CHARLESTON – A Kanawha County man is suing two Charleston attorneys and their law firm, claiming they improperly handled a case in which he was accused of sexual assault as a high school student.
Dallas King filed his complaint against Michael D. Payne, Trent A. Redman and The Law Offices of Redman & Payne PLLC on April 28 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
In his complaint, King says he was a junior at Capital High School in January 2015, a highly decorated member of the school’s Jr. ROTC Cadets and a “talented athlete who had colleges interested in him as a candidate for athletic scholarships.”
On Jan. 27, 2015, a juvenile petition was filed against King, accusing him of second-degree sexual assault. The following day, the 17-year-old King was expelled from school.
When King turned himself in, he was detained by authorities despite having no previous record.
“He had lived in the Kanawha Valley for most of his life,” the complaint states. “He was employed, was the son of a college professor and presented no flight risk.”
He retained the defendants to defend him. His preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 4, 2015. It was waived, presumably to obtain discovery, according to the complaint.
“Very little discovery was made available to the defendants in this matter and equally little investigation,” the complaint states.
On March 13, 2015, King was presented with a final plea deal. There was no trial date set – and the state had yet to file a motion to transfer King to adult status – but he was told he had to decide to accept the deal by March 15, 2015.
King says there was “little to no information” made available to him from the defendants’ investigation or evidence from the state.
On March 16, 2015, an article in the Charleston Gazette said King was “expected to plead guilty to first degree sexual abuse and have his case transferred to adult status, according to a plea agreement filed by prosecutors.”
The following day, King entered into that plea agreement. He says the defendants told him that if he didn’t accept the plea and voluntarily transfer to adult status, “he could serve decades in prison.”
Five days later, King’s mother asked the defendants to request another hearing to withdraw his plea and return her son to the juvenile court system. She never heard back from the defendants, so King and his mother sought other counsel.
On Aug. 17, 2016, King was found not guilty in a jury trial.
King claims Payne, Redman and their law firm were negligent in their duties as attorneys. He says they failed to obtain or insist upon meaningful discovery from the prosecuting attorney, failed to conduct a thorough investigation, failed to evaluate the issues of the case, failed to view electronic evidence that was available, failed to prepare a competent defense strategy, failed to research and challenge arguments of the state, failed to require the state to produce all evidence available, incompetently advised King he only would have to register as a sex offender for 10 years, failed to protect “the sanctity of the juvenile by defending the juvenile’s right to maintain his charges in juvenile court and sealing the juvenile records” and by “rushing and intimidating” him into the adult felony plea.
Because of the defendants’ breach of contract, King says he suffered public humiliation and embarrassment, had to obtain other counsel and expend funds, was denied early enlistment with the U.S. Army, suffered anxiety and depression and other damages. He says he sustained monetary losses, compensatory and punitive damages.
Also, he says he missed out on irreplaceable high school experiences such as “half of his junior year and all of his senior year at Capital High School, his junior and senior proms, over a year of athletic eligibility, Baccalaureate, high school graduation, receiving a diploma, scholarship opportunities.”
King seeks damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees, court costs and other relief.
He is represented by Ginny Conley of Conley Law Office in Parkersburg. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit.
In a separate 2015 matter, King was charged with two counts of domestic battery after allegedly pushing the 17-year-old mother of his child into a wall and blacking her eye while he was on home confinement. He pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to probation, but was still incarcerated at a juvenile facility on other charges.
In January 2016, former Capital High principal Clinton Giles filed a lawsuit against the Kanawha County school board, claiming it defamed his character and invaded his privacy following the King incident. Giles was accused of failing to report the incident in a timely manner, but those charges later were dropped. Giles was suspended without pay after the incident, and he claims the actions of the board made it impossible for him to return to the job.
In May 2015, the girl who claimed King had assaulted her filed her own lawsuit against the school board and Giles. Both of the related cases still are pending in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 17-C-601