Peter Mesko in court Wednesday

Ithaca, N.Y. — There’s no physical evidence linking former Cornell student Peter Mesko to the crime of first-degree rape of which he stands accused, Mesko’s defense attorney said in his opening remarks on Wednesday.

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Mesko, 23, a former Cornell wrestler, faces felony charges of rape, first-degree sexual abuse and burglary.

In his opening argument, defense attorney William Dreyer urged the jurors to wait for the facts before rushing to judgement.

Peter Mesko in court Wednesday

He said that “extensive” forensic analysis had been done after the reported crime — analysis that could detect as few as a five skin cells — but that none of it connected Mesko to the victim’s clothing.

“In this case, no such DNA could be found in any analysis that had been done in the clothing or on the evidence taken from the victim,” he said.

The Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office has said that Mesko, of Pennsylvania, entered the room of a woman sleeping in Collegetown and raped her while she slept.

One woman was then able to take a photograph of Mesko that has been cited by prosecutors.

Previously, court documents submitted by the defense argued that Mesko was too drunk to form the requisite attempt to commit rape.

But Dreyer’s remarks Wednesday broadened the defense’s argument. Not only is there no physical evidence, according to Dreyer, but witness testimony will support that Mesko did not commit the crime.

“I’m going to ask you to consider all the facts in the circumstances along with this very restricted timeline, and then add to that the forensic testimony you’re going to hear,” Dreyer said.

In particular, Dreyer said that friends of Mesko’s will testify that he fell asleep on top of them on a futon in the Collegetown home — drunk from beer pong, but not dangerously intoxicated or belligerent.

The victim has told law enforcement that she was sexually assaulted at 4:45 a.m., according to court documents. The defense, however, tried casting doubt on that timeline on Wednesday.

Dreyer said that in the early morning hours of March 30, Mesko and his friends put on a DVD to watch in a downstairs room of the Collegetown house. His two friends fell asleep on a futon in the room, and Mesko fell asleep on the floor. (The reported victim was in a separate room in the same house.)

Then “Mr. Mesko, who was on the floor asleep, got up and laid on top of (his friends) on the futon, seeking a place to sleep,” Dreyer said.

“At 4:45 when the DVD ended, Peter Mesko was still on top of (his friend) on the futon, still passed out or asleep.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.