Miami-Dade County

September 4, 2013

Miami Beach sex attack suspect from Mexico pleads guilty after Catch-22

Rafael Munguia pleaded guilty in a Fontainebleau hotel attack but because he lives in Mexico City, could not enroll in sex-offender probation.

For raping a woman at a posh Miami Beach hotel, Mexican tourist Rafael Munguia was set to plead guilty — with no jail time and 10 years of probation as a sex offender.

Then a problem arose: Munguia lives in Mexico City and Florida law does not allow for people living overseas to be on the state’s strict sex-offender probation program.

And with Munguia’s tourist visa expiring at the end of the year, he would have to enter the country illegally to report his whereabouts to Florida corrections officials, a frustrated judge said in court Wednesday.

“I think there has to be a solution to this problem. It cannot be the case that a tourist now has to come back here without permission, sneak in and register” as a sex offender, Circuit Judge Maria Elena Verde said, adding: “It would require him to stay in a country where he has no legal status. That’s a problem.”

In the end, the judge allowed Munguia to plead guilty to burglary and sexual battery in exchange for credit for the 100 days of jail time he had already served after his arrest in March 2012. She ordered him to never return to the United States.

Probation for sex offenders was made more strict under a 2005 law named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender. Had Munguia been a Florida or U.S. resident, his probation would have included GPS-monitoring, a strict curfew and sex-offender treatment.

Miami Beach police arrested Munguia last year after detectives said he confessed to entering the room on the 15th floor of the Fontainebleau hotel through a “slightly ajar” door and raping a sleeping woman after returning to the hotel by taxi around 3 a.m.

Police said the woman, who was in Miami Beach to attend the Winter Music Conference and staying in a room next door to her sister, woke up during the attack and tried to fight Munguia off.

Munguia, who had been drinking heavily, did not know the woman, although she admitted she had left the door open waiting for someone to enter the room.

Munguia, 27, had been in the United States for only one day when he was arrested. He will register Wednesday as sex offender in Florida, even though he can never return to the U.S.

“We reached a very amicable resolution to a very interesting case,” said his attorney, Bruce Fleisher. “He comes from a good family in Mexico City. Once he registers as a sex offender, he will go back to his native country because he cannot stay here.”

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