Described as a “gentle giant” by his defense attorneys, ex-Hialeah Police Sgt. Jesus Manuel “Jesse” Menocal Jr. has been sentenced to three years in a federal prison for sexually abusing multiple women. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
A Florida cop who used his authority while in uniform to sexually abuse multiple women in late 2014 and 2015 is going to prison for three years, the maximum penalty under federal law.
On Thursday, May 12, in Miami, US District Judge Kathleen M. Williams also sentenced the ex-Hialeah Police Department Sgt. Jesus Manuel “Jesse” Menocal Jr. to one year of supervised release and a special $75 fine. Under the terms of a plea deal the Miami man inked with federal prosecutors on March 2, he’ll also surrender his Florida law enforcement certification.
“The police officer sentenced today violated not only his victims’ rights, but also the public’s trust,” said US Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez in a prepared statement released Friday. “As this prosecution shows, we will hold accountable those in our South Florida community who abuse their positions of power and engage in such disgraceful illegal conduct.”
“You can reach out to my PR person,” Menocal said when contacted by Coffee or Die Magazine on Monday.
His legal team didn’t return messages seeking comment, but his spokesperson, Jeffrey Giordano in Miami, said in the next few days a website will begin to raise questions about Menocal’s prosecution. Giordano also served as the defense team’s private investigator on the case.
According to the federal records, Florida authorities in 2016 declined to prosecute Menocal, 34, for any crimes.
Both the Hialeah Police Department’s Professional Compliance Unit and the State Attorney’s Office determined there was no corroborating evidence for the initial allegations, and he was returned to duty for three years.
On Dec. 12, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted the sergeant for willfully depriving victims of the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by a police officer acting under the color of law. Local news reports about the case drew in other women who said he abused them, and he was suspended from law enforcement.
Although court documents referred to five victims, in his plea agreement Menocal confessed to abusing four women over a seven-month span straddling 2014 and 2015 and he was convicted of victimizing three of them.
Giordano said Menocal wanted to fight the allegations but felt he had to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges rather than risk felony convictions. The judge gave Menocal 60 days to report to prison.
On Nov. 20, 2014, Menocal was driving his marked patrol car when he came across a woman walking along a Hialeah roadway. He stopped and asked her where she was going. When the woman — called “LC” in the court documents — said she was off to the gym, he told her it was unsafe to walk alone and asked her to enter his cruiser.
He then drove to an empty alleyway, where he penetrated her vagina with his penis.
Sometime in the first three months of 2015, he stopped an automobile in his marked patrol car and ordered a woman identified as “CR” in court records to exit her vehicle and enter his cruiser. He then drove her to an alleyway, where he kissed her and forced her hand to his penis.
On May 31, 2015, at Hialeah Police Department Substation 5, he encountered a handcuffed woman known in court documents as “ER.” She was in mental crisis and needed to be transported to a nearby hospital for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation.
Menocal confessed to offering to remove ER’s handcuffs if she performed a sexual act on him. He took her into a restroom and penetrated her mouth with his penis. When he was finished, he put the cuffs back on her and told another officer to take her to the hospital for the evaluation.
On June 13, 2015, he stopped a vehicle driven by a woman known in court documents as “MD.” He transported her to Substation 5 and, while there, ordered her to remove her shorts and underwear, exposing her buttocks to him.
MD complied, but there was no reason for the unlawful search. She was 17 years old.
While he admitted to abusing MD in his plea deal, the agreement called on the prosecutors to dismiss her case. However, prosecutors used Menocal’s confession to bolster their pitch for a maximum sentence for him on all three charges.
With Menocal’s guilt out of the way, prosecutors and defense attorneys began jousting over how severe the cop’s sentence should be. Menocal’s attorneys came armed with 73 letters from local citizens urging leniency. Most of them were retired cops and firefighters and military veterans.
The attorneys told the judge Menocal was the son, nephew, and brother of cops, a man who graduated from the police academy at 19 and joined SWAT at 21, and an officer they suspect might’ve been the “product of immature masculinity” or a “toxic culture” in the force.
They pointed out that Menocal has been married for eight years and is the father of two young children. They played up his meteoric rise inside the Hialeah Police Department, from a standout on the crime suppression team to team leader and SWAT training coordinator.
Police brass promoted him to sergeant when was only 25 years old.
“There are countless stories of selfless acts by Jessie: helping a woman he saw trying to drag her sofa to her front lawn; donating clothes to mentally ill patients in a treatment center or sometimes just visiting with them to let them know someone cares; providing a meal or cup of coffee to a homeless person or assisting stranded motorists to help fix a flat. He never misses an opportunity to help,” his attorneys wrote.
Menocal’s attorneys urged the judge to sentence him to probation. She gave him the max under the sentencing guidelines and his plea deal, forcing him to serve three consecutive one-year terms.
A restitution hearing is slated in Miami on Aug. 10.
“Jesus Menocal now faces the consequences for using his position to sexually abuse women,” said Deputy Special Agent in Charge John J. Bernardo of FBI Miami in a prepared statement. “Menocal was sentenced to the statutory maximum which is a testament to the courage of his victims to come forward and tell their stories as well as the dedication of FBI Miami’s Civil Rights Squad.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed to add comments from the defendant’s spokesperson.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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