Photo: Sergeant Jesus “Jesse” Menocal Jr. (left) Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman (right)
By Ben Robinson
New details have emerged in the case of Hialeah Police Department (HPD) Sergeant Jesus “Jesse” Menocal Jr., suggesting that the State Attorney’s Office may have aided in covering up allegations of assault and rape four years ago in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
The prosecutor responsible for charging Menocal, Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman, failed to interview three of his victims. Since its closure, a trove of documents and evidence related to the case have been lost.
The original internal investigation was initiated in June 2015 after Menocal tried to coerce a 17-year-old girl to have sex with him in a camera-less room at the Hialeah police station. This prompted investigators to seek out three other victims who corroborated the allegations that Menocal was a sexual predator, including a 14-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted, threatened with arrest, and told that she would “disappear” if she ever told anyone. At least eight other women and girls had also been taken to the police station by Menocal without a report ever being filed.
One of the victims died in 2015, five months after reporting Menocal’s abuse to investigators, a suspicious incident in which she fell out of a moving car. This particular woman reported that Menocal told her, “if you ever say anything, I will find you and I will kill you.”
The internal investigation was closed with no action against Menocal. He was back on patrol before the investigation was even completed, moved back to the SWAT team as a coordinator, and received a raise from Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velázquez.
The results of the internal affairs investigation were not acted upon as the prosecutors did not consider victims of human trafficking, who Menocal targeted, to be credible witnesses. One prosecutor described a victim as a “bipolar chronic runaway,” and others as “gang members.”
Since then, a lawsuit against the city of Hialeah and a FBI probe have been opened into the accusations, with Chief Velázquez citing “new information” that has come to light. While it is not clear what this “new information” entails, it has been revealed that Hardiman only interviewed one of the four victims when deciding if Menocal should be charged with sexual battery.
It has also been revealed that the State Attorney’s Office has since lost several important pieces of evidence against Menocal. The lost evidence includes statements from three of his victims, Menocal’s interview with investigators, and the surveillance footage showing the eight other women and girls that Menocal brought into the station without filing reports.
Velázquez claims that he does not “cover up for officers” while still defending his decision to keep Menocal employed. It should be noted that Menocal’s father, Jesus Menocal Sr., was himself a high ranking and influential police officer, serving as chief of Sweetwater Police Department (SPD) until his resignation in 2015. A separate FBI probe was opened into SPD at that time for a range of corrupt and violent practices, including waterboarding and theft.
It is clear that the police are willing to overlook each other’s crimes, and in this case the state prosecutor was willing to turn a blind eye as well.
No amount of federal probes can change the fundamental character of policing under imperialism, which is to enforce the law of the ruling class through oppression of the masses, especially the oppressed nations. Menocal benefits from his role in asserting this class domination, while his victims are impoverished by it. They are criminalized and discredited for struggling to survive under capitalism. Menocal’s predatory and misogynistic tendencies, on the other hand, are amplified by policing the working class and the poor.