• Rapist in visitation case facing prison time


    A convicted rapist who was the subject of a FOX Undercover investigation into his bid to gain visitation rights to the child he fathered from his crime could be facing hard time in a state pen after a judge today found him in violation of his probation.

     Jamie Melendez will learn his fate at another hearing on December 18, when a Middlesex Superior Court judge will issue a further ruling on his probation violations.

     Melendez has been locked up since late September, accused of violating the terms of the 16-year probation term he was sentenced to after pleading guilty last year to four counts of statutory rape.

    The victim was 14 when Melendez, then 20, impregnated her. She decided to keep the baby for religious reasons, and part of Melendez' criminal sentence was that he acknowledge paternity and pay child support.

     The victim's attorney says the child support requirement opened the door for Melendez to seek visitation rights with the child he fathered through rape, a situation the victim is fighting.

     It is other terms of probation from the rape case that have landed Melendez in his latest round of trouble. At today's hearing, the judge agreed with Middlesex prosecutor and court probation officer that Melendez violated his probation terms by staying out past his 11 p.m. curfew and failing to report to his probation officer.

    He is also accused of violating his probation by failing to register as a sex offender, but the judge is holding off on a ruling on that alleged violation while a similar criminal charge plays out in district court.

    During yesterday's hearing, Middlesex Superior Court probation officer Vanessa Banks told the judge that her department would be seeking state prison time for the violations, but did not specify an amount.

    Meanwhile, his victim's attorney is still fighting to revise the original criminal sentence in an effort to block him from being able to seek visitation or other parental rights.

     That original sentence sent Melendez to family court, the same court where Melendez is also asking for visitation rights with the child.

    The victim's attorney, Wendy Murphy, says moving the case to family court is forcing her client into a relationship with her rapist.

    Murphy asked a single justice of the state's highest court last month to change the original sentence. But Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford has denied the request, saying the victim is not allowed to challenge Melendez's sentence.

    Murphy isn't giving up. She's now appealing that decision to the full SJC.

     "The judge didn't say we were wrong. Interestingly the judge said we didn't have standing to be there," Murphy said. "This is a very important case, not only because it involves the lives of a rape victim and her utterly innocent baby but because it's a precedent and it's a dangerous precedent. No other court in the country has ever done this before. We want to make it clear; we want to get the law settled quickly before this becomes a habit either in Massachusetts or in other states.

    A decision on whether to give Melendez visitation rights has now been pushed back until the spring as the legal wrangling over his original sentence and his probation violations plays out.

    Next Up: