YOUNGSTOWN Teacher pleads in runaway case

The defendant's attorney said his client took in the runaway out of fear for her safety.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A substitute teacher who took in a runaway Chaney High School student last spring will serve 10 days in jail after pleading no contest in juvenile court to two charges of contributing to the delinquency or unruliness of a minor.
Carlos Mendez, 31, of Boardman told Juvenile Judge Theresa Dellick that he had only sought to help the 17-year-old girl.
"What I did I did not do out of malice," Mendez said during a Friday court hearing at the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center. "... I saw someone who needed help and that's what I tried to do. In my recklessness, I failed to bring into account that I was bringing harm on myself."
Under a plea agreement, county Assistant Prosecutor Michael Villani asked that 21 other contributing counts against Mendez be dismissed. Mendez was charged with 23 counts because the girl stayed at his home for 23 days, Villani said.
Judge Dellick sentenced Mendez to serve 10 days of a one-year jail sentence and to pay $200 of $2,000 in fines and $144 in court costs. The remaining jail time and fines would not be owed unless Mendez violates terms of a two-year probation. The judge also ordered Mendez to have no contact with the girl.
Arrested in June: Mendez was arrested in June after Boardman police received an anonymous call that the girl was staying at his Stadler Court home. She had been listed as a runaway through the Youngstown Police Department for three weeks.
Mendez's attorney Dennis DiMartino said the girl had called his client, telling him she had left home and was running away. Fearing for her safety, he took the girl in. DiMartino said his client's mistake was that he did not call authorities immediately.
"We all learn from these lessons in life," DiMartino said.
Mendez, a native Texan, served four years in the Marine Corps, has never been in trouble before and has been involved in community service, DiMartino said. He said that Mendez will likely quit teaching and intends to return to Texas.
Mendez had worked as a teacher with the Youngstown public schools since March 1999. He had worked at Chaney, on the city's West Side, for much of the latter part of the 2000-2001 school year.

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