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|Mezo-Reyes (click for larger version)|
April 08, 2014 | 04:19 PMELKHORN — On April 3, Judge David Reddy ruled that an 18-year-old Woodstock, Ill., man’s confession to police — in which he admitted to sexually assaulting a woman — will remain in evidence.
In a motion, Armando Mezo-Reyes argued that he didn’t understand his Miranda rights because police read him his rights in English.
Mezo-Reyes was born in Mexico and primarily speaks Spanish.
However, throughout his arrest, and during an interview with police, Mezo-Reyes spoke to officers in English.
Armando Mezo-Reyes has been charged with felony second-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor battery.
He is in custody in the Walworth County jail in lieu of a $10,000 cash bond.
During his ruling, Reddy said he found that there was “no credible evidence” to suggest that Mezo-Reyes didn’t understand his rights. Reddy said that Mezo-Reyes has a “motive to minimize his understanding of English.”
According to statements Mezo-Reyes made to Officer Perry Kjendlie, on Aug. 5 he was dropped off at a grocery store in Walworth where he called the victim. The victim told Mezo-Reyes that she didn’t want to speak with him.
Mezo-Reyes told police that he walked to the woman’s home.
Mezo-Reyes used a garage door opener that was in a car parked outside of the home to gain entry into the house.
Inside of the home, Mezo-Reyes and the victim argued.
During his interview with police, he admitted to police that he put the victim on the ground and that he sexually assaulted her.
Mezo-Reyes told Kjendlie that he did it, “Because I want to go to sex with her, but she no want.”
After Mezo-Reyes confirmed that he had assaulted her, Kjendlie said, “That’s not very nice.”
“Yeah, I know,” Mezo-Reyes responded.
After the assault, the victim called police.
When police arrived Mezo-Reyes opened the door for the officers.
At the scene, officer Hannah Hooper and Police Chief Chris Severt both briefly spoke to Mezo-Reyes in English. They also gave him some directions, which he followed, according to their testimony.
During the motion hearing, Necci asked Hooper and Severt if any of Mezo-Reyes responses to questions were “out-of-context or inappropriate.” Both Severt and Hooper said his responses were appropriate for their questions.
At the police station, Mezo-Reyes was read his Miranda rights by Kjendlie in English. The entire interview, which last for more than a half hour, is in English.
Kjendlie read Mezo-Reyes his Miranda rights from a form from the Walworth Police Department. When Kjendlie asked Mezo-Reyes if he understood his rights, Mezo-Reyes said he didn’t understand them. Kjendlie asked which one, and Mezo-Reyes responded “three” and pointed to it on the form.
Kjendlie then re-explained the right, which is the right to have an attorney present during questioning. After Kjendlie’s second explanation, Mezo-Reyes said he understood his rights and signed the form.
At the start of the interview, Kjendlie asked Mezo-Reyes, “How is your English? Pretty good?” Mezo-Reyes responded that it was “so, so.” A short-time later he asked Kjendlie if he speaks Spanish.
When Jensen questioned Kjendlie, he asked him why he didn’t seek an interpreter for the interview. Kjendlie said he never thought it was necessary.
The Walworth Police Department has access to an interpreter through a phone service.
Throughout the interview, Mezo-Reyes seemed to understand Kjendlie’s questions. Mezo-Reyes didn’t understand a particular word that Kjendlie used. However, Kjendlie rephrased it to a slang term, and Mezo-Reyes understood him.
Defendant takes the stand
During a January motion hearing, Mezo-Reyes’ attorney, Jeffrey Jensen called Mezo-Reyes to the stand. A Spanish to English interpreter was used to translate for Mezo-Reyes.
Mezo-Reyes said he didn’t understand that he had the right to remain silent and that he didn’t need to answer Kjendlie’s questions.
Jensen also asked Mezo-Reyes why he asked the officer if he spoke Spanish.
“I thought that he spoke Spanish, because I don’t speak English very well,” Mezo-Reyes responded.
Mezo-Reyes also said he speaks Spanish at home, spoke Spanish with the victim and has directions translated for him at work.
Because of time constraints, the January motion hearing ended before District Attorney Daniel Necci had a chance to cross-examine Mezo-Reyes.
Necci had a chance to cross-examine Mezo-Reyes during the April 3 hearing. During his cross-examination, Mezo-Reyes said that he didn’t understand what was going on until he was brought to the jail.
“You were responding to the questions and you were responding with the truth that day,” Necci asked Mezo-Reyes.
“Yes,” Mezo-Reyes responded.
During his arguments, Necci pointed out that Mezo-Reyes has taken English Language courses at Big Foot High School and performed well in those classes.
He also said Mezo-Reyes understood complex English words.
“Although English is clearly his second language, he understands English,” Necci said. “He carried on a conversation for nearly 45 minutes.”
Jensen said that his client can speak some English, but he doesn’t understand everything that happened.