Crime

Mark Mesiti gets new attorney, but sentencing for daughter's death remains scheduled

Watch as Mark Mesiti arrives for his court appearance in Modesto

Mark Edward Mesiti appeared in Stanislaus County Superior Court Thursday (11-02-17) in Modesto, Calif. He wants to withdraw his guilty plea in the death of his daughter Alycia Mesiti. Video By:Joan Barnett Lee / jlee@modbee.com
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Mark Edward Mesiti appeared in Stanislaus County Superior Court Thursday (11-02-17) in Modesto, Calif. He wants to withdraw his guilty plea in the death of his daughter Alycia Mesiti. Video By:Joan Barnett Lee / jlee@modbee.com

Mark Edward Mesiti got the new attorney he wanted, but a Stanislaus County judge on Thursday refused to postpone his Nov. 28 sentencing hearing for drugging, sexually abusing and killing his teenage daughter, Alycia Mesiti.

Mesiti on Oct. 17 pleaded guilty to more than 40 criminal charges stemming from his daughter’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.

Mesiti offered to plead guilty in the middle of his murder trial. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office agreed Mesiti would be sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.

But Mesiti changed his mind a few weeks later. Steven O’Connor, Mesiti’s newly hired attorney, told the judge on Thursday that his client intends to withdraw his guilty plea and to get a new trial. The defense attorney asked the court to postpone the Nov. 28 sentencing.

O’Connor argued that he needs more time to organize and review the large amount of evidence in the case before filing a motion to withdraw Mesiti’s guilty plea.

The defense attorney told the judge that forcing him to rush his preparation would be creating a “MASH situation,” a reference to the TV show portraying a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. If the judge would give him additional time to prepare, O’Connor said they would have the “Kaiser standard,” a reference to the Kaiser Permanente group of hospitals that have been providing health care for 60 years.

Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves said O’Connor has been involved with Mesiti’s case since Oct. 27, so the attorney has had plenty of time to prepare a motion to withdraw Mesiti’s guilty plea before the Nov. 28 sentencing. The judge said Thursday that O’Connor had not provided any legal grounds to postpone the sentencing.

O’Connor said he intends to file a motion to postpone the sentencing. The judge said she will hear O’Connor’s argument once the motion to postpone is filed and a hearing is scheduled.

Mesiti initially wanted to legally represent himself but changed his mind a few months before his trial. The court appointed attorneys Martin Baker and Bob Wildman to represent Mesiti in the trial.

O’Connor has said the court should allow Mesiti to withdraw his guilty plea and receive “a fair trial with competent counsel.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees, who prosecuted the case, has said Mesiti is just trying to delay justice by trying to withdraw his guilty plea.

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.

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 to prevent her from resisting his sexual abuse.

Baker 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.

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