Mark Edward Mesiti on Oct. 17 sat in front of a judge and pleaded guilty to more than 40 criminal charges in the drugging, sexual abuse and killing of his teenage daughter, Alycia Mesiti. But now the defendant wants to withdraw his plea and seek a new trial.
Earlier this month, Mesiti stunned almost everyone involved in his case when he informed the prosecution he was willing to plead guilty to all his charges in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
His murder trial had just started a couple of weeks earlier, and the jury had only heard about a few days worth of testimony when Mesiti offered the plea deal. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.
After Mesiti pleaded guilty and a Nov. 28 sentencing hearing was scheduled, Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees was skeptical of his sudden offer to plead guilty. Rees, who prosecuted the case through several years of delays, has called the defendant a “highly manipulative, evil man.”
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“While not surprised that the defendant would attempt to delay justice and his sentencing, my thoughts are with the victims and their families, who must continue to endure this defendant’s tactics,” Rees said Sunday.
Mesiti, 49, was convicted of murder and more than 40 counts of sexually abusing his daughter, as well as sexual abuse charges involving two other girls identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 in court documents.
Jane Doe 1 was 8 years old when she was sexually abused, authorities said, and Jane Doe 2 was 16 and 17 when she was sexually abused. Both unnamed girls were abused in Los Angeles County.
Alycia died of a “mixed drug intoxication.” The prosecution said investigators found images of Mesiti sexually assaulting his daughter while she was unconscious.
Authorities believed Mesiti drugged his daughter with prescription anti-depressants, benzodiazepine, morphine and methadone to prevent her from resisting his sexual abuse.
The defense argued that Alycia likely died from a drug overdose, telling the jury that a forensic pathologist did not determine the manner of the girl’s death.
On March 25, 2009, the 14-year-old girl’s body was found buried in the backyard of the Ceres home where her father lived at the time of her disappearance in August 2006. He had since moved to Southern California.
The prosecutor said she was informed Friday that Mesiti intends on hiring a new attorney who will file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and seek a new trial. Rees said both sides are set to appear in court Thursday to schedule a hearing on the matter.
In October 2015, Mesiti chose to legally represent himself in his trial. Two years later, Mesiti changed his mind and asked the court to appoint an attorney to represent him. Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves appointed Martin Baker and Bob Wildman to defend Mesiti. His attorneys declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing.
Baker has been a part of Mesiti’s defense team — either as his attorney or advisory counsel — as far back as March 2015. Judge Reeves chose to keep Baker on the case as a court-appointed advisory in case Mesiti didn’t want to legally represent himself anymore. After Mesiti pleaded guilty to all charges, Baker declined to comment about the trial’s abrupt ending.
Alycia’s maternal great-aunt, Roberta Fitzpatrick, attended every hearing in the murder case; she only missed three court dates. She also was surprised by Mesiti’s sudden decision to plead guilty, and she wondered last week whether the defendant would change his mind again and try to seek a new trial.
On Sunday, Fitzpatrick said she was informed Friday that Mesiti had requested a hearing to begin the process of withdrawing his guilty plea. She said Alycia and the two other victims and their families deserve to have this case over, and Mesiti is using the court to inflict more pain on them.
"Even though I have watched all of his manipulations over the years, the news was very upsetting," Fitzpatrick said in an e-mail. "I had hoped I could wind down from all the stress, but so far it is just more stress and sadness."
It will be up to Reeves to decide whether Mesiti gets a new trial.
At the Oct. 17 hearing, Reeves recited in court each of the charges listed on Mesiti’s criminal indictment, along with every enhancement added to the charges. Each time the judge recited a criminal charge, Reeves asked the defendant for his plea. Mesiti pleaded guilty 49 times; the process took about 45 minutes.
The District Attorney’s Office also wrote an allocution statement listing in explicit detail every act of sexual abuse he committed on his daughter and the two other girls. Prosecutors required Mesiti to read this statement in court admitting he committed these acts of abuse in order to get his deal to avoid trial and the possible death sentence.