When Michael Mercado’s ex-wife caught him having sex with a minor, he told her it was God’s will that he take this woman as his second wife.
District Judge Joel Tingey did not concur Monday when he sentenced Mercado, 48, to five to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing a minor.
“I considered a rider program. As with probation, I think that minimizes the damage done,” Tingey said.
Mercado of Idaho Falls was arrested in June after the relationship was discovered. He was charged with sexual battery committed by lewd or lascivious acts on a minor child 16 to 17 years of age. The charge was amended to rape where the victim is 16 or 17 years of age.
During Mercado’s sentencing, the ex-wife read a victim impact statement to Tingey about how her former husband’s actions had affected her.
She said Mercado had tried to guilt-trip her for reporting him, and when she spoke to a church leader about the abuse, told her to call him back and deny her earlier statements. She said Mercado said they should stay together, and that the abuse would stop if she didn’t report it.
“After this, I don’t know what part of my relationship was real,” Mercado’s ex-wife said. “I used to think the worst thing that could happen in a marriage was to have my husband cheat on me, but I was wrong, so very wrong.”
The woman said she was disgusted by the harm he had done to the victim, and said she did not feel safe with her ex-husband free.
“At this time, I would ask the court to extend the full wrath of the law to Mr. Mercado,” she said.
The victim of Mercado’s abuse agreed.
“I know that he can get life in prison, and that’s what I want,” the victim, now 18, said in her victim-impact statement.
She said she met Mercado when she was 13, and he said he wanted to get to know her better. He told the victim he had prayed, and God told him they should marry.
Mercado proposed to the then 17-year-old girl in May, and said he had even looked up how much time he may face in prison if caught. The victim said she typically went along with what Mercado wanted for fear of how he would react if she said no.
“He also brainwashed me to think it was OK to rape me,” the victim said.
John Thomas, Mercado’s defense attorney, acknowledged the unusual nature of the case, but said his client’s actions would not have been a child sex abuse crime if he waited six months.
“I get it, this is a weird, creepy, bizarro case,” Thomas said.
He argued, however, that his client needed treatment for sex addiction, pointing out that Mercado had four marriages that failed because of cheating. Thomas also said his client has no criminal history.
“I just don’t think this is a prison case. I certainly don’t think it’s a life-in-prison case.”
Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Dewey disagreed, pointing to Mercado’s manipulative behaviour.
“This case is about a 48-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl having sex, but it’s about more than that,” Dewey said.
Dewey cited the presentence investigation report, which concluded that Mercado “lacks insight into the negative impact of his actions on the victim.”
Mercado told the court he regretted his actions, and hoped the victim and his ex-wife could one day forgive him.
“I am so sorry for it all,” Mercado said. “I wish I could say how sorry I am.”
In addition to prison time, Mercado will have to pay a $1,000 fine and register as a sex offender upon release.
Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.