Judge throws out wrongful imprisonment case

A former Marshalltown man convicted of the wrong crime 12 years ago will not be able to sue the state for wrongful imprisonment.

Judge James McGlynn threw out the appeal of Jason Michael Cecak late Friday, ruling that Cecak did not meet the definition of an innocent man sent to jail. McGlynn heard the case July 29.

Cecak can file an appeal; a call to his attorney, Matt Reilly, Monday was unreturned.

The case began in October 2000 when Cecak, 19 at the time, had sex with a 14-year-old girl. The girl’s father walked in on the two and pressed charges of third-degree sexual abuse against Cecak, a Class C felony. Though court records indicate that the sex was not forcible, under Iowa law it is considered statutory rape for a 19-year-old to have sex with someone so young.

Cecak later entered into a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to lascivious acts with a child, a Class D felony. Cecak received probation but later spent about two years in jail for failing to register as a sex offender and for leaving a halfway house without permission.

Last year, a judge overturned that conviction ruling that the Marshall County Attorney’s Office and Cecak’s original attorney, TR Hoglan, erred in formulating the plea bargain because under Iowa law a child is someone 13 or younger.

A favorable ruling from McGlynn would have cleared the way for Cecak to sue the state of Iowa for wrongful imprisonment. He would be unable to sue Marshall County because the statute of limitations has expired.

In his ruling, McGlynn wrote that the role of the district court is to “serve as a gatekeeper to ensure only meritorious claims” are allowed to proceed.

“The defendant presents himself as the victim of a perfect storm of an overzealous prosecutor, an ineffective defense attorney and an inattentive presiding judge,” McGlynn wrote. “A review of the court file shows otherwise.”

McGlynn concluded that had Cecak gone to trial for the original charge he could have been convicted and would have faced a much longer prison stay. He added that Cecak was not “an innocent man” but rather someone hoping to benefit from the mistakes of the attorneys involved.