A June incident that spawned a viral video and two violent protests outside Wilshire Boulevard health club Wi Spa has culminated in charges being filed against a local transgender woman.
Prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Darren Agee Merager, who’s charged with five counts of indecent exposure, but was not in police custody as of Thursday. A total of five women had filed reports with the Los Angeles Police Department regarding the June 23 incident, all of them claiming to have seen male genitals exposed in the women’s section of the all-nude, gender-segregated spa.
One of the reports stated that a woman “observed [the suspect] exit a jacuzzi fully nude. Victim observed male genitals on the suspect and became scared and upset.”
The incident went viral in late June, when one of the alleged victims posted a video to social media of her confronting the spa’s staff, claiming to have seen a nude man in the section designated for women.
“So, it’s OK for a man to go into the women’s section, show his penis around the other women, young little girls—underage—in your spa? Wi Spa condones that, is that what you’re saying?” Angel could be heard saying to a masked spa worker, who seemed to assume the patron in question was transgender. “I see a dick! It lets me know he’s a man. He’s a man. He is a man. He is not no female.”
The video led to two weekends of out-of-control protests, with opposing political forces squaring off in the streets outside the spa. It also bred widespread suspicion that the video was a hoax meant to generate outrage about a hot-button issue. The video got major traction on Twitter and was aired on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.
In an exclusive interview with the New York Post, which first reported on the charges, Merager said she is legally female and that she is the victim of “transphobic harassment.”
“Everything about the Wi Spa was a bunch of garbage and lies,” Merager told the tabloid. Merager added that the person who posted the viral video, who uses the username “Cubana Angel,” never saw her naked because she was underwater “all the way up to [her] chest.”
Court records show that Merager was also charged with seven counts of indecent exposure in 2019, and her trial on those allegations began in July. A source with knowledge of the investigation also told the Los Angeles Times that Merager was convicted of misdemeanor indecent exposure in 2003. The unidentified source said Merager’s criminal record is the reason why prosecutors filed felony charges against her on Monday.
When Los Angeles initially reported on the incident, Wi Spa defended its decision not to expel the woman from the spa after other customers complained, citing California Civil Code 51 (b), which makes discriminating against trans and other gender non-conforming people in business establishments illegal in the state. “Like many other metropolitan areas, Los Angeles contains a transgender population, some of whom enjoy visiting a spa,” the statement said. “Wi Spa strives to meet the needs of all its customers.”
As of Thursday, it wasn’t clear whether Merager had legal representation or when she was scheduled to appear in court.
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