The owner of Pelican Pete’s has been charged with second-degree rape after allegedly forcing one of his waitresses to have sex in the bathroom during a night of drinking with his employees at the Germantown restaurant.
Montgomery County police and statements made Friday in Montgomery County District Court sketch out the following scenario:
After closing Pelican Pete’s for the night on Aug. 6, Juan Alberto Melgar and several of his employees stayed for drinks, which stretched into the early morning hours of Aug. 7. Melgar—52, of the 11000 block of Staten Court in Germantown—went with the group to drink more at La Mexicana restaurant, less than a mile away. When La Mexicana closed, the group went back to Pelican Pete’s to keep drinking. At one point, the waitress—who had been working at Pelican Pete’s for a month—went to the bathroom. Melgar came in, kissed her, pushed her into a corner and forced her to have sex, according to police.
Melgar left the bathroom after five minutes, police said.
The waitress went to police on Aug. 8. Police issued their warrant for Melgar on Tuesday and arrested him without incident at Johnny’s Kabob, which he also owns.
Samuel Delgado, Melgar’s attorney, attacked the police version of events at Melgar’s bond review hearing on Friday, beginning with the waitress’s inconspicuous behavior after returning from the bathroom, and her two-day delay in reporting the incident to police.
Delgado said that the waitress kept drinking with the group after the alleged incident. He also pointed out that police charging documents don’t mention that anyone observed anything unusual.
"The reason it’s not there is because it didn’t happen this way," he said.
Prosecutors refuted Delgado’s argument by pointing out that victims oftentimes do not immediately report sexual assaults by their employer.
"Under these circumstances, it makes a delayed response actually almost expected in cases like this," said Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres.
Also at issue in today’s court bond review: Melgar has been held in jail since Wednesday because officials have been unable to verify his identity. At his initial bond review on Thursday, Melgar was ordered held without bond another day while jail officials fixed a fingerprinting error. Their mistake hadn’t been corrected by Friday’s hearing. When jail officials asked Judge Eugene Wolfe to detain him until Monday, Delgado pushed for his client’s immediate release.
Melgar employs 35 people at his two restaurants, Delgado said, is a father of four, has no criminal record and has been a U.S. citizen for more than 25 years.
"He is an example for this community," Delgado said. "To hold him another day, another minute … is unfair and unjust."
Prosecutors argued against Melgar's release prior to correcting the error and because of the seriousness of the charge.
Wolfe ordered that Melgar be released on unsecured personal bond but required him to wear an electronic bracelet and to surrender his passport pending a preliminary hearing on Sept. 16.