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Innocent Ohio Man Paid $750,000 for 10 Years Imprisonment

In 1991, Jimmy "Spunk" Williams, 32, was convicted of raping a 12 year-old girl, and sentenced to life in prison. Williams was appointed attorney Tom Watkins to represent him at a December 2001 parole hearing. Convinced of Williams' innocence, Watkins set up a meeting with the victim's father. Three months later, the girl recanted her identification of Williams. She maintained she was raped, but admitted in court she had never seen her attacker's face. In February 2001, a judge set Williams free.

Watkins then filed suit on Williams' behalf to seek compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. Despite the victim's recantation, prosecutors maintained Williams was guilty. After a civil trial, a Summit County judge declared Williams innocent, allowing him to pursue his compensation claim. Negotiations with the state ensued.

In May 2003, Williams fired Watkins after rejecting a settlement offer of $538,000. Williams then retained Akron attorney Edward Gilbert. In September 2003, Gilbert negotiated a $750,000 settlement that Williams accepted. On September 22, 2003, the State of Ohio agreed to pay Watkins $49,240 and Gilbert $35,343 in fees for their work.

Williams, however, has not been able to enjoy the fruit of the settlement, as the judge ordered it placed in escrow. It must remain there until a lawsuit brought by Watkins against Williams is resolved. Watkins alleges Williams agreed to give him 25 percent of what he received from the state to represent him in winning the declaration of innocence. Gilbert represents Williams in that suit, and he claims the contingency fee is invalid because Watkins is only entitled to statutory fees paid by the state.

Source: Daily Legal News.

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