CLARIFICATION: Lionel Meza, who has been charged with committing various sex crimes with a local minor, is not accused of having intercourse with her.
The case of an Illinois man accused of cybersex and other crimes against a then-16-year-old Arroyo Grande girl can proceed to trial, a judge ruled Friday.
Lionel Meza, 43, faces 23 felony charges that he had cybersex with the girl and visited her multiple times to have sex with her.
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Meza has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Those include sexual penetration with a foreign object, oral sex with a minor, using a phone to arouse a minor’s sexual desires and communicating with a minor with the intent to commit crimes.
The Tribune is not naming the girl because she’s the purported victim of a sex crime.
Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt alleges that Meza and the girl exchanged numerous sexually explicit photos in 2007 before they had sex — including oral sex in the elevator of the Barnes and Noble bookstore in San Luis Obispo.
Arroyo Grande Police Department investigator Dan Langstaff, who interviewed the girl, testified to the alleged Barnes and Nobles incident and the explicit nature of some of the photos.
Meza’s attorney, Pierre Blahnik, said that his client met the girl after she went on a pornographic website and posed as an 18-year-old.
Blahnik said that the girl eventually told Meza that she was 16, but that was after they began their relationship.
The timing of the photos the two shared is an issue, Blahnik said, adding that she seemed mature and was “sexually developed.”
But Devitt said that none of the sex acts occurred before the girl informed Meza that she was 16 and that some of the explicit photos were sent after Meza knew her real age as well.
In his ruling that there was enough probable cause to try Meza, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy said that the defendant had a reasonable duty to find out if the girl was a minor if she looked under 18.
Meza is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges May 11 in Duffy’s courtroom.