DETROIT – An attorney who represented a Detroit teenager when he was imprisoned for four murders is trying to get his law license reinstated. Davontae Sanford's conviction was overturned last week and he was released after eight years in prison.
Robert Slameka's license was suspended last year after two misdemeanor convictions. He also has a long history of disciplinary problems.
His critics include a University of Michigan law professor, David Moran, who played a major role in getting Sanford released from prison.
In 2008, Slameka represented Sanford when the 15-year-old pleaded guilty to four murders. Sanford, now 23, was released from prison last Wednesday after prosecutors acknowledged police misconduct. Separately, a hit man has admitted to the slayings.
Slameka didn't challenge Sanford's confession in court, although the boy was blind in one eye, 14 at the time of his arrest and could barely read or write.
"Everything that was in Davontae Sanford's confession turned out to be false except the facts that the police already knew," Moran told the Attorney Discipline Board.
The board is considering whether to reinstate Slameka's law license. His handling of the Sanford case was just one of many issues that were presented during testimony in April and May.
"Everyone in the world has assumed that I forced this kid ... into pleading guilty," Slameka told the board, according to a transcript. "I had nothing to do with it. I advised him. I gave him all his rights. I visited him six times in jail. I got nowhere with him."
Moran said he regularly scrutinized convictions in Slameka's cases when the professor was a state appellate lawyer in the 1990s.
"He's the last person in the Michigan Bar Directory that I would want to have represent anyone close to me — or anyone off the street for that matter," Moran said.
Messages seeking comment from Slameka's attorney in the law license matter weren't immediately returned Monday.
Slameka said he didn't have a traditional law office before his suspension but would regularly meet clients in the lobby of a Detroit casino.
"I've never heard a complaint from a client meeting me in that location," he told the board.
Board member Paul J. Fischer said Slameka sounded like the lawyer in AMC's "Better Call Saul," who meets people in a nail salon.
"It just doesn't sound like what a lawyer does," Fischer said.
Slameka pledged to get office space if reinstated.
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