Lawyer who represented freed Detroit teen wants license back


DETROIT (AP) — An attorney who represented a Detroit teenager when he was sent to prison for murder is trying to get his law license reinstated at a time when the convictions have been overturned and the young man is free after eight years.

Robert Slameka’s license was suspended in 2015 after two misdemeanor convictions, not because of his work on behalf of Davontae Sanford. But that case, among many other issues, has been the subject of testimony at the Attorney Discipline Board.

Slameka’s critics include a University of Michigan law professor, David Moran, who played a critical role in getting Sanford released from prison last Wednesday.

In 2008, Slameka represented Sanford when the 15-year-old pleaded guilty to four murders. Sanford, now 23, is free after prosecutors acknowledged police misconduct. Separately, a professional 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, which is considering whether to reinstate Slameka’s law license.

Slameka told the board that he didn’t force Sanford to plead guilty to second-degree murder.

“I advised him. I gave him all his rights. I visited him six times in jail. I got nowhere with him,” Slameka said, according to a transcript.

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.

Slameka’s law license suspension was tied to misdemeanor convictions for larceny and breaking and entering. He said he was trying to retrieve his wallet from a woman.

His attorney in the license matter, David Burgess, declined to comment 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.

Two Wayne County judges, Richard Skutt and James Chylinski, said they like Slameka’s style, especially when he works with people who need a court-appointed lawyer.

“He’s the type of guy that has a little bit, I should say a little bit less tact and more directness: This is what you got, this is what you’re facing, this is what I recommend,” Chylinski said.

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