In 2015, an underage Miami teen came forward to tell a harrowing story: She said she'd essentially been kidnapped by a Hialeah Police officer, locked in a windowless room in the police station, and forced to strip off her clothes while the cop, Jesus "Jesse" Menocal Jr., allegedly touched himself through his pants.
That June, the Hialeah Police Department told reporters that Menocal had been suspended after the incident. But in 2017, New Times confirmed the agency had actually lied to the media — then-spokesman Carl Zogby confirmed Menocal was "never suspended" and had faced essentially no repercussions for his alleged actions. He'd instead been placed back on active duty and was patrolling the streets.
The case had since remained quiet — until this month, when the woman, Maley Dacosta, now 21 years old, filed a lawsuit against Menocal and the City of Hialeah in county court.
The June 8 lawsuit states Dacosta's "constitutional rights were violated when she, a minor at the time, was falsely arrested by Menocal, forced to strip for Menocal down to her bra and underwear, and later asked to remove her bra as well but she refused. At this time, Menocal was rubbing his penis over his pants and asking specific questions about how Dacosta, at the time an underage lesbian female, has sex with her partner."
The case represents the first time Dacosta has come forward as an adult and revealed her identity. Reached by phone, one of Dacosta's lawyers declined to comment. Hialeah Police did not immediately return a request for comment. The department typically does not comment on pending litigation.
Critics have noted that Menocal Jr. might be receiving special treatment due to the connections of his father, longtime cop and former Sweetwater Police Chief Jesus Menocal Sr. The elder Menocal was no stranger to controversy himself — in the mid-'80s, he applied to be a City of Miami cop during the height of the "Cocaine Cowboys" era but was disqualified after news emerged he'd agreed to become a bodyguard for a cocaine trafficker. (He denied those allegations.) His brother Ignacio also was accused of having ties to the criminal underworld. But in 1986, Sweetwater Police ultimately hired Jesus Sr. and Ignacio despite their alleged histories.
The elder Menocal eventually worked his way up to chief. But while Menocal Sr. was running the department, the FBI says, Sweetwater Police morphed into one of Florida's most corrupt law enforcement agencies. In 2017, federal investigators charged a slew of Sweetwater cops with stealing iPads, TV sets, and a truck from one man; beating a suspected thief for hours inside a police station; and waterboarding a man for hours until he falsely confessed to a burglary. (The FBI's probe began under Menocal Sr.'s predecessor, Chief Roberto Fulgueira, but continued until after Menocal Sr. resigned.)
At the time, Menocal Jr.'s case raised serious questions about both the Hialeah Police Department and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office, which seemingly took no action against Menocal after Dacosta came forward as a minor. In 2015, Dacosta, then anonymous, told CBS Miami that Menocal, then a SWAT officer, had seen her driving with her then-girlfriend and stopped the couple for no reason by blocking their car's route through a city street. During the traffic stop, Menocal took Dacosta's driver's license. She says he then placed her in the back of his cruiser and drove her to an undisclosed location, which turned out to be a Hialeah Police station. He allegedly walked her though a back entrance and into the squad room, locked the door, and pinned her against a wall.
"He asked me if I was a virgin," she told CBS that year. "He asked me how I have intercourse with my girlfriend. I told him I don't know. Why? I don't think that's important."
The new lawsuit reiterates many of the same details. The suit alleges Menocal removed his weapon from his pants and began rubbing himself through his pants. She says Menocal demanded she strip to her underwear and then continued to beg her to strip fully nude. He allegedly asked her to turn around and show her backside. Eventually, she stated she was on her period, she says.
"I thought you wanted to fuck me," Menocal said, according to the complaint. He allegedly told her he had saved her address and instructed her not to tell anyone about the incident.
Menocal's alleged actions are not unique. In 2015, the Associated Press published a massive investigation detailing thousands of instances in which cops lost their badges after sexually assaulting citizens. The AP found that more than 1,000 cops had lost their jobs for various sex crimes in a six-year period.
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The case also raises major questions about the integrity of Hialeah PD. In 2015, department spokesman Zogby told the media that Menocal had been suspended pending an internal affairs investigation. But in 2017, Zogby said those statements were "inaccurate."
"Sargeant Menocal was never suspended, but the IA case is not closed, thereby not available for public-records release yet," Zogby told New Times. "He is back on patrol, and that is an operational-needs decision."
Since then, Menocal has seemingly faced little, if any, repercussions for his alleged actions. So now Dacosta is taking him to court and suing for false arrest and battery, among other charges.
"Dacosta was told by Menocal that, as long as she did not tell anyone about what happened, he would not tell her mother that she had a run-in with the police," the suit states.