Peter Mesko in court Wednesday

Ithaca, N.Y. — Fighting back tears, a former Cornell student testified in Tompkins County Court Wednesday morning in the rape trial of another former Cornell student.

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The woman, who was identified in court but will not be named here out of respect for her privacy, recounted seeing Peter Mesko, 23, “latched on to” the back of the victim in bed.

Mesko, a former Cornell wrestler, has been charged with first-degree rape, sexual abuse and burglary in connection with the March 30, 2013, incident.

Peter Mesko in court Wednesday
Peter Mesko in court Wednesday

His defense attorney argued Wednesday morning that there was no physical evidence to link Mesko to the crime, and that witness accounts would cast doubt on prosecutors’ timeline.

But in painstaking detail, sitting less than 20 feet away from Mesko, the witness Wednesday outlined her memory of those early morning hours.

She said she found Mesko in bed and, after a struggle, pushed him out. She said Mesko then fell and hit his head on a drawer and she kicked him. The victim and the witness then fled upstairs.

“All I wanted to do was get (the victim) out of there,” the witness said.

The witness and the victim hid in an upstairs room. Then the witness went back downstairs and took photographs of Mesko.

Later, she said, she looked up the Cornell wrestling team roster on the Internet and found his photo.

“The second his face popped up I knew it was him,” she said. “It was the same guy who was in bed.”

The assistant district attorney would later hold up print-outs of the witness’s photos to members of the jury. The photos showed a barely clothed Mesko in bed. The prosecutor walked slowly past each juror, making sure they saw both photos in close detail.

One of the defense attorneys, Lauren Sang-Hee Owens, then cross-examined the witness.

Owens asked if the witness had approached any of the other people in the house for help at the time, and also asked the witness if she had called 911. The answer to both questions was no.

When the witness took a picture of Mesko, Owens asked, “Were you aware if there had been any penetration?” The answer was no.

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.