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22 Years in Prison for What?

DURHAM, N.C. (CN) - Released after 22 years in prison on constitutional grounds, a man sued officials of two North Carolina counties, claiming they withheld evidence that would have exonerated him in his 1989 trial.

Parrish Nathaniel Slade sued former Moore County Sheriff's Det. Tim Monroe, Moore County Sheriff Neil Godfrey, the Hoke County Department of Social Services and John Doe employees of both counties, in Federal Court.

Slade was convicted of a first-degree sex offense against the 11-year-old son of his girlfriend on May 2, 1989 and served 22 years of a life sentence in prison.

Slade was granted a new trial in 2011, and in December 2012 a judge granted his motion to dismiss the charges, concluding that his "constitutional rights were violated, that irreparable prejudice had been caused with respect to preparation of his case, and that no remedy for that irreparable prejudice existed but to dismiss the prosecution," according to the 35-page complaint.

Slade claims that defendant Det. Monroe withheld evidence during trial, and that "Monroe's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence to Slade's trial counsel substantially contributed to the jury's erroneous determination that Slade was guilty of the rape of a child."

"Additionally, Monroe was in the courtroom and remained silent as the child ... provided testimony Monroe knew to be false. During the years in which Slade was incarcerated, Monroe remained silent and took no action to correct the false testimony he heard ... in open court against Slade."

Immediately after the boy reported the alleged rape, Slade claims, Monroe filed a warrant for his arrest even though he had not spoken to Slade, the boy's mother or the social worker assigned to the case.

Slade says he went to the police station voluntarily and denied the allegations, but was arrested and indicted for first degree sexual assault after Monroe - the state's only witness - testified to a grand jury.

At trial, Slade says, Monroe falsely testified that the alleged victim had not been examined by a doctor, though "Monroe knew that [the victim] had undergone a medical examination that conflicted with his claim of rectal bleeding as a result of the alleged sexual assault."

Slade claims Monroe did not act alone, as the Hoke County Department of Social Services (DSS) also withheld evidence.

"Hoke DSS investigated [the victim's] claim of sexual assault and determined that [he] fabricated the claim of assault," the complaint states. "Defendant Hoke County DSS withheld evidence that would have exposed discrepancies in the false claims made by [the victim], a deeply troubled 11-year-old boy.

"Agents and employees of Hoke County DSS knew Slade was facing a trial for the offense of raping [the boy], with a potential sentence of life in prison, and also knew its own investigation of this alleged incident led Hoke DSS to conclude that the child's claim was false. Despite that knowledge, Hoke DSS adhered to an unconstitutional policy and practice of withholding critical information from those in the criminal justice system. As a result, Slade was tried for and convicted of a sexual offense which Hoke DSS officials knew had never occurred."

Slade says reports withheld by DSS show the department "investigated [the boy's] sexual abuse allegation, found the complaining child to be very troubled and willing to do 'whatever it takes' to get away from the living situation with his mother, and concluded that the rape complaint was unfounded."

Nearly twenty years after the original trial, in December 2008, Slade filed a motion for relief, claiming Monroe had admitted the boy had seen a doctor after making the rape allegation.

Slade was granted a new trial in 2011, and charges were dismissed the next year. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages for due process violations and obstruction of justice.

He is represented by G. Christopher Olson with Martin and Jones in Raleigh.

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