‘Unsupportable’ sexual assault charges withdrawn. Why there was a ‘failure to follow the protocol’

Benjamin Mersinger
Benjamin Mersinger

An 18-year-old Rebersburg man accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female had both felony charges withdrawn on Monday.

State police at Rockview said Benjamin Mersinger had sexual intercourse with the girl at 333 W. Church St. on Oct. 4. He was subsequently charged with statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors and spent four days at the Centre County Correctional Facility.

Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said the immediate reason for the withdrawal of the sexual assault charge was because “it was an unsupportable charge due to the age difference.”

According to a petition seeking a temporary sexual violence protection order against Mersinger filed by the female’s father the day after the charges were withdrawn, there is an age gap of three years, 10 months and five days.

Statutory sexual assault requires sexual intercourse between someone less than 16 years old and someone who is four years older.

The petition also accused Mersinger of raping her three times and threatening to kill her.

As for the corruption of minors charge, McGraw said it was withdrawn because of a “failure to follow the protocol.”

All crimes of abuse involving a minor, whether physical or sexual, are to be investigated by a multidisciplinary investigative team, per Pennsylvania law.

The protocol requires a forensic interview at the Child Advocacy Center, which was not done before the charges were filed.

“This interview is a critical step, serving to preserve evidence, ensure the integrity of additional investigative steps and to minimize re-traumatization of the victim through repeated interviews,” McGraw said. “The charges have been withdrawn so that the investigative process and protocol can be completed.”

Here are some ways you can help prevent sexual assaults, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. The video "on sexual assault awareness and prevention in Isla Vista" also offers risk-reducti