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CHERRY HILL, NJ — 27 May 2016 — The man who served three years in prison and was later deported for having sexual relations with a minor — who was actually 18 years old — has defeated a summary judgment motion filed by his former criminal attorney.
Carlos Lopez-Siguenza, then 21 years old, was a native of El Salvador lawfully residing in Atlantic City. In 2002, Mr. Lopez-Siguenza engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a young woman who later complained to police that she was a minor. After being indicted for statutory rape, Mr. Lopez-Siguenza retained Mark E. Roddy, Esquire, a Pleasantville-based criminal defense lawyer. Mr. Roddy requested a certified copy of the alleged victim’s birth certificate. Instead, the prosecutors provided a non-certified, non-notarized, handwritten birth certificate purportedly from Honduras which contained numerous obvious irregularities. Mr. Roddy advised Mr. Lopez-Siguenza to plead guilty to a Megan’s Law offense without vetting the illegitimate birth certificate any way. Based on Mr. Roddy’s advice, Mr. Lopez-Siguenza pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault of a minor, a Megan’s Law offense, and was sentenced to three years incarceration in New Jersey State Prison. After serving his sentence, Mr. Lopez-Siguenza was deported to El Salvador based solely on his conviction.
After Mr. Lopez-Siguenza’s deportation, his family retained immigration attorney, Jorge Coombs, Esquire, to investigate the matter. Mr. Coombs contacted the Honduran authorities, confirmed that the birth certificate was fake, and received the young lady’s actual birth certificate, which showed that she was an adult at the time of the consensual sexual conduct. As a result, Mr. Lopez-Siguenza’s conviction was overturned and the indictment was dismissed.
Thereafter, Mr. Lopez-Siguenza filed a lawsuit against Mr. Roddy, represented by Folkman Law Offices, P.C. and Locks Law Firm, claiming that Mr. Roddy committed legal malpractice by failing to properly investigate the age of the alleged victim.
Mr. Roddy filed for summary judgment. Mr. Lopez-Siguenza’s attorneys filed opposition, which argued that Mr. Roddy’s failure to investigate the alleged victim’s age directly and proximately caused Mr. Lopez-Siguenza’s wrongful conviction.
In a written opinion denying Mr. Roddy’s motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle found that Mr. Roddy “failed to meet his burden on summary judgment: factual disputes persist over whether his failure to investigate the authenticity of [the alleged victim’s] birth certificate was ‘reasonable’ or whether it constituted a breach of his duty of care. … In short, … there is a genuine dispute of material fact regarding [Mr. Roddy’s] negligence.”
In light of Judge Simandle’s decision, this matter will be listed for trial.
Folkman Law Offices, P.C., is a full-service law firm representing clients throughout Southern New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania. Combining top talent and decades of legal experience, the attorneys of Folkman Law Offices, P.C., are passionate about practicing law and helping clients secure justice.