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Former Pelican Bay Inmate Pleads No Contest In Peninsula Rape, Assault Charges

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REDWOOD CITY (BCN/CBS SF) – A former Pelican Bay State Prison inmate who attacked a woman he became romantically involved with while in prison dropped mental competency proceedings and pleaded no contest Thursday to rape and assault charges, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said on Friday.

Francisco Ismael Merino, 36, pleaded no contest to forcible rape, felony assault and felony false imprisonment in connection with the 2008 attack on a woman he met while she was a nurse at Pelican Bay, and felony battery on a custodial officer in connection with incidents that occurred while he was in custody awaiting trial, Wagstaffe said.

He faces a sentence of 24 years, 8 months in state prison.

Merino was scheduled to appear in court Thursday for the competency proceedings and a motion to request a new lawyer, prior to the scheduled start on Monday of his trial on attempted murder charges, Wagstaffe said. Instead, he chose to accept the plea deal from prosecutors.

Merino met the victim in the 2008 assault, which occurred in Broadmoor, while she was a nurse at Pelican Bay in the early 2000s. When he was released, he moved to the Bay Area where she lived and they became involved in a relationship, Wagstaffe said.

In April 2008, the woman tried to end the relationship. Merino slashed her face and head, forced her to engage in sexual relations and held her captive overnight.

It was only when he was in the shower the next day that she was able to text her son for help and police were called, Wagstaffe said.

Following his arrest, Merino had been found incompetent to stand trial, committed, and then returned to court for trial following treatment, Wagstaffe said.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 26, 2011.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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