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‘The man who attacked me works in your

kitchen’: Victim of serial groper took justice


into her own hands

After Lauren Clark was assaulted while running in Northwest Washington in April
2013, she began to see her attacker near her home and the salon where she
worked. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
By Amy Brittain and Maura Judkis-January 31

Nearly six years ago, on an unseasonably warm


April night in Washington, Lauren Clark was cooling down from a jog when she
spotted a man in the distance. She quickened her pace, hurried past him and, for
a moment, considered crossing the street.
Her fear seemed irrational — paranoid, even — until the threat became real.

The man grabbed the slender 27-year-old hairstylist from behind, thrust his hand
between her legs and covered her mouth. He slammed her body to the sidewalk.
A pair of black spandex leggings was the only barrier between her and the hand
that would not let go.

Rape seemed imminent. Death, quite possible. Clark flipped from her stomach
onto her back and clawed the man’s face. Her fingernails dug into his skin and
tore off his eyeglasses. The man punched her in the face, grabbed her phone and
sprinted away.
[Lauren Clark shares her story on the Post Reports podcast: ‘All I did was tell the
truth.’]

The man was caught just minutes later by police, who linked him to an attack
against another woman earlier that night. With fresh scratches on his face, he
confessed.

He was a stranger in the dark who attacked Washington’s women when they
were alone and vulnerable. This was a statistical anomaly in the world of sex
crimes, where most attackers know their victims and the majority of assaults
never result in criminal charges.

She was a prosecutor’s dream. After identifying the man at the crime scene, Clark
was eager to speak her mind in court. She was unusually vigilant from the start,
gathering her own information through police reports and court hearings.

Altogether, the man admitted to assaulting six women in the District of Columbia.

He was sentenced to 10 days in jail — tailored to two-day stints that best fit his
work schedule as a chef rising in prominence within Washington’s vibrant
restaurant scene.
Clark could not forget the stranger in the dark. She would see him in her
nightmares as she awoke gasping for air and drenched in sweat. She would see
him in real life, near her home and her salon.
Clark spent seconds fighting him. She would spend years fighting for justice
afterward.

“I feel like this case was handed to every department of the justice system on a
silver platter,” Clark said, telling her story publicly for the first time. “And they f---
ed it up. It blows my mind. This should have been an easy one.”
‘It felt like a felony’

Hair had always been a passion for Clark. As a teen growing up in the cornfield
country of rural Illinois, she studied the latest trends in fashion magazines and
styled her classmates’ hair for homecoming dances. She once tried to make her
younger sister Sara look like one of the Olsen twins by cutting choppy layers and
flipping out the ends.

The daughter of two mental health professionals, she grew up bold and
outspoken. As a fifth-grader, she successfully petitioned the local mom-and-pop
store to stop selling candy cigarettes.
Clark briefly attended community college but dropped out to work at a salon. Hair
could offer what the classroom could not: a creative outlet and a chance to make
other women feel confident. The salon led her to cosmetology school in the
Washington area and she ultimately moved into the city.

Like many men and women in the District, Clark turned to the city streets for an
affordable, reliable workout. The rhythmic pounding on the pavement was
therapeutic for the 5-foot-5-inch hair stylist after a day spent dealing with a
stream of clients.

At around 8 p.m., April 10, 2013, Clark wrapped up her shift at Immortal Beloved,
a popular salon on 14th Street. She went home to her basement apartment in
Glover Park, changed into leggings and a tank top and took off for a late-night run.
She stopped to sit along the waterfront in Georgetown and took photos of the
cherry blossoms in peak bloom.

At around 11:45 p.m., near 37th Street NW and Tunlaw Road, she was attacked.

After the man fled, Clark leaped to her feet and chased him briefly. She flagged
down a Metropolitan Police officer. Minutes later, she identified her attacker as
he walked alone on 37th Street.

Earlier that night, near the Naval Observatory, just a short walk from where Clark
was attacked, a man had approached a 27-year-old woman stopped at a traffic
light on her motorized scooter. The man grabbed her buttocks and vaginal area.
She yelled and drove off, and the man fled into the nearby bushes. The woman
returned home and called 911.

A sexual assault detective, Yvette Maupin, swabbed Clark’s hands for DNA and
shared good news:

The man she identified had fresh scratches on his face. A promising case had just
become a slam-dunk.

The man was headed to jail, the detective told Clark, and Clark said she was told
he would face a felony charge.

The day after the crime, with bandages on her arms and a swollen nose, Clark
styled the hair of a bride-to-be and then canceled the rest of her appointments.
She met a close friend at Le Diplomate, a new restaurant on 14th Street. Over
lunch, Clark told her story.

She struggled with her words. Revealing how she had been touched felt too
personal, too specific, too invasive.

After lunch, Clark visited the closest police station. She requested the police
report and pored over the details of her assailant. For the first time, a name: Jayro
A. Cruz. An age: 24.
And, the police department’s classification of the crime: third-degree sexual
abuse by force, a felony, and robbery, also a felony.

Historically, groping offenses have been charged as misdemeanors because of an


absence of aggravating factors that would warrant a felony, such as penetration
or a verbal threat to rape or kill.
In Cruz’s case, the combination of the tackling, the sexual contact and the punch
appeared to meet the definition of felony sexual abuse under D.C. law — sexual
contact by using force, according to the D.C. code.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Marcus-Kurn instead charged Cruz with several
misdemeanor crimes in D.C. Superior Court: misdemeanor sexual abuse for the
attacks on Clark and the woman near the Naval Observatory, misdemeanor
assault for the punch and second-degree theft for taking Clark’s cellphone.

Cruz was released until further hearings.

The misdemeanors came as a second blow to Clark.

“It felt like a felony,” Clark said.

Marcus-Kurn, who now heads the office’s sex offense unit, declined to comment.
A spokesman from the U.S. attorney’s office issued the following statement:

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to the prosecution of those who commit
sexual assaults in the District of Columbia,” spokesman Bill Miller said. “We
typically do not comment on specific charging decisions and have no comment on
this particular case. Charging decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
Generally, we assess each case based on its circumstances, thoroughly
considering factors such as the applicable laws, the nature and seriousness of the
offense, the evidence in the case, whether the victim wishes to prosecute the
case, and the defendant’s criminal history.”

In June 2013, within two months of the attack, Cruz signed a plea deal. In
exchange, prosecutors dropped the theft and one of the two sexual abuse
charges related to the attack on the woman by the Naval Observatory.

Five months after the crimes, Clark took a seat near the front of the courtroom
for Cruz’s sentencing. Cruz sat on the other side of the aisle, accompanied by his
mother.

On the bench was Judge Truman Morrison, a staple of D.C. Superior Court. The
then-69-year-old former public defender had been nominated by President Jimmy
Carter and had served as a judge for decades. Through a court spokeswoman,
Morrison, now with senior status, declined to comment for this story.

Clark had spent hours working on her victim-impact statement. When she stood
to speak, the judge told her to project her voice to be heard.

She began.

April 10th was a Wednesday. That Wednesday evening found itself nestled into
the peak of our cherry blossom season. As I jogged through my neighborhood I
thought it must’ve been one of the most beautiful nights I had ever seen in DC. The
way the flowers hung from the branches, the spring scent that lingered in the air,
the details from that night are still vivid in my mind.

What began as such a pretty night quickly became the ugliest I’ve ever
experienced. Those details remain just as vivid and they always will.

A forceful hand over my mouth. Another between my legs. The collision of a man’s
body against mine. The pavement. The panic. The pain.
The sentencing

The sentencing unfolded over four hearings in the fall of 2013, in part because
Judge Morrison wanted to reflect on his decision.
Early on, the prosecutor revealed a bombshell:

“The defendant acknowledged that he committed this same kind of offense on


four other occasions with four different victims and it is the government’s
understanding the defendant was never arrested or charged for these acts.”

The admission was in a report by the Court Services and Offender Supervision
Agency (CSOSA) — a federal agency responsible for interviewing offenders in the
District before sentencing.
The prosecutor said, “If it wasn’t for the fact that these two brave women
contacted the authorities —”
The judge cut him off.

“Right,” Morrison said. “We surely would have not known about the other events.
It is extraordinary. I mean, I’ve been a judge for more than 30 years. . . . I’ve never
seen such a thing.”

Lee Smith, Cruz’s defense attorney, said the new admission was evidence of
honesty and remorse.
“It’s kind of hard to face down one’s demons, at times,” Smith said. “I think he
had time to think about it. He thought this is the right thing to do . . . so that he
can get the help ultimately that he needs.”
For attacking Clark, Jayro Cruz was sentenced to 10 days in jail. In a statement to
The Washington Post, he said: “For the people I have hurt I can only hope that
they are able to find peace. There is no excusing my actions.” (Alfredo Flores)
Cruz was born and raised in the District, and when he was 12, his father died of
cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcoholism. The death had a “profound effect” on
Cruz, leaving him withdrawn and without sufficient emotional resources to cope,
Smith said.

He said incarceration would be a “Band-Aid.” Instead, Smith recommended


probation with “a plethora of services and programs” designed to “address the
core issue” of Cruz’s behavior.
The defense attorney attributed that behavior to alcohol abuse. Cruz had
consumed roughly 20 drinks in the eight hours before the assaults, he said.

“Very, very, very few people get intoxicated and walk up to people they’ve never
met, women on the streets, sexually assault them, throw them to the ground and
beat them,” the judge said in response.
Cruz apologized and said he had stopped drinking.

“There’s no excuse for and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think
about what I’ve done and feel disgusted with myself,” he told the judge. “I know
that there’s no reason why you should look at me as a good person because what
I’ve done is not something a good person would do.”
Prosecutor Danny Nguyen recommended a jail sentence of six months for the
crimes against Clark and three months for the offense against the second woman.

Morrison wanted to take more time to think about the “difficult and unusual
case,” one marked by “dramatic gratuitous violence” on “total stranger women.”
It was as “serious a misdemeanor as a judge sees,” he remarked. But he was also
struck by what he perceived as genuine remorse from Cruz.

Clark left the hearing feeling as if she had done all she could. She decided not to
attend the next hearing three days later.

At the next hearing, the judge said he had decided to hand down a 10-day jail
sentence. But Smith, Cruz’s attorney, said that could result in Cruz losing his job as
head chef at the Brixton, a British-style pub at Ninth and U Streets NW.
“He not only works in the kitchen, he actually is the chef. He runs the kitchen.
There’s no one above him to run the kitchen,” Smith said.

Two weeks later, on Oct. 15, 2013, Cruz finally received his sentence. Clark was
not there, having already missed work for two hearings.

Morrison ordered Cruz to serve 10 days in jail on his days off, Mondays and
Tuesdays, and to stay 80 days in a halfway house. Cruz also received five years of
probation, the maximum under the law.
Additionally, he would be barred from contacting Clark or the other victim.

He was not placed on the sex offender registry, a decision not up to the judge but
determined by the severity of the offenses.

But the judge instructed that Cruz receive assessment, therapy and oversight
from CSOSA’s sex-offense supervision unit.

Earlier, the judge had called it “extremely rigorous supervision,” noting it “is not
just calling your probation officer every three weeks and checking in.”

Nguyen called Clark afterward to tell her about the sentence. Clark was at
Stoney’s, a pub on P Street, and stepped outside to take the call.

She was disappointed, but she had prepared herself for that. It was only
misdemeanors, after all.
She asked whether Cruz would be a registered sex offender. Nguyen said no.

Cruz was now working as a chef at the Brixton, Nguyen told her. That was another
blow. She had been there for drinks just two weeks after the assault.

On Halloween, six months after the assault, Clark went out dressed as a New York
Times crossword puzzle. She took a cab to El Centro, a Mexican restaurant on
14th Street. Outside, she watched as a line grew in front of the Black Cat, a
popular bar with live music.
There was Cruz. About 20 feet away, wearing a plaid flannel shirt. Clark gasped.
She entered the restaurant but left after one drink.
Too close for comfort

Cruz is a self-taught chef who worked his way up in Washington restaurants over
the past decade. Many of his co-workers describe him as quiet and ambitious. He
was notable enough for restaurants to promote his cooking on their websites.

“Chef Jayro is driven to create food that people want to eat, rather than Chef’s
[sic] want to cook!” proclaimed the downtown Hilton Garden Inn, his most recent
employer. “In an era of entrée’s [sic] with 30 ingredients most have never heard
of, plated every so delicately with tweezers, a solid plate of food cooked simply
and with loving care is what has always inspired Jayro.”

In 2014, the year after Cruz’s conviction, the young chef earned a big opportunity:
a post at Vidalia, a well-regarded restaurant with distinctive Southern cuisine. The
following year, Cruz was promoted to chef de cuisine, the top job in the kitchen
under James Beard Award-winning chef and co-owner Jeff Buben, who told The
Post at the time that Cruz was “the next generation that’s going to push us
forward.”

In the months after the sentencing, Clark kept watch over Cruz’s
whereabouts. She learned that he was working at Vidalia through a Google
search. Vidalia, at 20th and M streets NW, was about a block from her new West
End ground-floor apartment at 21st Street and New Hampshire Avenue.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m right around the corner from him,’ ” she said.

She wondered whether he was legally bound from being within a certain distance
of her home. She frantically searched online for answers. Her query led her to the
website of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC — a nonprofit group that
provides free legal services for crime victims.

From her attorney, Kristin Eliason, Clark learned that the stay-away order entered
in the criminal case had specified only no contact with the victims. She could go to
civil court for a protection order that prohibited Cruz from a specific geographic
area around her home and salon. The order was granted in September 2014 and
was good for one year.

The next month, Clark said, she was with her boyfriend on her patio just past 9
p.m. when a white Honda pulled into a nearby parking space. A man and woman
emerged from the car. It was Cruz.
She made eye contact with him, she said, and cried herself to sleep that night.
‘I can’t explain the lapse’

Clark regularly ate at the popular French eatery Le Diplomate before she learned
in spring 2017 that Cruz had started working there months earlier. It sickened her
to know the man who violated her might have prepared her meal. (Benjamin C
Tankersley /For The Washington Post)
Clark occasionally checked the D.C. Superior Court website for information about
Cruz’s case. It gave Clark comfort to review the file and to know that someone
was watching him.

But she started having panic attacks. She turned to therapy to cope and tried to
forget Cruz, to will away his image.

One day in the spring of 2017, Clark and her sister went to Georgetown to shop.
They passed through the West End, and Clark saw that Vidalia had closed.

She was panicked. She did not know Cruz’s whereabouts. She went to his
Instagram page for the first time in months. She scrolled through the photos and
found Cruz had joined Le Diplomate as a chef near the end of 2016.

Clark went to Le Diplomate quite often. Just before Christmas 2016, she joined
friends for a shared meal of beef bourguignon, ravioli and a cheese plate.

She had eaten a meal that might have been prepared by the hands that violated
her. Suddenly, she felt nauseated.

The shopping trip with her sister was cut short.

On her cellphone, she loaded the website for D.C. Superior Court. The long-
dormant case had curious new notations. On April 10, 2017 — exactly four years
after the assaults — a hearing was held in the case and Cruz was moved from
supervised probation to unsupervised probation. No explanation was given.

She called her attorney.

When Eliason reviewed the court case, she was alarmed.

Clark had a right to be notified about any public hearing involving her case under
the 2004 Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

An audiotape of the hearing held startling revelations:


A probation officer told Judge Morrison there had been a major mistake — Cruz
was supposed to undergo an initial evaluation to flag mental health issues,
substance abuse problems and develop a plan to treat his violent tendencies.
Somehow, Cruz had never received the evaluation.

Cruz had not received any customized treatment from CSOSA’s sex-offender
supervision unit.
Rather, he had been monitored as if he were a low-level drug offender, with urine
tests and a check-in with an officer every three weeks.

“So CSOSA has been supervising him since the fall of 2013 and you are now for
the first time, three and a half years later, asking for an assessment?” Morrison
asked the probation officer.

“I can’t explain the lapse,” the officer said.

“Anything you want to say, Mr. Cruz? Are you still a chef?” the judge asked.

“I am,” Cruz said.

“Where?” the judge asked.

“Le Diplomate on 14th Street.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Moved up in the world?” the judge asked.

“Yes, sir.”

The judge noted that Cruz seemed to be doing well. He had not been rearrested.
His probation officer reported that his urine had tested clean.
The judge decided that there was no sense in going back to the first step if Cruz
seemed to be doing well. He moved him off supervised probation.

“So because you have done so well, Mr. Cruz, all you have to do from now until
five years from October 25, 2013, is up is just not break any law anywhere. Do you
understand?” the judge asked him.

Cruz said yes.

“All right, I wish you good luck,” the judge said. “You are to be commended for
your compliance.”
CSOSA declined to answer any questions for this story. An independent federal
agency, CSOSA does not come under the authority of D.C. government nor does it
answer to the Justice Department. Congress has oversight over the agency and its
director, who is appointed to a six-year term by the president of the United
States. The agency has an interim director, James D. Berry Jr.
“This case demonstrates the necessity of accountability and transparency in our
criminal justice system — and the tragedy that occurs in its absence,” said Kevin
Donahue, deputy mayor for public safety and justice. “While District government
agencies are accountable to Mayor Bowser, the Council, and our residents, there
is no such clear line of accountability for the federal agencies that run most of the
District’s criminal justice system.

“When breakdowns happen in local agencies, there are consequences. There are
personnel actions, oversight hearings, audits, legislative changes, and relentless
public scrutiny. Silence and intransigence as a response to failure are not options.
Where there is a need for reform and transparency, I hope CSOSA recognizes that
and follows through on it.”
‘Violated. Victimized. Traumatized’

The knowledge that Cruz worked at Le Diplomate ate at Clark. He was no longer
the anonymous man in the dark. He was within her own enclave of the District’s
service industry, among the salon workers and restaurant employees who
mingled over drinks at 14th Street bars.

She wanted to contact Le Diplomate, to let them know what Cruz had done to
her.

She called a close friend, longtime local bar manager Said Haddad, for advice.
Haddad knew Cruz slightly and was shaken by the allegations. Haddad described
the case as a “huge gut check” within the close-knit D.C. restaurant community.
“It’s an industry that welcomes all, no matter what your background is,” he later
told The Post.

Experts say the restaurant industry has a well-documented problem with sexual
harassment that extends from the host stand to the kitchen. An environment with
little oversight, late hours and tight spaces is prone to abuse.

“The culture is one in which men are not just allowed but encouraged, in some
senses, by their employers to behave in these ways,” said Saru Jayaraman,
president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a restaurant worker
advocacy group that published a 2014 study called “The Glass Floor: Sexual
Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.”

As a result, Jayaraman said, “a very large number of sexual harassers and


predators” are able to “actually thrive in the restaurant industry.”

As a manager, Haddad had seen situations that left women alone and vulnerable
late at night, closing down restaurants or bars in the company of just one other
person. For that reason, Haddad felt firmly that someone like Cruz had no place in
a restaurant.

“Find something else to do,” he said.

Haddad helped Clark by proofreading an anonymous letter to Le Diplomate,


suggesting she tone down the anger toward the restaurant. She revised it and
entrusted him to deliver it to a contact at Le Diplomate.
The man who attacked me works in your kitchen. His name is Jayro Cruz. He was
arrested for sexually assaulting me and another woman. He pled guilty to the
charges and in court he admitted to assaulting four other women. Six women.
Violated. Victimized. Traumatized.

Imagine girlfriends meeting for cocktails at your bar and coming across the face
of a predator or a family sitting down to order a meal and learning it had been
prepared by hands that have abused so many women.

At the end of the letter, Clark said she would be launching an awareness
campaign about Cruz in early June. She said she did not desire to tarnish the
reputation of Le Diplomate. She urged the restaurant to “do the right thing.”
The fliers

On June 6, 2017, Clark handed out the fliers to managers at restaurants and bars
along 14th Street. In bright red font: THIS MAN HAS ASSAULTED SIX WOMEN IN
DC.

There were three photos of Cruz. Two showed him in his chef’s apron.

An image of his Superior Court case docket included case numbers. “52% of D.C.
residents are women. This man and men like him are a danger to 100% of them.”

Clark stayed quiet on social media about making the fliers. She feared what Cruz
would do if he knew what she had done.

Word traveled quickly. The fliers soon appeared online. The Washington City
Paper wrote a story about Cruz working at Le Diplomate. Threads on Facebook
filled with comments. Women came forward online with allegations against Cruz.

Emily Schimmel had just emerged from a Pilates class when she got a text about
the flier. Schimmel told The Post that she met Cruz in early 2016 through OkCupid
and they dated for several months. In April 2016, she said, he engaged in sexual
contact with her when she was drunk and unable to give consent. She said she
had passed out in her bed and awoke to find Cruz naked, and herself unclothed,
with no memory of what had happened. She did not report the incident to police.

In June 2017,
Lauren Clark handed out fliers about her attacker at restaurants and bars along
14th Street. Soon, other women came forward with allegations against Cruz.
(Obtained by The Washington Post)
Schimmel, now 31, said she had no idea that Cruz had a criminal history.

“I sat in my car and cried for an hour,” she said of hearing about the fliers. “I was
so angry that the justice system had failed enough that he was able to do this
again.”

The Post asked Cruz for an interview to discuss both the handling of his criminal
case and the subsequent allegations against him from other women.

Cruz provided a one-paragraph statement to The Post.

“In this day and age I believe it is important that women have space to talk about
sexual assault and their recovery from trauma,” he said. “Those stories are
important and deserving of respect. I do not believe the addition of my story at
this time will help move the conversation forward. For the people I have hurt I can
only hope that they are able to find peace. There is no excusing my actions. I can
not take them back but will continue to try and learn from my mistakes in hopes
that I make up for the harm I have caused.”

Some were critical of Clark’s decision to engage in the public shaming. When
recently asked about the fliers, Eliason, Clark’s attorney, paused before
answering. “She finds her strength in being outspoken,” Eliason said.

Two months after the fliers were distributed, Cruz no longer worked at the
restaurant. A Le Diplomate spokesman declined to comment for this story, citing
employment privacy practices.
Several women have told The Post that Cruz had behaved sexually inappropriately
toward women in the workplace, before and after the charged crimes. All said
they did not know, until recently, that Cruz had a history of documented sexual
violence.

In 2011, two years before the assault against Clark, Cruz was employed at
Blackbyrd, which has since closed. Nikki MG Cole, an advocate for D.C. restaurant
workers, said she worked with Cruz there. She remembered an incident in which
Cruz had snapped loose the bra of another female server, who ran back to the
kitchen in tears, plate still in hand. The woman complained, Cole said, and Cruz
later told her he had been fired.

Ian Hilton, co-owner of three of the bars that employed Cruz — the Brixton, Chez
Billy and Blackbyrd — said in an email: “I vaguely remember hearing that Cruz had
a run-in with the law, but it was characterized as a bar fight …We would never
knowingly hire or work with someone who had been convicted of sexual assault.”

When Julianna Clarke, 24, saw the flier, she was shaken. She had worked as a line
cook at Vidalia with Cruz. He was her boss.

Clarke told The Post she had consensual sex with Cruz outside of work before
and throughout her time at Vidalia.

“It took me [until] that flier to realize that we were never dating,” Clarke said. “He
just manipulated me into this relationship and I could never ever say no.”

She said Cruz would berate her in front of other employees and grope her in the
restaurant while others were not looking. Frequently, he would corner her in the
storage room, and grope her breasts or pressure her into having sex. She did not
tell anyone at the time or report the incident to police.

“It was an everyday thing. There was no escaping,” said Clarke. “It was the perfect
place for something like that happen, which is why he’s got away with it for so
long.”

Cruz later wrote her an apology email: “I’m sorry if I made work a living hell for
you and I’m sorry I wasn’t more sensitive to you . . . I hurt you in both professional
and private ways and I’m sorry for that,” he wrote in an email that Clarke shared
with The Post. Clarke did not respond to him.
Julianna Clarke says she and Cruz had consensual sex outside of work before
and throughout her time at Vidalia, where he was her boss. But he would grope
her when others weren’t looking, she claims. (Katherine Frey/The Washington
Post)

Another woman who worked at Vidalia — who spoke on the condition of


anonymity because she feared reprisal — alleged that Cruz once kissed her
without her consent and would penetrate her with his fingers in the storage
room.

“Every day working there was just torture,” the woman said.

She did not tell anyone at the time, either, but she and Julianna Clarke confided in
each other after the flier became public, both women said.
Former Vidalia executive chef Hamilton Johnson said he “was definitely not
aware” of Cruz’s pleas to the sex crimes and it would have affected his decision to
hire him, had he known. “There was never any issues that I know of” in regards to
Cruz’s temper or his behavior with women in the restaurant, Johnson said.

Cruz’s criminal record is available online through a search function at the D.C.
Superior Court website.

Vidalia co-owner Sallie Buben told The Post in an email that she and her husband
were not aware of Cruz’s record or of any allegations from employees. “If anyone
had brought an issue to our attention we would have investigated, and we are
confident we would have taken appropriate action,” Buben wrote. “We do check
references on applicants we are going to hire, but as a general practice we do not
run criminal background checks.”

It is not standard practice in the restaurant industry to perform criminal


background checks.
‘This trauma changed me forever’
Lauren Clark said in court in 2017 that being attacked is “a battle that tethers us
to pain we never asked for and that we most certainly never deserved.” (Carolyn
Van Houten/The Washington Post)

In the wake of creating the fliers that summer, Clark struggled to sleep. It had
been four years since the attack. She used to feel bold and brave, but no longer.
She was angry. She was scared.

On July 27, 2017, Eliason filed a motion with Judge Morrison requesting a new
hearing on the grounds that Clark was not notified of the earlier hearing.

In September 2017, the Cruz case was once again called for a hearing in
Morrison’s courtroom.
The judge admitted he had erred in not notifying Clark about the previous
hearing, which he said was “clearly in violation of the statutory rights” of the
victim.
“I didn’t notice it,” he said in court. “I should have thought of it even though as a
practical matter it’s the prosecutor rather than the court that informs people in
that circumstance.”

In a statement to The Post, the U.S. attorney’s office said it is committed to


upholding the rights of crime victims:

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes its obligations under the federal and District of
Columbia victims’ rights statutes very seriously and sent out more than 46,000
notification letters in calendar year 2018 alerting victims to court proceedings
through an automated system triggered by the receipt of hearing dates from the
Court. The system works well, but it is not perfect, and we will continue working
with the Court to address any underlying notification issues that hindered our
ability to provide notice in this case. Fortunately, the hearing was reopened, and
the victim had an opportunity not only to attend but also to be heard.”

With her sister and close friends looking on, Clark addressed the court.

The last time I was here I already knew this trauma changed me forever. But at
that time I had no way of knowing how this man would continue to bring pain and
suffering into my life. Four years later, I have much more to say.
. . .
I understand why survivors of sexual assault don’t report the crimes committed
against them. It’s like signing up to be re- traumatized. It’s a battle that tethers us
to pain we never asked for and that we most certainly never deserved. However,
I’m here today, to say that this man has done more than enough to deserve the
sentence you imposed on him four years ago and he still deserves it today.
Her words appeared to have a profound effect on Morrison.

“I’ve been a judge now for 37 years and I don’t remember ever having heard a
more eloquent or forceful articulation of what it was like to be a victim in a case
like this than the one that you’ve just rendered,” he said.

Morrison reversed his decision and mandated CSOSA to provide the assessment
to Cruz that it had failed to provide four years earlier. But Cruz’s five-year
probation term was running out. He would finally get treatment but only for
about a year.

After his departure from Le Diplomate, Cruz briefly worked at restaurants in


Alexandria and Bethesda. Earlier this year, he was head chef at the Grist Mill at
the downtown Hilton Garden Inn.
After inquiries from The Post, he left the job in October. In a statement, the
interim general manager said “we have no further information to offer regarding
this matter.”

Clark won her last court battle with Cruz. But she still lives with what she lost.

The night he attacked me I was out seeking a runner’s high.

I haven’t gone on a run since.

Not once.

Note: This article has been updated with additional information about the
prosecutor’s recommendation for Cruz’s sentence and additional comment from
Ian Hilton.
Posted by Thavam