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Mesa defense attacks legality of vehicle search

April 10, 1997

CLEVELAND (AP) _ The police search that produced a weapon in the vehicle of Cleveland Indians pitcher Jose Mesa should be ruled illegal, the defense told a judge Thursday.

Mesa, who was acquitted of rape, gross sexual imposition and theft charges on Wednesday, goes on trial Monday on a charge of carrying a loaded 9 mm revolver in his four-wheel drive vehicle.

Gerald Messerman, Mesa’s lawyer, made it clear during an evidence hearing that the focus of the defense will be the legality of the search Dec. 27 when Mesa was arrested.

There was no immediate ruling from Thomas Curran, a Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court judge, on the search issue. The judge, who presided at Mesa’s rape trial, ruled earlier the arrest warrant was proper.

Mesa could get six to 18 months in prison if convicted of carrying a concealed weapon. He had asked for a separate trial on the weapons charge.

Police said the weapon was found during a routine check of the player’s vehicle after his arrest.

``There’s no way this search can be justified,″ Messerman said.

He said the search was based on an arrest warrant affidavit that was deceptive because it lacked key information, including the allegation of rape.

Chris Frey, assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said the search was meant to inventory valuables in Mesa’s vehicle.

Lakewood police detective Donald Lissner and officer John Robinson testified that the search was done within departmental guidelines.

The judge asked whether Lissner knew in advance that Mesa carried a weapon. Lissner said no.

The defense has suggested that Mesa was improperly lured to a Cleveland nightclub area by Lakewood police. A woman officer called him and, without identifying herself as an officer, said she wanted to meet Mesa. He showed up at the location and was arrested by six officers.

Lakewood police have said they didn’t want to embarrass Mesa by arresting him at home in front of his family during Christmas week.

Lissner testified that he found the weapon, loaded with 15 hollow-point rounds, in an unlocked center console. He admitted he hadn’t listed each item found on an inventory list.

``Were you searching for a gun,″ Frey asked.

``No, sir, I was not,″ Lissner responded.

Mesa’s first trial resulted from complaints filed by two women.

A 26-year-old woman testified that Mesa raped her by forcing his hand into her underpants during a ride to a suburban motel early Dec. 22. Her friend, also 26, testified that Mesa fondled both women in a room of the motel.

Mesa was charged with rape under an Ohio law that expands the definition to include penetration other than intercourse. The judge earlier dropped a felony assault charge.

Mesa has not been with the team since the trial began March 31. He has been working out in Jacobs Field evenings after the trial adjourned and pronounced himself ready to pitch.

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