Prosecutors in New York and Pennsylvania as well as the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of New York are now sorting out who will take the lead in charging a Depew man accused of kidnapping a North Tonawanda teenager.
Pennsylvania State Police confirmed Friday that Michael Mesko, 50, remains in custody at the Venango County Prison facing a lengthy list of charges stemming from an encounter with them Tuesday morning, after he was spotted at a rest stop just off Interstate 80 near Harrisville, Pennsylvania.
Mesko is charged with endangering welfare of children, possession of a controlled substance, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, recklessly endangering another person, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, fleeing or attempting to elude an officer and driving at an unsafe speed. He has been arraigned on the counts and faces a preliminary hearing on the charges on Wednesday.
A criminal docket for Mesko indicates he was unable to post $5,000 bail and that he has requested to be represented by a public defender.
Mesko had been the subject of an Amber Alert, issued Monday night by North Tonawanda police. NTPD detectives said at that time that they were working with agents from the Buffalo field office of the FBI to investigate a possible abduction of a 17-year-old girl.
In the alert, the detectives said the victim had been picked up near 908 Niagara Falls Blvd. at about 7 p.m. Monday and that "it became evident that (she) did get into a car owned by Michael Mesko whom she had a full stay away order of protection against."
North Tonawanda police have not commented on what, if any, relationship Mesko may have had with the teen victim.
Mesko had been arraigned in North Tonawanda City Court on Feb. 4 on charges of second-degree rape and second-degree criminal sex. He was released from custody on Feb. 10 after Niagara County prosecutors declined to conduct a preliminary hearing in the case.
Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman said in a statement that decision stemmed from a judge's decision to only set bail in the case at $1,000.
"When (Mesko) was arraigned we asked for $10,000 cash bail. The court set bail at $1,000," Seaman said in the statement. "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. 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."
In issuing the Amber Alert, North Tonawanda police said they believed the 17-year-old girl had been "taken under circumstances that led police to believe that she may be in imminent danger of serious harm and/or death." The investigators said they believed Mesko would try to flee from New York.
While NT police disclosed the involvement of the FBI in the case, they did not detail the reason for the interest of the federal law enforcement agency. The FBI routinely investigates kidnappings that involve travel across state lines.
However Buffalo field office agents and federal prosecutors in the local U.S. Attorneys office appear to have been involved in the investigation of Mesko prior to the Monday night abduction.
The teen, who was with Mesko when he was taken into custody, was not harmed and has been returned to Western New York.
North Tonawanda police said their investigation of the abduction is continuing. Niagara County prosecutors said they expect to bring additional charges against Mesko.