Man facing life threatens water and hunger strike

A 45-year-old California man faces life in prison after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexual assault, an offense he claims he did not commit.

Speaking through an interpreter, Elisandro Mendoza asked District Judge Dave Gamble to move up his Oct. 23 sentencing date because the defendant said he might not be alive since he's refusing food and water at the Douglas County Jail.

Mendoza has been held in jail on $275,000 bail since his arrest last November. He was charged with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

"I am going to plead guilty because I have no other option," he said.

Gamble explained that Mendoza had several options including pleading not guilty and going to trial.

Lawyer Tod Young said Mendoza elected not to go to trial because he feared he would be convicted of more serious offenses with longer prison terms.

Under the plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Mendoza could be eligible for parole after 10 years.

"The ones who are against me are my own family," Mendoza said. "I don't want to talk about it."

Prosecutor Tom Gregory gave a detailed account of the allegations against Mendoza. He said the suspect threatened the teenager with a weapon which turned out to be a BB gun.

"The victim thought he had a handgun. He threatened her with a gun," Gregory said.

Young offered to withdraw from the case after Mendoza said he wasn't doing enough.

After questioning by Gamble, Mendoza admitted he didn't ask Young to do more and told the judge he didn't care if Young continued as his court-appointed lawyer.

"I won't be alive in a month," Mendoza said. "I am not drinking water. I am not eating."

Douglas County Sheriff's Capt. John Milby said Thursday that Mendoza had been eating.

"Whenever we have somebody indicate they are going to refuse food or water, we treat that as a suicidal inmate," Milby said.

He said Mendoza was put under observation and food was available in his cell at all times. He also is seen by the jail psychologist and nurse.

If he did become dehydrated, Mendoza would be hospitalized, Milby said.

-- A 34-year-old woman faces up to six years in prison after she admitted identity theft which she used to obtain $15,000 in medical services.

Marie L. Ravel pleaded guilty to obtaining money by false pretenses,

She told District Judge Dave Gamble on Tuesday she stole a Social Security card and birth certificate in which she used for treatment of gall bladder problems at Carson Valley Medical Center in 2004.

Ravel was just released from three years in prison, sentenced for conspiracy to commit robbery after she and her husband beat and robbed an 80-year-old Gardnerville Ranchos man in September 2004.

The recent charges stemmed from an incident prior to the Ranchos robbery. She is eligible for probation and must pay restitution to the medical center and the East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts which provided transportation.

The victim of the identity theft lives in Pennsylvania but reported the documents were stolen when she lived in Florida.

-- Sentencing was continued to Sept. 25 for Mark Todd Dixon, 20, who admitted he tried to improperly touch a boy when the victim was 10.

District Judge Dave Gamble continued the sentencing because Dixon's lawyer, James E. Wilson Jr. of Carson City, had asked for a full hour for the proceeding and the judge's Tuesday calendar ran long.

Gamble apologized for the delay to the 10-year-old victim who was in court.

"I'm sorry I need to make you come back here," Gamble told the child. "I know it's something you want to just get past."

Gamble reassured the victim "that he was the good guy of the story, not the bad guy."

Gamble said no other cases would be heard that day to make time for the proceeding.

Dixon faces 20 years in Nevada State Prison and may be subject to lifetime supervision because of the nature of the offense.

In exchange for the guilty plea, the district attorney's office dropped three counts of lewdness with a child under 14 which could have resulted in life in prison.

Dixon may be required to register as a sex offender pending a psychosexual evaluation.

He is eligible for probation, but agreed not to request it as part of the plea.

Dixon is on house arrest, living with his parents, and is forbidden to have contact with the victim or any person under 18 unless another adult is present who has not been convicted of such an offense.

According to court documents, the alleged incident occurred in 2005, prior to Dixon's enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was extradited in April from Maryland where he was stationed.


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