Detroit Free Press

Suspect acquitted in rape case retrial sues

BY DAVID ASHENFELTER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

February 1, 2005

Jeffrey Moldowan, who spent 12 years in prison before winning a retrial and acquittal in a Warren rape case, has sued the victim, the police, a trial witness and Macomb County prosecutors.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claims the defendants railroaded an innocent man.

"At a point during the investigation, Warren police knew -- or should have known -- that Jeffrey Moldowan was innocent," his lawyer, Dennis Dettmer of Detroit, said Monday. "Our justice system wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned Jeff Moldowan."

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, who took office last month and was sued in his capacity as prosecutor, said he couldn't comment on the suit because he hadn't seen it.

Warren Deputy Mayor Michael Greiner said the city will defend the department and two detectives named in the suit.

Dr. Alan Warnick, whose testimony about bite marks helped convict Moldowan in his first trial, didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

The suit, which alleges multiple violations of Moldowan's constitutional rights, seeks compensation for what the suit calls his loss of liberty, degrading and inhumane living conditions and physical and mental abuse for 12 years.

The lawsuit, which also seeks punitive damages, said Moldowan continues to suffer from extreme emotional distress, loss of reputation and diminished earning capacity.

Dettmer said he asked the State Police to remove Moldowan's conviction from his record so he can find work.

Moldowan and Michael Cristini were convicted in 1991 in the rape and kidnapping of Maureen Fournier.

Although Moldowan and Cristini professed their innocence, Warnick, a forensic dentist, testified in the first trial that the bite marks on Fournier's body came from the men.

Moldowan was sentenced to four prison terms of 60 to 90 years. Cristini was sentenced to four 40-to-60-year prison terms.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Moldowan's verdict. But the Michigan Supreme Court reversed it after Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga filed a brief challenging the bite-mark evidence. A Macomb County jury acquitted both men in separate trials in 2003 and 2004.

The case resulted in indictments last year against Marlinga, Macomb County real estate broker Ralph Roberts and state Sen. Jim Barcia, D-Bay City.

Federal prosecutors say Marlinga swapped favors in Moldowan's case for contributions from Roberts to Marlinga's ill-fated 2000 congressional campaign.

They said Barcia served as a conduit to receive campaign funds from another lawyer who was seeking help from Marlinga for another rape suspect. Roberts, Marlinga and Barcia denied the charges.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at 313-223-4490 or ashenf@freepress.com

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