A man accused in his teenage daughter’s 2006 death will get two new court-appointed attorneys, which could set back the case several months, if not longer.
Mark Edward Mesiti, 46, is accused of sexually abusing and murdering his daughter, Alycia Mesiti. The 14-year-old girl’s body was found buried in a Ceres home’s backyard in 2009.
Defense attorneys Robert Orenstein and Mark Sullivan told the judge Monday afternoon that they no longer could represent the defendant. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Mesiti, so the law requires a second appointed defense attorney who deals with death-penalty issues.
Orenstein said in court that he received a “communication” from the defendant that resulted in a “complete breakdown of the attorney-client relationship.” But he would not share specific details about the information or statements he received from Mesiti because doing so would be a breach of the attorney-client privilege.
Sullivan was made aware of the situation. He and Orenstein requested to withdraw from the case.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees asked the court to keep the defense attorneys on the case. She proposed that the judge close the courtroom so the court could learn more without breaching the attorney-client confidentiality rules.
Orenstein told the judge that even in a closed courtroom, he would not be able to divulge any more information about the communication from his client.
Without any other option available to him, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge John Freeland allowed the attorneys to withdraw from the case.
Mesiti told the judge that he understood his attorneys wanted to withdraw from the case, and he had no problem with the decision. He had filed a motion to have the court remove his attorneys from the case, so a scheduled June 25 hearing on that issue no longer will be needed.
Freeland appointed a new law firm to represent Mesiti. Who his actual attorneys will be has not been determined. The judge scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to appoint a new lead attorney.
The new attorneys will need a lot of time to catch up with the case, which was filed in June 2009. Orenstein and Sullivan have to hand over to the new attorneys all the evidence they’ve collected from prosecutors.
“There is a tremendous amount of discovery evidence,” Orenstein told the judge. “Binders upon binders of discovery evidence.”
An appellate court decision is pending regarding a ruling by Freeland to remove Rees from the case based on a conflict of interest. Prosecutors are challenging Freeland’s ruling and seeking to reinstate Rees, who remains on the case pending the appellate decision.
The state’s appellate court has scheduled a hearing June 18 in Fresno, where attorneys will argue over Rees’ removal. The appellate court could issue a ruling in the following weeks.
In August, a criminal grand jury indicted Mesiti in the death of his daughter. His arraignment has been postponed numerous times since then.
The prosecutors want to move the case forward with Mesiti’s arraignment on the indictment, but that can’t occur until after the judge determines who will legally represent the defendant. The defense attorneys must then have an opportunity to challenge the indictment before Mesiti can be arraigned.
Alycia Mesiti was reported missing in August 2006. Her body was discovered March 25, 2009, in the backyard of an Alexis Court home in Ceres where Mark Mesiti used to live. Mesiti and the rest of his family by then had moved to Los Angeles, where he was convicted in 2011 of manufacturing methamphetamine.
Mesiti is charged with murder and more than 40 counts of sexually abusing Alycia, as well as sex-abuse charges involving two other girls, according to the indictment against him. The defendant remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail. He is being held without bail.