Oakland Co. father cleared in sex case sues defense lawyer

Oakland Co. father cleared in sex case sues defense lawyer after 7 years in prison

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(WJBK) -

Yakov Trakhtenberg is 76 years old. He spent 17 years at Chrysler, had a 6-figure salary and lived in a sprawling home in Rochester. But that life was stolen when his ex-wife accused him of molesting their 8-year-old daughter.

Trakhtenberg says, at the time, he'd just paid his ex nearly 50 thousand dollars and didn't have the money to hire an attorney so the court appointed Deborah McKelvy. McKelvy didn't ask for a jury and didn't make an opening statement. Her only witness was Trakhtenberg, who denied the allegations involving a child. Trakhtenberg was convicted after a 53-minute trial.

His ex-wife sued him for five million dollars, and that's when attorney Jim Elliot picked up the case and did everything Trakhtenberg says McKelvy didn't do. The state Supreme Court eventually overturned Trakhtenberg's conviction. But by that time he had spent seven years in prison.

McKelvy wasn't willing to talk to Fox 2 on camera, but she referred us to her attorney who explained Trakhtenberg admitted to touching his daughter's genital area. Trakhtenberg says he did it because her mother had given him ointment to apply to the area to cure an infection. McKelvy's attorney also says Trakhtenberg never suggested any witnesses that should've been interviewed.

The statement says, in part: "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 Traktenberg would tell his side of the story."

"This wasn't trial strategy, this was laziness. This was an attorney not doing her job," says Elliot.

VIDEO: Click on the video player above to hear from Trakhtenberg in a report from Fox 2's Alexis Wiley


In 2012, the state Supreme Court said McKelvy's performance was inadequate and violated her client's rights. Trakhtenberg has filed a civil lawsuit which seeks more than $50,000.

The state appeals court in December said the retired engineer's case can go forward in Oakland County.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report

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