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Frederick Slota

Other South Dakota Exonerations
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On December 6, 2012, a 7-year-old girl in Aberdeen, South Dakota, told a teacher that she had had sex with her foster father, 41-year-old Frederick Slota. The teacher took the girl, referred to in court records as A.K., to a counselor. There, the girl denied that anything inappropriate had occurred.

The counselor called the Brown County Department of Social Services, and a case worker interviewed A.K. using a diagram of the female body. Again, A.K. said nothing had happened, but she was removed from Slota’s home. On December 12, the girl was taken to a child advocacy center for a forensic examination. First, she denied any abuse. Then, she said it did happen, and she described how it felt when Slota touched her.

Slota was questioned by the police on December 13, and he denied abusing the girl. A month later, the girl told a social worker at Lutheran Children’s Services that she didn’t know why she was removed from the care of Slota and his wife. She said that Frederick Slota had never abused her, even though someone had told her that he did.

Slota was arrested February 13, 2013, and charged with rape and sexual contact with a child younger than 16. His jury trial began on March 24, 2014. Both he and A.K. testified. He was convicted of both charges on March 26, 2014. At his sentencing in May, the judge set aside the sexual contact conviction and sentenced Slota to 30 years in prison.

Slota’s initial appeal centered on the trial judge’s decision to close the courtroom during A.K.’s testimony, which he said violated his right to a public trial. It was denied in 2015. He then filed a writ of habeas corpus in 2016, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.

The heart of Slota’s motion was that his trial attorney had failed to use A.K.’s conflicting reports during her interviews with the counselors and social workers. While the attorney did cross-examine the girl, he had neglected to subpoena these potential witnesses, which would have allowed him to introduce their reports and their exculpatory findings.

Separately, Slota also asserted that his trial attorney should have objected when the judge closed the courtroom but allowed a prosecution witness to remain and observe the girl’s testimony. In addition, he said that the attorney should have objected during closing arguments, when the prosecutor told jurors that the girl’s statements had been consistent.

On May 26, 2017, Judge Jon Flemmer of South Dakota’s Fifth Judicial Circuit granted Slota’s petition and ordered a new trial. Along with recognizing the ineffectiveness of Slota’s attorney, Flemmer also wrote that the state in its closing argument “clearly misstated the facts in front of the jury.”

Slota was released from prison on June 9, 2017. The state dismissed the charges on January 3, 2019, after the district attorney said the girl and her family didn’t want to go through a new trial.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 2/19/2019
State:South Dakota
County:Brown
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2012
Convicted:2014
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:30 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:41
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No