Original Story: freep.com
A man who spent seven years in prison on a child molestation charge before his conviction was overturned has settled his lawsuit against his defense attorney for $503,000.
Jackob Trakhtenberg, a retired Chrysler engineer, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct during a 53-minute trial before an Oakland County Circuit Court judge in 2006. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
His court-appointed attorney, Deborah McKelvy, made no opening statement and called no witnesses except Trakhtenberg.
The case against him began after his ex-wife — following a contested divorce — made allegations that he had sexually assaulted his young daughter. The daughter, 8, also testified she had been touched.
Within days of Trakhtenberg’s conviction, his ex-wife filed a civil suit seeking Trakhtenberg’s property, retirement and bank accounts. His grown children from a previous marriage then hired civil attorney James Elliott on their father’s behalf. Jurors in that civil case determined after a six-day trial that the allegations were false and ruled against the ex-wife.
Trakhtenberg appealed his criminal conviction while in prison, and the Michigan Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2012. He then sued McKelvy for malpractice. The case was set to go to trial but settled Tuesday. His civil attorney said the settlement was one more vindication for his client.
“He wanted his name cleared, and to get on with his life,” Elliott said. “He’s been reunited with his daughter, his family, and he wants to leave this behind.”
McKelvy, in the settlement, admitted no wrongdoing. Her attorney, Michael Sullivan, said she was relying on sound trial strategy, and that Trakhtenberg admitted to investigators on several occasions that he had touched his daughter’s genitals, although he claimed he was applying prescription ointment for an infection and had been instructed by the girl’s mother to do so.
“His defense, his only defense, given the age of his daughter and his admission he touched her genitals is that he did not do so for the purpose of sexual gratification,” Sullivan said. “Because the question of what went through Trakhtenberg’s mind when he admittedly touched his 8-year-old daughter’s genitals could only be known through his testimony, Ms. McKelvy made the strategy decision to opt for a bench trial at which Trakhtenberg would tell his side of the story.”
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