LISBON - As the teenage accuser held hands with her mother, Judge C. Ashley Pike read the jury's verdict finding Anthony Mehno guilty on all three sexual assault-related charges against him.
Mehno faces up to 10 years in prison for rape, sexual battery and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for the assault which happened in the early morning hours of April 29 in his girlfriend's bed, where the then-15-year-old babysitter was sleeping. Sentencing was set for June 17.
Following the verdict in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Friday, Mehno's wife, Ashley Mehno slumped in her wheelchair sobbing quietly. At one point following the verdict, her husband leaned over the railing separating them and hugged her.
Although Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol asked for immediate sentencing or for the $25,0000 recognizance bond to be revoked, Pike disagreed, allowing Mehno to remain free on bond. A presentencing investigation had already been completed when Mehno agreed to plead to the sexual battery charge in January before changing his mind. The plea had been withdrawn, and the matter proceeded to trial.
In his attempt to get Pike to change his mind, McNicol mentioned the fact that the teenager's mother had to obtain a stalking protection order in July 2010 against Mehno, prior to the case being filed. McNicol said the girl could be at risk, but Pike stood by his decision. He noted the county does not need to pay to house and feed him.
"It would be pretty foolish of you to leave the area," Pike reminded Mehno. Pike noted the purpose of bond is to make sure Mehno appears, and violating a protection order could mean additional charges.
After the hearing McNicol said he was satisfied with the guilty verdicts, noting it has been a long time coming for the teenager.
"I'm extremely satisfied with the verdict," the teen said later Friday. "It's been a long three years. You never think something like that would happen to you."
Earlier, during closing arguments, defense attorney Kenneth Lewis painted a picture of the teenager as a partying girl, who drank, smoked marijuana and was sexually active before the alleged rape happened. He claimed she added details to the story after she was interviewed by doctors and police.
Lewis threw out alternative explanations for what he called the girl's reason for lying about the rape, such as the girl was jealous of her friend Ashley Goudy, who was about to get married to Anthony Mehno, or she was upset because after Mehno came into the picture, she was not asked to babysit as often.
Lewis also said the girl and her mother lied about details in the case, which differed from the story given by Mehno and his wife. He pointed out there was no evidence Mehno ejaculated, and both the teen and Ashley Mehno claimed ownership of the bra and underwear set the girl was wearing right after the rape. He criticized the girl and her mother for not calling police and waiting nearly 24 hours to go to a hospital.
He also noted the girl and her mother claimed at different points in their story that the Mehnos drove, when both claimed not to own a car or have a valid license.
McNicol noted the defense tried to make it appear there is a grand conspiracy or that the defendant is the victim being wrongfully accused by this "devious 15-year-old child." McNicol noted that for the defense story to be believed, the girl would have to have known enough to cause injuries to her own hand and vaginal area, plant DNA evidence both in her own underwear and inside herself, and even research how a person recently raped should act.
McNicol pointed out defense attorneys often throw other things out there to keep the jury from focusing on the defendant.
"He is the one you are here to judge," McNicol said of Mehno. "Don't let them put that girl on trial. Don't be distracted."
The jury began deliberations at about 10:15 a.m., took an hour break for lunch and returned with the verdict by 1:30 p.m.