Mel's Angels

Powerhouse attorney Mel McDonald needed help to keep a relative from being charged with child molesting. The Phoenix and Gilbert police departments were only too happy to accommodate him.

Bob Emerick submitted his assessment last month. In it he first berated the police agencies who had investigated the Lake case, and CASA:

"The case was mismanaged by criminal justice personnel when the decision was made to stop criminal proceedings and resolve the matter by referring Patty to a counseling program. The clinical records from [CASA] indicate that [Lake's] clinical needs were mismanaged by [CASA] . . ."

Emerick said Patty remains a risk to re-offend in two of seven predetermined areas.

On a more positive note, he wrote, her recent revelations are a step in the right direction. Emerick isn't a soft touch, yet he called Patty an "untreated child sexual abuse survivor rather than a criminal personality," who may respond well to proper long-term treatment.

Because of the case's history, Emerick opined that lifetime probation as an adult would be an unfair disposition. Instead, he recommended that prosecutors wait for two years before assessing whether Patty should be charged as an adult offender or for a lesser offense.

Modifying those recommendations, the County Attorney's Office a few weeks ago decided on a novel approach: Through her attorney--not Mel McDonald--Patty has been offered a chance to plead under Arizona's domestic-violence laws.

The laws allow a judge to defer accepting a guilty plea for a time while a person is on probation. If everything goes smoothly, the plea may be erased from one's record.

An office spokesman says Patty would be the first person in a sex-related case to benefit from the forgiving statute.

Everything considered, it seems to be a fair offer, but is certain to raise speculation that the young woman again is getting special treatment.

At this juncture, however, it appears McDonald holds little sway with the County Attorney's Office. But it's not in his nature to quit trying.

He repeats endlessly in recent discussions with New Times that Patty Lake now is getting the legal shaft because of her relationship to him.

"It's killing me to see her bounced around," McDonald says. "She has done everything the system has asked her to do, and now they want another piece of her? Not on my life. Not because I've tried to do the right thing for her.

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