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“Discreet” arrest of sex offender made in Wi Spa case after months of right-wing outrage

A criminal suspect being detained with hands handcuffed in front of graffiti
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An arrest has been made in an ongoing dispute arising from a viral video taken at a Los Angeles spa in June, featuring a woman claiming that either a trans woman or a cis man was using the women’s facilities at the spa. The dispute quickly became a right-wing conspiracy, although the spa in question denied that a trans woman was using the facilities at the time and no evidence had publicly been made available showing otherwise.

Now, weeks later, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has charged Darren Merager with indecent exposure, and while the department has given little information publicly — such as Merager’s gender identity — they maintain that Merager is a registered sex offender. Merager allegedly said in an interview that they are the victim of anti-trans harassment.

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The issue started on June 24 at Wi’s Spa, located in Koreatown near the center of Los Angeles, when an Instagram video showed a woman complaining to staff that a man, or a transgender woman, was using the facilities at Wi Spa.

The woman, going by the online moniker Cubana Angel, was complaining in the video claimed that said a man was allegedly posing as a woman to use women’s facilities at the spa, and that he tried to expose himself to women in the room. Customers at the family-friendly facilities are frequently undressed while bathing and soaking in the hot water.

Authorities and spa employees say that there wasn’t a trans woman in the building at the time. California public accommodations laws guarantee that transgender people have equal access to facilities.

QAnon believers quickly seized on the video of “evidence” for the conspiracy theory that Democratic politicians and celebrities belong to a pedophilic cannibal cult run by aliens. Multiple trans women began receiving death threats after being falsely “identified” as the spa customer.

With the spa maintaining that there was no trans woman or cisgender man pretending to be a trans woman knowingly sharing the facilities with cis women at the time, several media outlets deemed the entire controversy likely to be a conspiracy or hoax based on misinformation. Yet the LAPD and right-wing media have remained fixated on the incident.

In July, the issue caused a violent riot between far-right and pro-trans protestors. Several were left suffering from severe injuries and the LAPD fired rubber bullets at protestors and bystanders.

Earlier this week, the LAPD quietly issued five felony counts against 52 year-old Darren Merager, who has been registered as a sex offender since 2006 due to convictions to 2002, the Los Angeles Blade confirmed with the LAPD. In 2018, the LAPD printed public information posters claiming that Merager often “claims to be female in order to gain access to women’s locker rooms and showers.”

Following the arrests, the LAPD did not comment on Merager’s gender identity, but Merager talked to Andy Ngo for a report published in the New York Post.

The report refers to Merager with she/her pronouns and alludes to Merager identifying as transgender. The tabloid also calls trans people “the transgendered,” and Ngo — a gay conservative who has traded in misinformation in the past to provoke right-wing outrage — wrote the report.

“Everything about the Wi Spa was a bunch of garbage and lies,” Merager told the Post, according to Ngo. Referring to Cubana Angel, Merager says, “She never saw me naked. I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest.”

Merager also added, according to Ngo, “If you go into an area where you’re expected to be nude, there has to be an indecent exposure exemption,” and noted that plans to file lawsuits and complaints in Merager’s defense are in the works.

Ngo has become known as a “right-wing troll” for his work as editor-at-large at the Post-Millennial, a website that has been criticized for spreading misinformation.

Last night, Ngo discussed his report last night on FOX News with Tucker Carlson, where Ngo describes Merager as an “individual” and “person” with both he/him and she/her pronouns, but Carlson described Merager as a “biological male” as did the Post-Millennial, Ngo’s own outlet.

“As a gay man, LGBT stories interest me, but as a journalist, the truth matters the most,” Ngo claimed. “The truth here is that four women and a minor girl, all people of color, came forward to authorities, despite the pressure that they were facing from the public.”

“The LAPD were completely silent for two months throughout this investigation… but I kept digging,” Ngo said, which led him to uncover the “discreet charges” issued by the LAPD.

Ngo claims that the “radical trans activists” pushed the “establishment press” to discredit the unproven claims that there was anyone with a penis in the room with women at the time of the alleged incident.

Carlson mocked media outlets that didn’t accept “obvious truths,” claiming that Slate (which he mocks as “entirely non-binary”) was wrong to assume the issue was a hoax.

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