Ithaca, N.Y. — A former Cornell student and wrestler charged with rape will be tried in Tompkins County Court this month after rejecting a plea deal offered by prosecutors, according to court documents.

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Peter J. Mesko, 23, has been charged with first-degree rape, second-degree burglary and first-degree sexual abuse. He is accused of entering a Collegetown home and raping a victim on March 30, 2013, while she was sleeping and physically helpless.

The trial, already once delayed, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 20. Mesko has pleaded not guilty; his attorneys have argued that the Cornell senior’s drunkenness the night in question precluded him from forming the requisite intent to be found guilty of rape.

See related: Rape, alcohol and intent: Experts respond to Peter Mesko’s defense

According to paperwork filed with the court over the summer, Mesko rejected prosecutors’ offer to have the first-degree rape charge dropped in exchange for a first-degree sexual abuse charge.

A document reviewed by The Voice, dated from 2013, shows that Mesko was offered the following conditions in the plea:

1 — The reduction of the charge;
2 — Six months in jail followed by 10 years of probation;
3 — An 8 year “no contact” order for the victim and witness;
4 — Successful completion of Sex Offender Treatment;
5 — An agreement not to consume alcohol during the probation term.

Mesko did not take the deal, which had a few other provisions. The document states that Mesko understands the plea deal will not be available to him if convicted.

“I further understand that if I reject this plea offer and I am indicted for the charge of rape in the first degree … and other potential charges, the plea offer as outlined above is by law not available to me,” the document, signed by Mesko, states.

“What this means for me is that once this case is indicted, the only sentence available to me, is a mandatory state prison sentence, if convicted.”

Peter Mesko

Mesko, of Honesdale, Pa., goes on to acknowledge that if he rejects the plea offer he could face up to 25 years behind bars and post-release supervision of 20 years. (The mandatory minimum is five years.)

He additionally recognizes that a conviction on an attempted rape charge could bring up to 15 years behind bars. (The mandatory minimum on that charge is 3.5 years.)

“I have discussed defenses with my attorneys, and they have explained the consequences of rejecting the people’s offer with me. I understand those consequences, and in spite of those consequences, I wish to reject the People’s offer and have the matter proceed,” the document states.

Mesko’s attorney is Lauren Owens. ADA Wendy Franklin will be representing the district attorney’s office, and Tompkins County Judge Joseph Cassidy will be presiding over the trial.

The Cornell Daily Sun has reported that Mesko is no longer a student.

Documents previously reviewed by The Voice show that Mesko’s lawyers say that they plan to provide evidence of their client’s “diminished mental capacity” the night of the crime.

Mesko’s intoxication, the lawyers argue, means that he was unable to form the requisite intent required for the charges pressed against him.

But in an interview with The Voice’s Patrick Feeney in June, Tiffany Greco of the Advocacy Center said alcohol should not play a factor into whether or not Mesko is found guilty.

“Intoxicated or not, people are still accountable for their actions,” Greco said.

“If a person was drunk, are they not accountable for killing someone in a drunk driving accident?”


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Jeff Stein

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