A malpractice case filed against two defense attorneys by a former Logan elementary school teacher convicted of sex abuse will go back to district court, the Utah Court of Appeals ordered Thursday.
Alan Roy Willey, 59, was sentenced in October 2007 to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison, after a 1st District Court jury found him guilty of seven charges of felony sex abuse that June for inappropriately touching one of his fourth-graders at Wilson Elementary in Logan during the 1993-1994 school year. The conviction came during a second trial, after the first trial resulted in a hung jury.
Willey appealed the conviction, arguing that his former attorneys, Walter Bugden Jr. and Tara Isaacson, provided ineffective assistance of council by failing to call a memory expert at trial. That claim was rejected when the Utah Court of Appeals found that the attorneys’ decision to not have a memory expert testify fell well within the bounds of trial strategy.
Willey then sued his former attorneys for malpractice in 2010 in 3rd District Court, again claiming ineffective assistance at trial. According to the Court of Appeals, he claimed in the lawsuit that by failing to call a memory expert at trial and failing to communicate plea offers from prosecutors before his second trial, the lawyers were ineffective. The district court granted a summary judgment in favor of his attorneys, saying that Willey’s unsuccessful ineffective assistance claim precluded any malpractice claim relating to expert testimony. The judge also ruled that the attorneys showed strong evidence that Willey was informed of the plea agreement, and that he received a letter detailing the state’s plea offer.
In Thursday’s decision, the Court of Appeals agreed with the district judge in regards to the claim related to expert testimony, but they disagreed with the district court that there was undisputed evidence that Willey knew about the plea offer. The Court of Appeals ruled that the district court judge should not have weighed the credibility of the attorneys’ evidence versus Willey’s sworn statement that indicated he never received a letter or communication about a misdemeanor plea offer before his second trial.
The Court of Appeals ordered the case to return to district court for further proceedings on the failure to communicate claim. No new court date has been set as of Thursday afternoon.
Willey remains at the Utah State Prison, according to prison records.
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