Pontiac – — A Royal Oak man who spent seven years in prison on charges of child sex assault, a crime he did not commit, is suing the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Oakland Circuit Court.
Jacob Trakhtenberg, 77, was charged and convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2005 after a 53-minute bench trial where his court-appointed attorney, Deborah McKelvey, made no opening statement nor did she call one witness on his behalf before then-Judge Debra Tyner.
The prosecution’s chief witness, who initiated the complaint, was Trakhtenberg’s ex-wife.
The Michigan Supreme Court later ruled Trakhtenberg had ineffective counsel, overturned his conviction and ruled he could sue McKelvey for violating his civil rights.
Trakhtenberg did sue, and subsequently accepted a $505,000 out-of-court agreement from McKelvey, who specified the settlement was not an admission of guilt. McKelvey, who has declined comment to reporters, is still subject to an attorney grievance complaint.
“We feel this (lawsuit) is necessary because but for a faulty investigation that did not follow normal protocol with a suspected juvenile sex victim, he never would have been arrested or charged in the first place,” said John Elliott, Trakhtenberg’s new attorney.
The 25-page complaint lists the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Michael Bouchard and Detective Terry Cashman as responsible for him being wrongfully charged.
The lawsuit charges that the detective planted suggested questions with the child’s mother and interviewed the child at home instead of a neutral site, which is standard procedure.
Trakhtenberg had always maintained that — on request and with the knowledge of the mother — he had applied an ointment to the child’s vagina with his finger to treat a medical problem. That action was falsely fashioned into inappropriate touching, according to the complaint.
Bouchard said Wednesday he had not been served with the complaint, and was not aware of all the legal issues but said they will be reviewed by county attorneys.
Trakhtenberg, a Russian immigrant who came to the U.S. 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, Elliott said.