Sex offending suspect claims transgender harassment in Wi Spa case
In June, a group of women complained that a person who identified as female exposed their penis at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles. The incident led to months of sometimes violent protests, with media outlets declaring it an example of bias against the transgendered, or even that it didn’t happen. Slate said it was a “transphobic hoax.”
But on Monday, charges of indecent exposure were discretely filed against a serial sex offender for the Wi Spa incident, following an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Sources with knowledge of the case but not authorized to speak publicly say four women and a minor girl came forward to allege that Darren Agee Merager was partially erect in the women’s section of Wi Spa. Besides being a suspect in this case, Merager is facing multiple felony charges of indecent exposure over a separate incident in Los Angeles.
Merager, who spoke exclusively The Post, denies the allegations and says that she is actually the victim of transphobic harassment.
On June 23, several women confronted staff at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles’ Koreatown over accusations that a person exposed male genitalia in the women’s section. Video of the interaction was posted the following day on Instagram by a woman using the name “Cubana Angel.”
“It’s okay for a man to go into the women’s section, show his penis around the other women, young little girls — underage — in your spa?” she asked the staff. “He’s a man! He is a man!” The three-and-a-half-minute video was reposted across social media and promptly went viral.
“Cubana Angel” spoke at a press conference on July 7 in Pasadena next to her attorney. “As I was walking, I noticed something that was really disturbing, something that caused me to feel that I was transported into the men’s locker room,” the woman said.
She said some women and girls were uncomfortable and began putting their robes back on. She complained to staff, where the video was recorded, but they legally could not do anything because of California law. “We as women have rights to be safe in public spaces and they are being violated by men,” she said.
Both “Cubana Angel” and her attorney, Marc Little, declined to comment for the story.
The video was followed by weeks of sometimes violent face-offs between right-wing and Evangelical Christian protesters at the Wi Spa, and Antifa and far-left counter-protesters. On July 3, after police formed a line to separate the two groups, 40 people were arrested.
The LAPD so far have confirmed few details about the Wi Spa incident. Inquiries sent to the department were responded with statements saying the investigation is “ongoing.”
Then, this week, a warrant was issued in Los Angeles County for the arrest of 52-year-old Darren Merager, of Riverside, Calif., based on five felony counts of indecent exposure in connection with the Wi Spa incident. As of publication, Merager has not been arrested.
“Everything about the Wi Spa was a bunch of garbage and lies,” Merager said in an interview. She says she is legally female in California and was in a jacuzzi in the women’s section when she was accosted by “Cubana Angel.”
“She never saw me naked. I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest.” Merager denies ever being erect or around children at the spa. She says she is actually the victim of sexual harassment by transphobic women at the Wi Spa.
Law-enforcement sources revealed that Merager is a tier-one registered sex offender with two prior convictions of indecent exposure stemming from incidents in 2002 and 2003 in California. She declined to comment on the convictions. In 2008, she was convicted for failing to register as a sex offender.
A law passed by California Democrats that went into effect this year replaced the state’s lifetime registration requirement to a tiered system. The law allows lower-tiered sex offenders to petition to be removed from the list. However, Merager is not eligible due to ongoing criminal charges. She also has a long criminal history in California that includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary and escape.
In addition to Merager’s new felony charges of indecent exposure, she is also facing six felony counts of indecent exposure over a separate locker room incident in December 2018. Los Angeles County prosecutors accuse Merager of indecent exposure to women and children in a changing area at a swimming pool in West Hollywood Park.
“Merager claims to identify as female so he can access women’s locker rooms and showers,” reads an internal flyer by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that was sent to law enforcement departments in southern California in late 2018. Merager has pleaded not guilty to all six counts and her next court date for the incident is on Sept. 8. Merager told law enforcement she’s transient but bail was set at $150,000 in early 2019, which was paid.
Merager says her open cases involving accusations of indecent exposure show a “pattern of abuse” from a state and society that punishes transgender people. “You allow [trans women] to go in there [women’s spaces] and then people simply claim indecent exposure and you’re arrested,” she says.
Merager says she is speaking with progressive California lawmakers, like state senator Scott Wiener, in the hope that they change state law to better protect trans people.
“If you go into an area where you’re expected to be nude, there has to be an indecent exposure exemption,” she says. Merager says she may file complaints or lawsuits for the discrimination she says she has been made to suffer by law enforcement and women in the Wi Spa. She says she has been in contact with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office since learning of the warrant and plans to turn herself in.