NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Niagara County District Attorney's Office is shedding light on the release of a rape suspect from the Niagara County Jail, who days later became the suspect in an Amber Alert investigation.
A written statement released by the office on behalf of District Attorney Brian Seaman indicates Michael Mesko had been released on $1,000 bail on February 10, after being held less than a week following his arrest on second-degree rape and second-degree criminal sexual act charges.
"When he was arraigned we asked for $10,000 cash bail. The Court set bail at $1,000. Faced with the inevitable release of the defendant given the bail amount my office determined not to subject our witnesses to testimony and cross-examination at a preliminary hearing. This resulted in the defendant’s release on February 10th," reads the Niagara County District Attorney's Office statement.
Less than a week later, on Monday evening, investigators say Mesko is suspected of abducting a 17-year-old girl in North Tonawanda. An Amber Alert was issued in the early hours of Tuesday. The girl and Mesko were located by state police in Pennsylvania around 8:30 a.m. the same day.
The girl had an order of protection against Mesko.
In addition to the Niagara County charges he had faced from his February 4 arrest, Mesko faces new federal charges in connection to the Amber Alert incident.
The Niagara County District Attorney's Office's full statement on the release of Michael Mesko is below:
Michael Mesko was charged on February 4th with the crimes of Rape in the Second Degree and Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree. When he was arraigned we asked for $10,000 cash bail. The Court set bail at $1,000. Faced with the inevitable release of the defendant given the bail amount my office determined not to subject our witnesses to testimony and cross-examination at a preliminary hearing. This resulted in the defendant’s release on February 10th.
The function of a preliminary hearing is for the court to determine whether there is enough evidence to continue to hold a defendant in custody on bail. My office often has to weigh the cost of running the hearing, which is subjecting witnesses to testimony and cross-examination that can be quite uncomfortable, against the benefit of continuing the bail if the hearing is successful. In this case, my office determined that given the bail amount, and the very high likelihood that the defendant would be able to post that bail in short order, it would not make sense to subject our witnesses to the preliminary hearing. Simply stated, we did not want to have to subject our witnesses to uncomfortable testimony, only to have the defendant get out by posting $1,000 a day or two later. These decisions are made on a regular basis by DA’s Offices, and it is not unusual for a defendant to be released rather than run a preliminary hearing, particularly when the bail amount involved is low.