Content warning: The following article contains explicit descriptions of acts or behavior readers may find disturbing.
A 12-member jury this evening deadlocked in Monserrate Teron’s trial on charges that he raped his 7-year-old niece at his Palm Coast home in 2019. Absent a plea, which he has previously turned down, or the victim’s decision not to testify again, the Army veteran and nurse will be tried again.
Teron was returned to the aFlagler County jail, where he has been held since January. The next trial must by law be done within 90 days.
The jury deliberated for five hours on the fourth day of trial, and on two or three occasions, depending on how one interpreted their messages, declared itself hung. It had questions about watching videotaped testimony over again (and did).
“I’m not prepared to give up on this jury yet, but there are only so many options that we have available,” Circuit Judge Terence Perkins told the lawyers, out of view of the jury. “I know both sides have a lot of your time and your effort invested in that and I want to make sure that it’s not wasted and we can get a true verdict.”
It was not to be. The jury at close to 9 p.m.–it had gone into deliberations at 3:37 p.m.–citing “lack of evidence” in a note said it was irreparably deadlocked before a courtroom that included, among others, the victim’s parents on one side and Teron’s wife, his daughter and her husband on the other. One of the women who testified that Teron had sexually assaulted her when she was the victim’s age, in the 1980s in Puerto Rico, was also in the courtroom, along with her sisters.
Once she overcame his admonitions to keep the secret, Megan (*), the victim, had alleged that Teron had been sexually abusing her since she was around 5, that he had done so at his Palm Coast home, at her home in Massachusetts, and at her family’s second home in Maine. He was tried on charges that centered on one incident in Palm Coast in 2019, when Teron, following a habit the two had secretly forged over the years, induced her to give him oral sex and molested her. She and her sister were spending the night at Teron’s house, while her parents stayed at the Hammock Beach Resort. Teron’s wife was allegedly in the living room.
The jury had made known its deliberations’ anguish. It had deadlocked over precise parts of the veracity of Teron’s wife and that of Megan. Teron’s wife had testified earlier today that the night of the incident, she had been sitting in the living room the whole time, watching TV and tending to her diabetic dog. She said the door to Megan’s room was open the 30 or 40 minutes Teron was in there, and that she had eyes on where Teron was sitting, but apparently not on Megan. She saw nothing amiss, heard nothing amiss, therefore, the defense argued, nothing amiss could possibly have happened.
The jury wanted to see that interview again, but it hadn’t been video recorded. A transcript could be prepared, but it would take hours. The jury also wanted to see a forensic interview with the child–that one was on video–where she spoke about the incident taking place in Florida.
The jury seemed not to doubt that the girl was being abused, even by Teron. But it questioned whether the abuse had taken place in Palm Coast. By law–the defense and the judge had made that clear–it could only convict if it had no doubt the incident took place in Palm Coast.
Notably, the jury seemed not to doubt that the girl was being abused, even by Teron. But it appeared to questioned whether the abuse had taken place in Palm Coast, as Megan claimed. By law–the defense and the judge had made that clear–it could only convict if it had no doubt the incident took place in Palm Coast, where the charges were filed.
It watched that segment around 7:30 p.m., almost four hours since starting its deliberations, but to no avail. Thirty minutes later, it sent a note to the judge, saying it couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.
Perkins had cautioned the families hours earlier, when the jury initially went in to deliberate. “Some of you may be pleased by the verdict. Some of you may be displeased. Some of you may have very strong feelings about it,” he told the two families. “You’re family and friends, and I understand that. My job is to make sure that our our law and our decorum of the court are maintained. So I don’t want any outbursts. I don’t want any crying. I don’t want yelling and nothing in that regard.” He thanked the families for behaving “absolutely perfectly” up to that point.
Families’ composure is as much of an issue with hung juries, and it wasn’t in this case. The audience took the judge’s declaration in silence, as did Teron, who sat next to his two attorneys–Harley Brook and Derek Maines of Cape Coral-based Musca Law.
The case was investigated by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Augustin Rodriguez and prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark.
Clark portrayed Teron as a man who had skillfully trained the victim into a secret “game” the two shared, and that consisted of her furtively pleasuring him in ways she did not know were inappropriate–let alone criminal–for years: the abuse had started when she was in kindergarten, and “became a habit,” in her words. It was her older sister who forced her to reveal the secret when she was 8. Her parents reported the allegation to police the next day.
They lived in Massachusetts, where Teron had visited often with his family, just as the victim and her family would visit Teron a few times in Florida. The trial centered on allegations of assaults at Teron’s Palm Coast home on Edwin Lane in November 2019–not on any of the other allegations, which have yet to be pursued by Massachusetts police.
Teron had taken the stand late this morning. It was not a particularly remarkable testimony. Brook asked him if he molested Megan. He said no. Brook asked him if he had her masturbate him. He said no. Brook asked him if he ever did anything inappropriate with her. He said no. And so on.
His denials were clipped, curt, unemotional, inevitably contrasting with the detailed descriptions of the assaults by Megan in three videos and in person, when she took the stand on Tuesday. She had spoken in a child’s words of adult acts, acts a child couldn’t possibly have fabricated without experiencing them.
Brook in his closing wasn’t denying that she had been the subject of “unspeakable” acts. “I’ll submit to you that something happened to [Megan.] But I’ll also submit to you that my client is not guilty of the offenses for which he is charged,” he told the jury, skating closer to the theory he had not been able to elucidate in court: that Megan had been molested by another close family member, and was transferring the accusations to her uncle.
Clark again dismissed the claim. “She’s been saying since 2020 that this happened by her uncle, at her uncle’s house in that Murphy bed. Nothing has changed with that,” Clark told the jury, referring to the November 2019 incident in Palm Coast that led to the present charges against Teron.
Just before lunch, as her final rebuttal witness, Clark recalled Megan for a single question: “Has anyone other than Monserrate Teron ever touched you inappropriately?”
“No,” Megan said.
For the jury to find that Teron was not guilty, it would have had to find that Megan had lied not only about what had taken place in Palm Coast, but about her uncle, constructing an entire fantasy around him. The jury had watched her in her Child Protection Team forensic interview: she was not only factual in a detailed way about the acts she was describing regarding Teron, but was also factual in a detailed and verifiable way about her house in Maine, the huge wetlands behind her house in Massachusetts (she used the word accurately), about the snapping turtles that would wander onto her property, about the Halloween festival her school put on, then abrogated, to her chagrin: she had a power of recall that painted a picture in the main, even if some of the details were a bit fuzzy. She was an impressionist, not a fabulist. She even wiped down her teddy bear, after wiping down her hands for the second time during the videotaped interview. (It was in the thick of the pandemic. Her mother is a physician.)
It was with that general sense of precision that she had described the incidents involving Teron, but with markedly less enthusiasm, less pitch, and clearly no heart. Her body, like her voice, would as if collapse on itself when she talked of him. The moment she could, she would speak of anything else–and burgeon again.
Yet it was the method of her storytelling that the defense sought to impeach, describing it as imprecise because she could not say, with 100 percent certainty, that the events she was describing had taken place as she was describing them.
Teron on the stand described the couple of incidents that had been described before–when Megan barged in on him while he was taking a shower, when she grabbed for his private parts when he was waiting, with Megan and her sister, for the rest of the family to do a quick shopping stop at Whole Foods. He was trying to portray Megan as the aggressor.
He was not compelling, certainly not endearing, though he was not unlikable, either. He came across as a sort of everyman with a tendency to self-pity, especially when he enumerated the large numbers of surgeries he’s endured for his back and his shoulder, and when he described his impotence, which he overcame, when necessary, with Viagra. The defense implied that he could not have performed as Megan described, since he was impotent.
But he also briefly came across as not entirely honest, if on a matter of sex (for which even the Torah allows a certain amount of lying). He’d told a detective that he never had sex with his wife, but on the stand, said he had sex with her every few months. It wasn’t a big lie, but on the stand, a lie is a lie. Clark did not harp on it, nor mention it in her closing arguments. She had to overcome other claims.
The defense had Megan’s grandmother testify that the girl acted “inappropriately” toward her husband “on various occasions, trying to pull his pants down,” when she was just 2. She did not succeed. The grandmother also mentioned the shower incident.
The defense tried, out of view of the jury, to bring in evidence that Megan was seen masturbating when she was a toddler, and when she was a little older–not overtly so much as obliviously, by rubbing herself against a chair or rubbing a blanket between her legs, as children sometimes do.
Judge Perkins couldn’t see what relevance that had with the case, and wasn’t going to allow anything that would “victimize the victim,” in his words. The defense wanted to imply that she was over-sexualized, again pressing the argument that she may have been molested, but by someone else, and was transferring her accusations to Teron. Clark said masturbation was “normal behavior for toddlers, children, adolescents,” as the medical literature confirms, and called the defense’s arguments a ploy to make Megan look like the aggressor.
That testimony did not get in, but a few other descriptions of Megan’s grabs for Teron’s private parts did, as did the heart of the defense’s seed of doubt: the testimony of Teron’s wife.
It came down to a she-said-she-said between Megan and her aunt, and who then jury would believe. What is certain is that at least some jurors–it only takes one for a hung jury, since a jury verdict must be unanimous–did not believe Megan. Or at least not enough for a conviction in Palm Coast.
(*) The name has been changed.
Abuse Hotline: Report Abuse Online
The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports 24 hours a day and 7 days a week of known or suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Please use the links below to report a child or adult abuse.
If you suspect or know of a child or vulnerable adult in immediate danger, call 911.
Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare is a mandatory reporter. § 39.201(1)(a), Florida Statutes.
To report an allegation in Spanish or Creole, please call 1-800-962-2873, for TTY use 711 or 1-800-955-8771. This toll free number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with counselors waiting to assist you.
Interesting, every story this week on this trial, the case appeared to be a slam dunk from the testimony & reads. And this came down to being a hung jury over location of the acts, not whether they happened or not ? And now they have 90 days to get this done for a retrial ? Or it disappears completely ?
The dude says
It appears as if there’s no question of guilt.
They should’ve found him guilty, and put him into the general population so he can start to enjoy the fruits of his labor while his lawyers appealed.
Instead, they’ve made it so these brave girls and women will have to continue relive thier trauma yet again.
if it was only that simple. I served as a jury in this case. I promise you it’s harder then it looks. first thing you realize in a case like this. there is no win only a verdict and pain. the words in the case are the evidence. there was nothing else to look at in the case. there were too many questions left un answered. the only thing we knew for certain, the girl was abused, and something did happen we just don’t know what exactly. what we decided at the end of deliberation. although there wasn’t enough to hand a guilty verdict. the is enough in the case not to give him a not guilty verdict. so we had a miss trial due to lack of eveidence so the case could be retried and the state would have more time to gather eveidence for a rock solid verdict. I don’t what’s going to happen with this case from this point on. I know it’s very difficult and sad. from all of us in the jury box. it broke are hearts to not to beable to bring closure to the family in this case.
I was a juror also. 10 of 12 wanted him guilty. Frustrating!! Prosecutor did a great job.
Seriously concerning that those 2 people didn’t find him guilty. Disgusting on their part. That POOR fucking girl, they should feel ashamed
10 of 12: A real giveaway is that the man and his wife claimed they had to pull the child off of him in the shower. A child does not target one, single person. If a child behaves in an “inappropriate” way, that is because someone taught him/her. That child would act inappropriate with others as well. If the child confronted the uncle in the shower, why didn’t he and and wife report it to the child’s parents, in order to find who really groomed this child and to get her some help and identify the culprit? A seven year old child is not so sophisticated as to sexually plot against one individual.
The defense stated the child was molested, she just picked someone else to blame it on. This is not a new tactic. The Republicans did the same thing to Christine Blasey Ford. Their sexual assault expert told them that she was indeed molested, so the Republicans came back to the investigation room and acknowledge that Ms. Ford was molested, but not by Kavenaugh, they stated she simply couldn’t remember who did it.
Ms. Ford is an American professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
What kind of evidence did you need? Paperwork from a child? Sometimes you have to go with your gut. This child may well have to go through this whole thing, and face the same accusations, all over again.
The dude says
Depravity carries the day yet again here in Flagler County.
Color me surprised… no, not really. Not surprised in the slightest bit. At this point, it’s expected.
Shocked and Dismayed says
This was absolutely nauseating and I am in disbelief that another jury has to sit through testimony of his acts again and that the witnesses will have to go through it again.
Pat Stote says
It is hard to believe the outcome of this trial with all the evidence that was presented.
She’s a little girl, and it’s a shame that she has to go through this trial again.
Everyone on the jury should be ashamed they could not reach a guilty verdict.
Way to teach a young girl–or anyone– that the exact location of abuse matters more than the fact that it happens at all.
Trish p says
This trail should’ve been a slam dunk. It’s a shame that there will need to be another trial. The jury stated they were hung due to a lack of evidence, but I bet that the next trial there won’t be a question!
Shameful injustice. No doubt the child was raped, just not proven here in this state. The child is victimized again, by incompetent lawmakers, and is portrayed as “inappropriate.” This is an offender protective society. This state needs to stop with the culture wars, in the name of protecting children, and really do something worth while.
This child was not raped by a transgender, drag queen or groomed by a librarian. Let’s get real and stop the BS and really do something meaningful to protect the children, whether it is gun laws, or how and where a child can get justice.
I know it’s disappointing and even disgusting that there isn’t a guilty verdict against this individual; however, the fact of the case is that the where it happened is the main and key factor of conviction for Flagler County because they have no other jurisdiction to sentence this individual. In due time justice will prevail.
What’s so sad about this is that the author of this is too much of a coward to allow comments that contradict his articles. Therefore the other side, the other perspective is not being seen nor heard. Be better.
Your previous comment was not approved because you flagrantly violated numerous tenets of our comment policy. You attempted to use this site to libel one of the witnesses with vile accusations and assumptions. You lied, passing yourself off as a juror. You are deceptively using different handles to pretend like numerous people are commenting along your lines. You are hiding behind fake names even though you are related to the defendant, requiring you either to disclose your name or, recognizing the sensitivity of the matter, at least to acknowledge your involvement in the case. You are attempting to litigate the case based entirely on speculation and personal prejudice, yet another violation. This may not be a courtroom. We no less have rules of evidence and decorum. Similarly toned, baseless, libelous or deceptive comments will absolutely not be tolerated, neither from you nor anyone else. That goes for the upcoming trial as well. This is not a discussion.