Man pleads no contest to lewdness charge, is sentenced to time served
A South Lake Tahoe man pleaded no contest to one count of committing a lewd act with a child under 14 years old and received a sentence of time served.
Mark A. Marvelle, 43, was convicted by a jury three years ago of sexually assaulting a child under 14 years old. In September, the state Supreme Court overturned the ruling, saying in a 3-2 decision, the Douglas County District Court denied Marvelle a fair trial by refusing to allow him a psychological evaluation of the 15-year-old.
Marvelle filed an appeal soon after his conviction in 1995, and has been on house arrest.
He spent a total of 365 days in jail throughout the trial and after the first conviction, before the appeal was filed.
Monday, Judge Michael Gibbons accepted his no contest plea and sentenced him to one year in jail.
As part of the plea, the deputy district attorney Dina Salvucci said the state agreed not to prosecute on the other two charges originally filed against Marvelle.
n Submit samples. Marvelle will have to register as a sex offender and a felon. He was also ordered to submit blood and tissue samples to the state depository as a sex offender.
Gibbons said Marvelle has already paid restitution ordered when he was convicted. He also paid for the victim’s counseling and made a donation to the state fund for victims’ assistance.
At the time of the incident, the victim was the 11-year-old daughter of Marvelle’s girlfriend and he lived with them in Indian Hills. She told police fear kept her quiet for four years until the memories were brought up by her mother dating a man her mother told her was a convicted child molester.
Gibbons advised Marvelle, that while he has a new start after four years of trials and the appeal process, he must remember he will be a registered sex offender and he would have to keep himself out of situations that would draw negative attention to himself.
“You have to avoid being in a position that people would blame you for. Don’t hang out where kids are, don’t be alone with children. You just have to live that way to protect yourself,” Gibbons said.
n Evaluation. Gibbons said the motion asking for the psychological evaluation wasn’t filed until two weeks before the trial, even though the trial date had been changed three times. The motion wasn’t argued until the day of the trial, while the jury waited outside the courtroom.
However, Gibbons said after the hearing Monday, he still went through the required process of deciding if the psychological evaluation was needed for the 15-year-old.
He said since the incident occurred when she was 11 years old, the age of the victim overrode any reason to require an evaluation.
He also said he felt the motion was filed by the attorney at the time, Jerome Wright of Reno, as a half-hearted attempt to cover all the bases and protect himself against a malpractice suit.
n Supreme Court opinion. The court testimony brought up questions about sexual abuse by the girl’s biological father, who the girl said ran an escort service and was involved in pornography.
The Supreme Court’s decision also cited questions regarding the home life, in which her mother had repeatedly been physically and emotionally abusive to the child.
The opinion, written by Chief Justice Charles Springer, said Marvelle was never allowed to address these serious questions about her mental and emotional state, but the prosecution was allowed to bring in its witnesses.
Salvucci said the no contest plea was accepted to avoid another appeal and because of the time that had passed since the crime was committed.
“The plea bargain was the offer four years ago. But (Marvelle) says his attorney (at the time), gave him incorrect information so he didn’t accept it,” she said. “There were credibility issues (with the victim) from the beginning and obviously, the more time that passes, the bigger those issues become. Because the longer time passes, the worse anyone’s memory gets and the more often they go through it, the more rehearsed it gets.”
Salvucci said the no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea to everyone but the criminal.
“In the minds of criminal lawyers, there is no difference – the result is the same. The only difference is when he stands up and says guilty, in his mind he is confessing his guilt, but this man still claims his innocence,” she said by phone Tuesday.
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