“A crime that didn’t exist”: Hillsdale man sues over wrongful imprisonment


HILLSDALE, Mich. (WLNS) — Imagine being wrongfully imprisoned for 19 months of your life.


A Hillsdale County man says it happened to him and claims authorities are to blame.


We’ve all heard about people going to prison for a crime they didn’t commit.


But Anthony Hart’s attorney says his client went to prison for a crime that didn’t exist.


So a lawsuit has been launched to hold authorities accountable.


It’s a lawsuit that targets the city of Hillsdale, Hillsdale County, Sheriff Timothy Parker, and 12 other plaintiffs including police officers and attorneys.


“They arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and sent him to prison for a crime that didn’t exist,” said Hart’s attorney, Bill Goodman.


In 2001, Hart, who was 17 at the time, was convicted of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person between the ages of 13 to 17.


The conviction meant he had to register as a sex offender twice a year.


In 2014, Hart was arrested for a second offense of failing to update his address and was sent to prison.


But more than a year later, the state realized Hart didn’t belong behind bars and set him free. 


A law change in 2011 meant some juvenile sex offenders, including Hart, no longer had to register.


“They were up on the law. I’m convinced that at least some of the police officers knew that Anthony shouldn’t be arrested,” Goodman said.


Goodman says the lawsuit is currently moving through state and federal courts.


6 News asked him what they want from the lawsuit.


“That there be some kind of recognition of the wrong that’s been done to Mr. Hart, that there be some fair compensation for the time that he spent in prison,” Goodman said.


Hillsdale city and county government recently tried to get out of the suit, claiming they’re immune from prosecution.


But a judge rejected that request.


Goodman says Hart, now 34-years-old, continues to suffer from the year and a half he lost in prison. 


“It’s very difficult for him,” Goodman said.


Attorneys representing Hillsdale city and county did not return messages for comment.


Sheriff Parker declined commenting on the lawsuit.


Parker is named in the suit because he arrested Hart in 2013 for his first registry offense when he was a sheriff’s office lieutenant.


Goodman expects the lawsuit to wrap up in the coming months.

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