ORANGE WALK TOWN, Wed. Feb. 4, 2015–The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) Orange Walk East area representative, the Hon. Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez, became part of an unprecedented moment in the parliamentary history of Belize when he became the first sitting area representative to be formally charged with sex-related offences.
Following weeks of rumor and speculation surrounding what was going to happen to Dr. Mendez, who had announced late last year that he would not be seeking re-election as the PUP standard bearer tasked with winning the House of Representatives seat he currently holds, Orange Walk police charged him with six counts of aggravated assault of an indecent nature.
And yesterday, Tuesday, Dr. Mendez, accompanied by two attorneys, Dickie Bradley and Andrew Bennett, walked into the Orange Walk Police Station – which was used because the Northern Session of the Supreme Court was ongoing in the courtroom – and he was arraigned before the Orange Walk Magistrate Merlene Moody on the six charges.
Although the charges he faces are normally tried summarily, no plea was taken from Dr. Mendez, because his case will be tried on indictment in the Northern Session of the Supreme Court. The reason the state is pursuing the indictment of Dr. Mendez is that some of the allegations against him are over five years old, and as such, they have exceeded the statutory period when they could have been heard in a court of summary jurisdiction.
The state is alleging that Dr. Mendez, who is a pediatrician and neurologist, committed the offenses within the period 2005-2011, when he inappropriately touched two girls. The six charges are broken down into four counts in relation to one girl, and two in connection with the other.
At the time when the offences were alleged to have occurred, one of the girls was 10 years old, and the other was younger.
Dr. Mendez was released after posting a $5,000 bail and his case was adjourned to April 13, 2015.
A PUP official has described the charges as “political mischief” on the part of the UDP government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, whose administration could not bring charges against Elvin Penner for allegedly violating our immigration laws.
Amandala has learned, however, that Dr. Mendez and his family, prior to being in the public spotlight, were undergoing professional counseling.
The PUP did not wait too long to make a statement after it learned that Dr. Mendez would be arraigned on the charges; as soon as it became official that he would be charged criminally, the Party issued a press release distancing itself from Dr. Mendez, who was removed as Chairman of the Northern Caucus “with immediate effect.”.
The PUP release said: “On the basis of this development, the Party Leader, in accordance with the power vested in him by the National Executive, has with immediate effect removed Hon. Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez from his position as Chairman of the Northern Caucus and has suspended him indefinitely from all other Party-related duties, responsibilities, and activities.”
After pointing out that their man in Orange Walk East is now Josue Carballo, the PUP ended their release saying, “As a Party, our thoughts and prayers are with the alleged victim(s), and with our colleague and friend, Dr. Mendez and his family.”
Although conviction of a charge of aggravated assault carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, Dr. Mendez is not required, under the Constitution of Belize, to resign from his seat in the House of Representatives.
A member of the House has to be convicted of a crime and be sentenced to a minimum of 12 months in prison before he has to give up his House seat.