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Report: Serial Groper Worked in Respected D.C. Restaurants for Years

The Washington Post finds that the Brixton, Vidalia, and Le Diplomate employed him

Jayro Cruz worked his way up to chef de cuisine at the now-closed Vidalia.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

After pleading guilty to sexual abuse in 2013 and admitting to groping a total of six women, a D.C. chef went on to work in some of the city’s most respected kitchens, continuing to cook in the area as recently as last October.

In an investigative piece published today by the Washington Post, the newspaper asked restaurants including Le Diplomate, now-closed Vidalia, the Brixton, and Grist Mill at the Hilton Garden Inn downtown were asked how they could have employed Jayro Cruz. All that responded to the Post said they weren’t aware of his criminal history when they employed him.

In 2013, Cruz was arrested for an assault on a woman named Lauren Clark, who was out for a late night jog near the United States Naval Observatory in Northwest. Cruz allegedly tackled her, put his hands between her legs, punched her in the face when she fought back, and stole her phone as he ran away. Police caught Cruz, who had been reported for groping another woman on a motorized scooter that same night, shortly thereafter.

Before taking a plea deal for misdemeanor sexual assault, Cruz reported to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) that he had committed four other previously unreported assaults in addition the two that brought upon his arrest.

Cruz ultimately served 10 days in jail, which were scheduled around his days off while he was head chef at the Brixton, a trendy British pub off U Street NW. He also received 80 days in a halfway house and five years of probation. He was supposed to undergo a high-intensity period of assessment, therapy and oversight from CSOSA. Ian Hilton, a co-owner of the Brixton and other bars that employed Cruz, said the chef told management he was arrested for a bar fight.

Four years later, while checking up on the case, Clark found out that a mistake was made, and her assailant had never been required to participate in the prescribed rehabilitation process. (He was finally forced to undergo an evaluation in the final year of his probation).

In the time he went untreated, Cruz worked his way up through the restaurant scene in D.C.

  • Vidalia: Cruz worked his way up to a chef de cuisine position at the critically lauded Southern restaurant in the West End. Julianna Clarke, a former line cook working under Cruz, told the Post she had a consensual sexual relationship with Cruz that she later realized was a manipulative relationship. She told the Post Cruz would grope her at work and pressure her into sex while cornering her in a storage room. Vidalia co-owner Sallie Buben told the Post that management never knew of allegations against Cruz and did not generally run criminal background checks.
  • Le Diplomate: In 2016, Cruz went to work at Le Diplomate , the French bistro that serves as social hub of the 14th Street NW corridor near Logan Circle. Clark, the jogger who continued to track her assailant, was a regular at the restaurant and was distraught when she found out he worked there. She submitted an anonymous letter to the restaurant that was followed by fliers warning of his crimes. Washington City Paper reported on the fliers and confirmed that Cruz was continuing to work at the restaurant. Cruz stopped working there within a matter of months, and Le Diplomate declined to provide a comment to the Post.
  • Grist Mill: The Post reported that Cruz worked at restaurants in Alexandria and Bethesda before winding up as the head chef at the Grist Mill restaurant in the Hilton Garden Inn downtown. He left the hotel in October after the newspaper contacted management, the Post reports.
  • ‘The man who attacked me works in your kitchen’: Victim of serial groper took justice into her own hands [WaPo]
  • Women Being Warned to Stay Away from D.C. Chef with a Criminal Record [WCP]