December 02, 2012 Peter Small
Three years since he first caused a sensation by falsely confessing in court to the brutal slaying of his ex-girlfriend’s little girl, Johnny Bermudez’ motives have been revealed.
A corrections ministry report says the construction worker tried to take the blame for the death of Erika Mendieta’s 2-1/2-year-old daughter out of a misplaced sense of loyalty and concern for the woman’s five remaining children.
His family says he was verbally and physically abused by Mendieta, now serving the last three years of her sentence for killing her toddler, Emmily Lucas.
These and other details are in the report, prepared for the 39-year-old drywaller’s sentencing hearing, which began last week. He will be sentenced Jan. 18.
“He is angry at himself for his behaviour,” writes the author, Diana Baptista.
In December 2011, the father of three pleaded guilty to eight counts of giving contradictory evidence, a crime similar to perjury, carrying a maximum term of 14 years.
The convictions relate to a string of inconsistent statements he made over the years, at first denying, then confessing to causing little Emmily’s death.
In 2009, he told a packed courtroom in Mendieta’s second-degree murder trial that he, not she, beat the toddler out of anger in their North York home, causing massive brain trauma.
He had given different stories on at least four occasions, but this one was the truth, he insisted. “I want to come clean.”
That trial ended in a hung jury.
Mendieta’s second trial in 2010 ended in another mistrial after jurors complained they were distracted by a smirking assistant Crown attorney, Paul Alexander, sitting among the spectators.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Nola Garton excused the jury and continued the trial, finding Mendieta guilty of manslaughter, later sentencing her to six years.
Crown prosecutor Christine Pirraglia is seeking a similar term — five or six years — for Bermudez as a mark of strong denunciation.
“He made a mockery of the justice system,” Pirraglia told provincial court Justice Carol Brewer.
Barry Plant, Bermudez’s lawyer, called his client an impulsive, emotional man. “He didn’t want the children to lose their mother.”
The defence attorney asked for a conditional sentence of two years less a day, to be served at home, or six to 12 months in jail.
Bermudez refused to discuss his sentencing with the Star. “It’s all in God’s hands,” he said.
Bermudez was born in Ecuador in 1972 to a loving mother — who was in court for his sentencing hearing — and an alcoholic abusive father, according to the pre-sentencing report.
He met Mendieta in May 2001 and by the summer they were living together, along with her children. The following April, they had a son. Bermudez described their relationship as loving.
He did admit, however that she could be tough and verbally abusive. They sometimes had physical altercations, he said.
They separated in 2008, and Mendieta soon married another man, but Bermudez always hoped they would reconcile.
Bermudez’s family members called his lying in court surprising and attribute it to love for his estranged partner, who they believe dominated him, the report says.
Once he took up with Mendieta, he distanced himself from his family, they said.
Jacqie Bermudez, his sister “noted scratches and scars on her brother and when questioned as to their origin, he deflected the conversation. Ms Bermudez believes her brother was abused, both physically and verbally, despite his denials,” the report says.