, and she could have been fired at any time with or without cause.
Purrinos said that the city would take final action after the criminal investigation was completed.
Pictured above is Jenna Maldonado.