June 18, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Royal Oak man accepts $505K settlement from attorney after 7 years wrongfully in prison

Royal Oak A Royal Oak man who spent seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit has accepted a $505,000 out-of-court settlement from a court-appointed attorney he later sued for ineffective counsel.

Jacob Trakhtenberg, 77, was charged and convicted in 2005 but never admitted guilt in the alleged sex assault of a 7-year-old relative, even when it would have meant an early release from prison for him.

Trakhtenberg, a Russian immigrant who said he came to this country with $15 in his pockets, became a Chrysler engineer, built a $1.2 million home in Orion Township and then lost it all because of the false charges, according to attorney James O. Elliott, who later sued the court-appointed attorney, Debra McKelvy, for malpractice.

"He's now come to a time in his life where he wants to move on," said Elliott of the settlement. "This is an opportunity for him to do that."

McKelvy has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in Trakhtenberg's case, nor would she discuss the matter. The lawsuit effectively ends all civil claims against McKelvy and is not an admission of guilt or liability in the case, according to the agreement.

McKelvy is still subject of an attorney grievance filing stemming from the criminal case.

Trakhtenberg was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual assault following a 53-minute bench trial. McKelvy did not make an opening statement or call any witnesses on his behalf.

The chief witness against him who initiated the criminal charges was the alleged victim's mother who was also Trakhtenberg's ex-wife.

Trakhtenberg's criminal record was erased after the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed his conviction and ruled he could sue McKelvy for violating his constitutional rights.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com
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