Monday, November 9, 2009

Sex offender suspected in disappearance of women sentenced for failure to register

A sex offender convicted of masturbating on women at a mall and suspected in the disapperance (and possible death) of Laura Garza, a 25 year old woman was sentenced to prison on Thursday, November 5. Orange County Court Judge Nicholas DeRosa sentenced Michael Mele to 1 -3 years in prison for failure to register as a sex offender. Mele moved from his parents house in the Town of Newburgh to an apartment in the Town Of Wallkill.

Mele met the Texas transplant in a Manhattan nightclub in early December. She was last seen by an unidentified witness laughing and kissing him in his SUV in the parking lot of the Newburgh Mall. He was forced to register as a sex offender after he pleaded guilty to misdmeanor charges of exposing himself and masturbating on women at the Palisades Center mall in Rockland County.

Judge DeRosa said that that act was "depraved and unfathomable," something that would be expected “in a secure mental health facility, or zoo, not in a mall in the United States of America.”

Mele plead guilty to the count of failure to register in court on September 29.  Assistant District Attorney Karen Edelman-Reyes believes that Mele's parents, William and Michelle, colluded with their youngest son when they failed to inform New York City police officers that their son had moved. The plea deal also held off a trial for the charges.

Mele's also facing separate misdemeanor public lewdness charges in Rockland County, and he's also due in Town of Newburgh Court in November, for a hearing to determine whether he violated the terms of his probation last year. He's accused of skipping sex offender counseling and going to the Marquee nightclub in Manhattan last year, a violation of orders that he stay away from establishments that serve booze.

Marquee was where he met the 25-year-old Garza, an aspiring dancer who moved to New York City from Texas last year. She was seen Dec. 3, leaving the club with Mele.

The trial could have forced prosecutors to turn over to the defense sensitive evidence pertaining to Garza's disappearance; Mele's never been charged in connection with that case, but the address-change charge and another case, involving allegations that he possessed stolen credit cards, both relied on evidence obtained during a search warrant that police executed on Mele's apartment at the Regency Club in the Town of Wallkill. The search warrant was obtained as police scrambled for evidence of Garza's whereabouts.

“I'm sorry that I let so many down, including myself. These mistakes do not represent me,” Mele said. One of his lawyers, Craig Brown, told reporters afterwards that “I think his parents were disappointed in the district attorney's remarks and in the judge's remarks."

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