Peter Mesko in court Wednesday

Trigger warning: This story contains some graphic details of sexual violence readers may find disturbing. 

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Ithaca, N.Y. — Prosecutors called to the stand today a forensic nurse at the Cayuga Medical Center in the rape trial of former Cornell student Peter Mesko.

Mesko, 23, has been charged with first-degree rape, sexual abuse and burglary. Mesko stands accused of raping another Cornell student on March 30, 2013, in the early morning hours in a Collegetown home.

In their opening argument, Mesko’s defense lawyers said that there was no physical evidence to link the former Cornell wrestler to the crime. (They also said that witness testimony would show Mesko’s innocence.)

Today, however, the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office introduced witness Joyce Bleiweiss, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner since 1997. Bleiweiss was called to the hospital to examine the victim after the reported attack.

Bleiweiss said she did not find evidence of bruising, redness, bleeding or other clear signs of sexual violence on the victim. But she said the victim was “point-tender” — and that therefore her findings were consistent with someone who had been sexually assaulted.

“It’s very common that they won’t have injuries,” Bleiweiss said of sexual assault victims, before listing a number of factors.

Bleiweiss took the jurors step-by-step through her process for examining sexual assault victims, noting that she is careful not to cross-contaminate evidence and that she follows procedures from the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

Bleiweiss said she has examined 30 to 40 sexual assault cases a year since 1997 and has testified over a dozen times in courts across Central New York and the Southern Tier.

The nurse said that the fact that “there was no visible injury” does not prove that the attack did not occur. Bleiweiss said she did not pursue more intrusive means of evaluating the victim because these methods can make the victim feel again violated and inflict further pain (and the victim was already in pain, she said).

The examination occurred at around 1 p.m. on March 30, 2013. Testing took over four hours, Bleiweiss said.

During a brief cross-examination, the defense attorney said that the evidence was also consistent with the absence of a sexual assault.


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Jeff Stein

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