ST. GEORGE —The man who has been held without bail after he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman at a St. George group home last year recently appeared in court for sentencing, where both sides argued for varying sentences in a case with mental health issues.

2023 file photo for illustrative purposes only of St. George Police officers responding to a scene in St. George, Utah, Sept. 24, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

The defendant, 24-year-old Osiris Omar Mendez-Tules, appeared for sentencing on two second-degree felony charges that include kidnapping and forcible sexual abuse. He was also sentenced on misdemeanor  failure to stop at command of law enforcement and intoxication.

The remaining charges, aggravated assault, lewdness and propelling a substance were dismissed in exchange for the defendant’s plea of guilty with a mental health condition.

The case was filed following an incident reported on April 11, 2023, when officers responded to the residence following a call to emergency dispatch reporting an assault in progress.

Officers said they entered the home and witnessed the suspect with his pants down assaulting a woman. A struggle broke out and the suspect fought with several officers before being handcuffed, according to charging documents filed at the time of the arrest.

The suspect was identified as Mendez-Tules, who lived in the group home in St. George that provides care for residents with intellectual disabilities.

File photo for illustrative purposes only of of several St. George Police officers responding to a scene in St. George, Utah, Dec. 18, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

At the time of the incident, the suspect allegedly placed the victim in a choke hold and put his hand over her nose and mouth, restricting her airway. Police say Mendez-Tules proceeded to drag her into the bathroom where he started to remove his clothing.

“This is when law enforcement arrived,” the officer noted in the report.

Officers spoke to a witness in the house at the time who reported hearing a commotion, followed by the sound of the victim yelling for the suspect to stop and that she could not breathe.

The officer noted in the report that throughout the incident, the suspect reportedly said “he was going to kill all officers, ambulance staff and medical staff while at the hospital.”

Authorities suspected Mendez-Tules was intoxicated, based on a strong odor of alcohol detected on his breath during the confrontation with police, during which he reportedly said “he was going to kill all officers, ambulance staff and medical staff while at the hospital.” He was later transported to the hospital for medical clearance before transport to Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane.

From there, the case was delayed while a series of assessments and mental health evaluations were conducted, and once completed, a presentence investigation was ordered. Once it was completed, a sentencing hearing was scheduled to take place nine months after the charges were filed.

2020 file photo of Purgatory Correctional Facility, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 21, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Both sides argue

During the hearing held before District Judge Keith C. Barnes on Jan. 11, the judge said this was a “very, very, very difficult case. One of the mental health assessments completed on the defendant provided a picture of the suspect as being “someone who’s been in the system for a long, long time.” 

Barnes also said the court’s role was to be sensitive to the victim, whose voice would be heard the loudest in the courtroom.

Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger said that while the state can appreciate that Mendez-Tules has mental health issues, which can be challenging, on the day of the incident, the defendant chose to drink alcohol. And while intoxicated, he then made the decision to act out by violently attacking the victim.

“And this is extremely violent as to what he did towards her, and he was also very aggressive in a sexual manner,” Jaeger added.

In the interest of safety and of justice, the state asked the judge to sentence Mendez-Tules to prison, adding it would be up to the prison to determine how best to house the defendant and treat his condition.

“I believe in this situation, because it was such a violent act, that a prison sentence is justified,” Jaeger added.

Booking photo of Osiris Omar Mendez-Tules 24, of St. George taken in Washington County, Utah, April 11, 2023 |Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The victim told the court the defendant needs more than therapy, preferring a mental facility where he can learn the difference between right and wrong, adding that prison may not be the best place to accomplish that.

Tules-Mendez’s defense attorney, Russell Pietryga said he has done extensive research in the case. Despite his client being 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighing 230 pounds, that Tules-Mendez has “essentially a 14-year-old mentally.” He also said his client has been abused and neglected from the time he was a young child, and once he became a ward of the state. The abuse continued from one foster home placement to another, the defense stated.

He also said what troubled him, was that someone decided to take his client off of his medication, which Pietryga described as “an experiment that failed.”

Moreover, the attorney said, the facility where the incident took place was aware that his client had issues with anger and sexual proclivities when they accepted him into the facility.

He closed by saying, “I just don’t see how prison would be anything but so worst thing that this court would do. He’s a 14-year-old kid who needs medication. He needs help.”

The defendant told the court, “I can’t forgive myself,” for what his actions.

The ruling 

Prior to the ruling, Barnes said the defendant has no criminal history, either as an adult or as a juvenile. He also said the facility was “very aware” of the defendant’s mental health issues when they accepted him into the program.

Stock image of courtroom inside of 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, date not specified | St. George News

The judge went on to say the presentence investigation report included a sentencing range of 105 to 210 days in jail, which the defendant has already served more than that, since Mendez-Tules has been in jail for more than 302 days since his arrest.

The judge ordered that Mendez-Tules serve a year in jail with credit for time served. Upon his release, he will be placed on 48 months’ probation with Adult Probation and Parole. He was also ordered to obtain a mental health and substance abuse evaluation and to complete any recommended treatment from a case action plan under the terms of his probation.

Judge Barnes also made it clear that Mendez-Tules was prohibited from having any contact with the victim in the case, whether it was direct or indirect, the judge said. The defendant is expected to be released from jail in April.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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