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Convicted Attorney Michael Harssema Wants a New Trial
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michael harssema

Summary: Disbarred attorney Michael Harssema was convicted of sexually assaulting a child but he claims he never touched her.

Disbarred attorney Michael Harssema was convicted by a jury of sexually assaulting his client, an underage girl. His attorney, Tom Pappas, not only claims that there were legal errors during the trial but that his defendant never touched the girl. They plan to file a motion for a new trial, according to Law.com.

  
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The Collin County jury found Harssema guilty of sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact, sentencing him to 20 years in prison and requiring him to pay a $10,000 fine for each conviction, a total of $30,000 and 60 years. Two of the three sentences will be served concurrently so he only has to serve 40 years.

Pappas, a partner at Burleson Pate & Gibson, said, “I want to be really clear – he didn’t touch her. There’s no use of force, there’s no use of nonforce, there was no touching whatsoever.”

The Collin County Criminal District Attorney’s Office stated that the girl reported in January 2014 to a therapist that Harssema sexually assaulted her. During the two-week trial, the girl’s mother testified that her daughter had an eating disorder and drug addiction. She says she hired Harssema and when they went to meet him, he met with the girl alone, “telling the mother that the victim would open up more about her struggles if he met with her privately.” He allegedly gave the girl Xanax and alcohol.

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The press release from the D.A. read, “Instead of driving the victim home from their dinner meeting, Harssema stopped at a nearby 7-11 where he purchased more alcohol. He later pulled into an Allen neighborhood where he sexually assaulted the underage victim.” During this time, the mother claimed she called him over 30 times but he did not answer her calls. Call logs do show that he was taking other phone calls at the time though.

Evidence shown during the punishment phase of the trial included a 2012 report from another girl that Harssema had sexually “assaulted her while he was working as her attorney.”



Harssema’s version of the story is that he separated the girl from her mother because he believed they had different interests. When he was driving her home, his car broke down and overheated. His phone also happened to stop working. Pappas said, “At the end of the day, the jury was upset a lawyer would be alone with a troubled teenager under these circumstances for that amount of time.”

Pappas argues that the girl’s testimony included statements about his pending case in Dallas County that were not allowed. He motioned for a mistrial but the judge denied the objection and told the jury to disregard the statement. “About an hour after the jury began deliberations we received a note and they said they wanted to rehear or have replayed that part of the testimony they weren’t supposed to consider.

Harssema was disbarred in 2014 after a number of complaints. In 2012, Harssema was hired for a criminal matter. The client paid him cash and a motorcycle as security until the balance was paid. The client eventually paid the balance but Harssema did not give the title of the motorcycle back. He failed to return the unearned portion of the fee. Another complaint from a client claimed that Harssema did not keep them informed or respond to requests for information.

His state bar profile states he earned his J.D. from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

Do you think Harssema has a case for a new trial? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys charged with sexual assault of a child, read these articles:

Photo: dfw.cbslocal.com



 

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