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Flanked by attorneys, Michael Serges sat nervously at the defendant's table while the jury deliberated, his life and career as a peace officer hanging in the balance. He knew he was innocent, that he didn't rape anyone, but he also knew you can never predict what a jury is going to do. It had been an emotional three-day trial, filled with heinous accusations designed to pull at the jurors' heartstrings, but it was also light on facts.
Serges had been a guard at a Harris County juvenile detention center in 2000, and now, eight years later, while he was employed as a deputy for the Precinct 4 Constable's Office, a woman was accusing him of raping her in the juvenile hall's shower. She was 12 when this supposedly happened. When she testified, she showed up in a wheelchair, weak from kidney failure and sick with lupus. Very sympathetic. Yet despite all of the heart-wrenching theatrics, Serges's lawyers were able to poke enormous holes in her story, and Serges was hopeful when the jury announced it had reached its decision a little before 4:30 p.m. on October 1, 2008.
The courtroom, which was packed with Serges's family, fellow church members, news media and other lawyers and prosecutors who had come to check out the high-profile case, drew silent as the judge read the verdict aloud.
The gallery leapt to its feet, roaring, cheering, hooting and clapping. Serges and his attorneys embraced, tears rolling down their cheeks. The bailiff even had to step in to calm Serges's family down.
Four months later, nearly the exact same scene played out again. A second girl accused Serges of raping her while he was working at the juvenile detention center, this time while he supposedly drove her to a doctor's appointment. Once again, the case went to trial, and once again, the jury found Serges not guilty.
"The first time I was elated, overjoyed," says Serges. "After the second acquittal, though, I was upset. Angry that they put me through all of this again."
In all, prosecutors lined up four women who claimed that Serges had sexually assaulted them in separate incidents during his time as a detention officer from 1996 to 2001. But there was never enough evidence for a jury to convict. He was charged with seven counts, tried twice and acquitted twice. The Harris County District Attorney's Office eventually dismissed the other charges following the two unsuccessful trials.
Serges had spent more than a year defending himself in the media and the courts, where he was painted as a kiddie-rapist, and now that it was all over, job No. 1 was to restore his reputation and get his life back on track. That meant getting his career going again, and getting his job back at Precinct 4.
When Serges was initially arrested for aggravated sexual assault of a child in March 2008, Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman fired him, putting Serges's lifelong dream of being a lawman on hold. In the past, other deputies in his and other precincts had been charged, fired and then exonerated, and were rehired. Serges didn't see why he couldn't do the same. So, in April 2009, after all the charges had finally been cleared, Serges called up the constable's office and asked for his job back.
It was, however, not that easy. For starters, they told him he needed to take all of the written, oral and physical agility tests again, as if he had never worked there. No problem. Serges took and passed them all. He says that when he received his test results, someone at the constable's human resources department told him there shouldn't be any problems with him returning to work.
Two weeks later, Serges got a letter in the mail from Precinct 4 saying he did not meet the employment standards.
"It doesn't make any sense," says Serges. "Nothing is any different now from when I was working there before."
Serges is particularly frustrated because not only won't the constable's office rehire him, no one there will tell him why.
To make ends meet, Serges is now a security guard, working the 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift at CVS, the only job he can find.
Growing up, a poor, black kid from Houston's Sunnyside neighborhood, Serges says the cops were always around. And more often than not, he thought, they were up to no damn good.
"They'd pull you over, call you derogatory names, harass you when you're going somewhere," says Serges. "It was common in my neighborhood in the early '80s. I always thought people should be treated better than that and that I could really help."
Today, Serges says his early experiences with police made him want to be one. It was that, plus his grandparents' addiction to cop shows on TV, that practically ensured one day he'd be a lawman.
"I lived with my grandparents, and they were always watching those police shows," Serges remembers. "Kojak, Columbo, Starsky and Hutch, all of them. And we were not rich; they were retired blue-collar workers, and we only had one TV, so we had to watch everything all together. It was our only real family time. So I always wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a kid."