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Man accuses public defenders of malpractice

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An accused child molester who sat in jail for 2 1/2 years until his case was dismissed is suing his former public defenders for legal malpractice.

Donald Woods filed the suit Thursday in federal court against attorneys Bradley B. Jacobs and Leslie D. Merkley alleging legal malpractice because the two didn't question or investigate the allegation that Woods had inserted 4 feet of weed-eater wire into his estranged son's penis eight years earlier.

The suit Donald Woods v. New Albany Police Dept., et al., No. 4:10-cv-0002, was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division. Woods is seeking $5 million under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

Woods was charged with Class A felonies child molesting and criminal deviate conduct in July 2006 following allegations from his estranged wife that Woods inserted the wire into their son's body when he was only five years old in 1998, the last time he had any contact with his wife or son.

The wire was discovered when his son had a CT scan of his pelvis following a fall in 2006.

Jacobs and Merkley were assigned back-to-back as public defenders for Woods; in his suit, Woods claims neither attorney visited him in jail and never questioned how his son could live eight years with the wire inside of him without any physical problems. Woods' third public defender, Jennifer Culotta, obtained medical records in November 2008 and discovered the son had a CT scan on the same area in 2005 and there was no wire inside of him then.

The case was dismissed against Woods in March 2009 but he wasn't released from jail until December 2009.

In addition to his legal malpractice claims, Woods is suing the New Albany Police Department, Detective Sherri Knight, Clark County Sheriff's Department, Clark County Prosecutor Steven D. Stewart, and deputy prosecutor Shelley Marble for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment.

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