VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — An Aberdeen man who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014 for raping a child under the age of 16 is suing his attorneys for fraud and deceit.
Fred Slota was released from prison in 2017 after a lower court decided he was misrepresented at trial.
Now the case has gone all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Slota’s attorney, James Leach, argued in front of justices Wednesday that when his client hired an out-of-state law firm back in 2013 to defend him against rape and sexual contact charges, he was told he’d get so-called experts in sex crimes.
That law firm was Imhoff and Associates of California.
Imhoff then hired Sioux Falls attorney Henry Evans to defend Slota at trial. But Leach says Evans didn’t have the legal experience Slota was told he’d get.
“Evans had never tried a jury trial, not a single one in anything,” Leach said.
Leach claims his client was baited by the law firm to get his business.
“As a result of the bait and switch is to show Mr. Slota was severely harmed by the ‘bait and switch’ such as a 50-year-old man wound up with a 30 year sentence to the state prison for a conviction of probably the most horrible crime any of us can imagine child rape,” Leach said.
Upon his release in 2017, three years after he was sentenced to prison, Slota filed a lawsuit against Imhoff and other attorneys, including Evans; claiming fraud and deceit.
But the attorney representing the law firm says Slota’s claims are time barred by statute of limitations and were filed too late.
“No one here is saying that Mr. Slota would never have a claim for fraud, what we are saying is he didn’t bring it timely, as a result the legislature in adopting a statute of repose has made decisions indicating that certain claims must be brought up within certain periods of time,” attorney Thomas Welk said.
The justices will make a ruling on the case at a later date.