This story was reported by Faith Meckley and written by Jeff Stein

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Ithaca, N.Y. — The Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office asked Judge Joe Cassidy on Friday to sentence Peter Mesko, convicted of sex crimes and burglary, to 12 years behind bars.

Mesko got five years.

“Peter Mesko wanted to get his rocks off,” and he chose a stranger to do so, said Wendy Franklin, the assistant district attorney who led the prosecution against Mesko. “(There’s) no way to pretty up what he did.”

Mesko, 22, was convicted of sexual abuse and burglary. A Tompkins County jury was unable to break a deadlock on an additional rape charge, and prosecutors haven’t said if they would seek to retry Mesko on the rape charge.

Mesko was sentenced for an incident that occurred in March of 2013. According to law enforcement, he entered the room of another Cornell student and raped her while she slept.

ADA Wendy Franklin during the trial

Judge Joe Cassidy sentenced Mesko to three years of post-release supervision in addition to the five years in state prison. Cassidy cited that Mesko did not have a prior criminal history and the testimonies from friends and family to his good character in announcing his decision.

More than 50 people were in Tompkins County Court for the sentencing. A woman connected to the victim spoke in court about how the case had affected her.

“It’s been two years, and if I’m walking somewhere and having a great day and I see someone who resembles him, I completely shut down,” the woman said.

“My general sense of self-confidence and general zeal for life has diminished.”

Franklin, the ADA, also read a pre-written statement from the victim of the crime. In the statement, the victim did not request a length of a sentence for Mesko.

“This has affected every aspect of my life,” the statement said. “No length of time or punishment will change what happened or how I have been affected.”

The ADA’s words

In a frank speech, Franklin said Mesko should be punished for the damage he had inflicted on a vulnerable party.

She derided the notion that Mesko should be treated with leniency because of his lack of prior criminal record.

Mesko, according to Franklin, had shown no empathy for the victims and was self-absorbed. She said the defense attorneys had tried to impugn the victims’ characters, and that such efforts were “unconscionable.”

“Because (Mesko) has no other criminal history, this is a ‘big whoop incident,’” she said, mocking the defense’s position, “like he stole a candy bar, and the victims should get over it.”


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Jeff Stein

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