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Jury picked in Mesa case

April 1, 1997

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A jury of six men and six women was selected today in Cleveland Indians pitcher Jose Mesa’s trial on a rape charge.

Several alternates had to be picked before opening arguments could begin. Testimony also is expected to begin later today, opening day of the baseball season.

Cuyahoga County Judge Thomas P. Curran and attorneys for both sides began questioning 42 potential jurors Monday. Mesa, charged with rape, gross sexual imposition and felonious assault, returned to court with his wife, Mirla.

The Indians begin the season Wednesday at Oakland without Mesa, their star bullpen closer with 85 saves the last two seasons.

Curran issued an order allowing one camera in the courtroom and forbidding the filming or photographing of witnesses who request privacy.

The charges are related to a complaint by two 26-year-old women who alleged that Mesa and a friend fondled them at a motel in the suburb of Lakewood after meeting them in a downtown nightclub Dec. 22.

Baseba gave the Indians permission to place Mesa on the restricted list indefinitely.

Mesa has gone through a terrible spring on the field. In his last outing before being placed on the restricted list, he gave up a long home run to the Chicago Cubs’ Tyler Houston in the ninth inning of a 6-3 victory Saturday.

Mesa, who saved a major league record 46 games in 48 chances with a 1.13 ERA in 1995, gave up 20 hits in 13 2-3 innings with a 6.59 ERA during the exhibition season.

Mesa faces a separate trial on a gun charge after the rape trial. Mesa’s lawyer, Gerald Messerman, estimated the trials will last a total of two weeks.

Mesa’s family also has legal troubles, according to a published report.

Since 1993, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has been pushing to deport Mirla Mesa, a legal alien, for a 1990 drug-related conviction, The Plain Dealer reported Monday.

His brother, Manuel, 26, pleaded guilty in 1995 to criminal possession of cocaine in Rochester, N.Y., the newspaper reported. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and left the country, but returned. Before he is deported to the Dominican Republic, Manuel Mesa must testify at his brother’s trial.

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