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Man hopes to sue state for false imprisonment

July 30, 2013
By MIKE MALLOY - SPECIAL TO THE T-R , Times-Republican

A former Marshalltown man is seeking restitution in a 13-year-old case that ended in a wrongful conviction.

Matt Reilly, a Cedar Rapids-based attorney representing Jason Michael Cecak at a hearing Monday, is seeking a ruling declaring that his client was wrongfully imprisoned. Reilly told the Times-Republican that if he obtains the ruling he will sue the state of Iowa for locking up his client for two years for a crime Cecak did not commit.

Cecak, who no longer lives in Iowa and was not present at Monday's hearing at the Marshall County Courthouse, was charged in November 2000 with third-degree sexual abuse. According to court documents, Cecak, 19 at the time, had sex with a 14-year-old girl which is defined as statutory rape under Iowa law.

In July 2001, Cecak pleaded guilty to lascivious acts with a child - a Class D felony - leading to a two-year prison sentence. The law, though, defines a child as someone 13 or younger. Because the girl was 14 Cecak could not have committed that crime and, as a result, a judge vacated his conviction last July.

County Attorney Jennifer Miller is out of the office all week and was unable to comment. Assistant County Attorney Paul Crawford, who worked on the plea agreement with Cecak in 2001, said he had never seen this type of mistake before. Once it was discovered, Crawford filed for the guilty plea to be overturned.

"He was charged with the correct offense initially," Crawford said. "When we discovered the amended charge was incorrect I took the steps that I could."

Crawford said Cecak was offered a plea deal because he was "young, had no significant record, and the sex was consensual as opposed to being by force."

Crawford said Cecak should not have been convicted of lascivious acts with a child but believes the facts in the case show Cecak did commit third-degree sexual abuse.

Court documents indicate that the woman and her father chose not to pursue the original charge of sexual abuse during last year's proceedings.

Cecak can not pursue a civil suit against either his own attorney or the county because the statute of limitations has expired, but he may sue the state under a relatively new statute.

Because the state would be subject to the potential lawsuit, the Iowa attorney general, represented by attorney William A Hill, is seeking to dismiss the case.

Hill told the court the statue was designed to "separate the people that were truly wrongfully imprisoned versus the people that escaped criminal liability and are trying to collect."

The statue reads that if a conviction is vacated a district court shall determine if: A. The offense was not committed by the individual charged, and B. That the offense was not committed by anyone.

"The charging document says that the individual was 14, so by definition she's not a child," Reilly said in court.

Hill argued that since Cecak had pleaded guilty prior to a jury trial he waived his right to claim wrongful imprisonment.

"(Cecak) admitted that was he did was wrong," Hill said.

Judge James McGlynn said he would issue a ruling "as quickly as I can."



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