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Eva Wailes

2019 Attorneys of the Year: Eva Wailes

Noncitizens charged with crimes in the U.S. face legal and immigration consequences. Eva Wailes defends them in both arenas.

Wailes is a bilingual attorney with Wilson Law Group. She joined Wilson in 2016 after a Peace Corps stint in rural Panama, where she learned Spanish. She specializes in “crimmigration,” de­fending criminally charged noncitizen clients and advising them on the implications for their immigration status.

Wailes has racked up remarkable jury trial victories. In a recent case, Wailes defended a noncitizen in the U.S. legally who had been charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a mi­nor. Weeks before trial, the prosecutor added a first-degree charge, based on a forensic interview she said she had completed.

Wailes successfully moved to remove the prosecutor, arguing the interview made the prosecutor a witness in the case. She also won a rare judgment of acquittal on the first-degree charge, arguing there was no evidence to support it.

Thanks in part to colleague Eva Rodelius’ “scathing” cross-exam­ination of an investigator, the jury found Wailes’ client not guilty of the remaining second-degree charge.

The charge may still affect Wailes’ client. “The next time he makes a visa application to become a permanent resident, he will still face a tough process, because he was charged,” Wailes explains.

Representing noncitizens poses a challenge, because many of these clients have little or no money. “I’m in private practice, I’m not a pub­lic defender,” Wailes says. “It’s a business, and I have to balance the needs of the business but also try to be realistic.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2019 here.

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