The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for Gordy Sussman, the founder and former owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports. Sussman was convicted, following a 10-day trial, of child pornography and child sexual assault charges in 2005 – click here to read our SNEWS® story. Sussman is serving a 13-year prison sentence at Fox Lake Correctional Institution in Wisconsin.
Sussman first tried, unsuccessfully, to appeal his conviction through the state court system. He then filed another appeal in the federal court system and also failed there. But, the circuit court saw things differently.
In a 71-page document, the circuit court detailed numerous instances in which Sussman’s accuser, a boy named Scott, made inconsistent statements to investigators. The circuit court also referenced testimony that others made regarding the boy being considered regularly untruthful. And, the circuit court made strong reference to the fact that the state court did not allow evidence that Scott had falsely accused his father of sexual abuse prior to his allegations of sexual abuse against Sussman.
In its April 1 ruling, the circuit court rejected claims by the state that the excluded testimony was unimportant, saying the state's position "evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of the guarantees of the Confrontation Clause in the truthfinding process of a criminal trial." It argues this excluded evidence was uniquely relevant in that it "demonstrates that Scott lies specifically about sexual abuse when he feels abandoned by father figures."
The circuit court remanded the case back to the state court with instructions to free Sussman unless the state elects to retry him.
Sussman has always maintained his innocence and in an April 5 letter sent from prison, Sussman said, “I’m told a federal habeas corpus will be issued shortly and I should be released by Memorial Day.”