56ºF

Hialeah police sergeant arrested 4 years after sexual assault claims by women, minors

Jesús Menocal Jr. faces life in prison for claims of sexual assault while on duty

HIALEAH, Fla. – The FBI arrested a decorated Hialeah police officer and SWAT team member Friday morning on charges related to a sexual assault investigation of four girls and women while on duty dating to January 2015.

Jesús Menocal Jr., 32, appeared in a Miami-Dade courtroom several hours later where he was charged by federal prosecutors for unlawfully violating the civil rights of two women, one underage at the time, using his position as a police officer to pressure the victims to have sex while he was on duty.

According to court documents, on June 13, 2015 Menocal asked an underage victim “to remove her shorts and underwear and turn around” for “his own sexual gratification.” Menocal is also accused of kidnapping and the “use and threatened use of a dangerous weapon.”

In a separate offense, Menocal is also accused of exposing himself to a second victim, forcing her hand to grab him while he kissed her.

If convicted, Menocal faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the first charge and a 10-year maximum sentence for the second.

Menocal was afforded a $250,000 bond which was co-signed by his father, a former police chief in Sweetwater, and his wife. The judge ordered Menocal to surrender his firearms and weapons permits and set an arraignment for Wednesday morning.

While the first victim is not named, the date of the offense matches the same date then-17-year-old Maley DaCoasta had a run-in with Menocal after a routine traffic stop in the evening.

Surveillance video from an internal investigation showed that Menocal placed DaCosta in the back of his police car without handcuffs and drove her to a Hialeah police substation.

Instead of leading her to an interrogation room, DaCosta said she was led to Menocal’s office, where the officer asked her to remove her clothes and for her to turn around, documents showed.

According to a civil complaint filed by DaCosta, now 22, she declined Menocal’s sexual advances, and once it was clear the then-underage girl was not going to have sex, the officer let her get dressed, documents read.

Menocal never reported the interaction with DaCosta in his police log or arrest records, reports said.

The sergeant told DaCosta that he wouldn’t tell her mother about her run-in with police officers if she kept quiet about their encounter, the civil lawsuit claims.

One day later, Menocal was placed on administrative leave and an investigation was launched. An internal investigation showed that, on nine separate occasions, Menocal escorted women in a similar fashion into his office.

During the course of the investigation, DaCosta and three other girls and women gave sworn statements that Menocal sexually assaulted them. One of those victims was a 14-year-old girl who said Menocal forced her to perform oral sex on him.

In 2016 the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office did not pursue charges against Menocal due to concerns of the strength of the witness statements.

“At the time, we did not have sufficient evidence to ethically file state sexual assault charges,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “However, we did not give up on this matter. Recognizing that Federal Civil Rights charges might be viable, we referred this matter to the DOJ for further investigation in 2016.”

Menocal was patrolling the streets less than a year later and received a wage increase, documents obtained by the Miami Herald showed.

After the investigation was handed over to the FBI in mid-November, Menocal was placed on administrative leave with pay.

Following the charges, Hialeah police chief Sergio Velázquez confirmed that Menocal was terminated effective immediately.