10/28/07 — Dwayne Dail responds to lawsuit

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Dwayne Dail responds to lawsuit

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 28, 2007 2:01 AM

Faced with a lawsuit by his former girlfriend who is seeking back child support for their son, Chris Michaels, Dwayne Allen Dail says he is disappointed about this latest turn of events.

"To use our son as a pawn in this painful way is an attempt to blame the failures of her life on me," he said in a written statement. "It is beyond my understanding and belief that someone could stoop so low."

The lawsuit, which was filed on Oct. 18 in Wayne County Family Court, does not specify how much in back payments Lorraine Michaels is seeking, but Dail is eligible to potentially receive up to $360,000 for the time he spent wrongfully imprisoned -- $20,000 for each of 18 years.

"The plaintiff is the natural mother of the minor child and has been a fit and proper person to have the care ... of the minor child and for his entire life the plaintiff has been the sole provider of the health and well-being and financial needs," the complaint reads.

Continuing, it explains that "as the natural father of the minor, the defendant owes a duty of support to the minor child and should be required to pay a reasonable sum for the care and maintenance of the minor child."

It also states that, "the defendant should be responsible for paying his share of the uninsured medical, dental orthodontic, optometric and prescription drug expenses of the minor child."

And finally, Ms. Michaels also is seeking payment for legal expenses.

"The plaintiff is without sufficient means where on to subsist during the prosecution of this action and to defray the necessary expenses thereof, and is entitled to counsel fees," the complaint states.

It is another twist in the events that have changed Dail's life ever since he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on March 20, 1989, on charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree sex offense, first-degree rape and taking indecent liberties with a minor, in connection with the 1987 rape of a 12-year-old girl.

At the time, Chris Michaels had not yet been born.

Dail's release came on Aug. 28, when Wayne County Superior Court Judge D. Jack Hooks Jr. set aside his sentence and dismissed all the charges after DNA evidence, long believed to have been lost, was found. He then received a pardon from Gov. Mike Easley on Oct. 11.

Currently, Dail is living in Fort Myers, Fla., with his mother, sister and brother. And according to him, Chris, now 18, also has moved in with them.

"My son is very happily living with me now, and I am focused on making up for lost time and providing for him," Dail said. "He did not receive the guidance and support over the last 18 years that should have been provided, and could have been provided by me had I not been wrongfully incarcerated."

Despite being faced with this lawsuit, Dail still hopes to use the potential $360,000 to provide for his immediate family and to further his education to help keep others from also being wrongfully imprisoned.

Based on state law, though, he does not believe he is responsible for any back payments.

It reads: "A child support payment or the relevant portion thereof is not past due and no arrearage accrues ... during any period when the supporting party is incarcerated, is not on work release and has no resources with which to make the payment."

Representing Dail in this case is his former public defender Shelby Benton.

Representing Ms. Michaels is Sarah Heekin, a partner with Bland, Heekin, Smith, Strickland & Stanley -- the same firm that has former county assistant district attorney Don Strickland, who prosecuted Dail in 1989, as a partner.

The first hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 26 in Family Court.

-- Staff Writer Nick Hiltunen contributed to this report.