A teen victim's bid to keep her rapist from seeking visitation rights with their child landed in front of a single justice of the state's highest court Friday, where her attorney argued the girl should not have face potentially years of family court battles with the man who violated her.
The girl was a 14-year-old eighth-grader when she was impregnated by then-20-year-old Jamie Melendez, who pleaded guilty last year to four counts of statutory rape of a child.
The teen kept the baby for religious reasons, and part of Melendez's sentence was an order for him to go to family court and pay child support. He was also put on probation despite prosecutor's recommendation for prison time.
The youth's attorney, Wendy Murphy, argued before Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford that the lower court judge, Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire, essentially forced her client into a relationship with her rapist by sentencing Melendez into Probate and Family Court. Melendez has asked a family court judge for visitation rights.
Murphy wants the sentence revised so that Melendez must pay restitution instead of child support so her client can avoid what could be years of family court hearings about various child support and visitation matters.
Botsford quizzed Murphy about whether the case really belongs in front her.
"Did the criminal court judge have authority to do what he did to order as a matter of probation the defendant to initiate family court proceedings?" Botsford asked from the bench.
It's an argument echoed by the assistant attorney general representing the superior court judge who sentenced Melendez. He says that visitation should be left to family court.
"We're not here, your honor, to support the defendant who was convicted of this terrible crime," said Assistant Attorney General Todd Blume.
The rapist's attorney argued the victim and her family agreed to the sentence, including the probation conditions.
"It just seems to me that at least in September of 2011, everyone was on the same page," said attorney Larry Tipton.
That's a claim the victim's mother said is simply not true.
"We did not to agree to any of that," she said outside of court. "I begged the DA to not let this happen.... Please do not send us to family court, I begged her to beg the judge not to do that."
The next step is up to Justice Botsford. She could issue her own ruling, or refer the case to the full SJC.
A hearing to decide if the rapist gets visitation rights is set for Nov. 6 in family court, so it's expected Botsford will make a decision before then.