Monday, December 5, 2011

Prosecutor: Agency kept abuse complaint quiet - Montana

Associated Press

A Yellowstone County prosecuting attorney is questioning why a state agency didn't report a child molestation complaint to police.

"It bothered me," Scott Twito told the Billings Gazette ( "It is clearly a criminal matter and should have been reported to law enforcement."

He said the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous tip in March that a 43-year-old man had molested a 9-year-old girl.

He said investigators then learned that months earlier officials with the Child and Family Services Division of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services had dealt with the sexual abuse complaint by making an agreement with Jack Rumph that referred him to a Billings sex offender treatment program in exchange for not reporting the complaint to police.

After law enforcement officials became involved through the anonymous tip, Rumph was charged with two felony sex offenses and felony tampering. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Yellowstone County Court.

Hank Hudson, a manager who oversees three divisions of the state agency, including Child and Family Services, and Sarah Corbally, a division administrator, told the newspaper that decisions on whether to refer child sexual abuse to police are made on a "case-by-case basis."

Both said the agency's mission is to protect children from abuse and neglect, and each case is different.

"We make many referrals to law enforcement," said Hudson.

Health and Human Services officials also said such agreements where allegations of child sexual abuse aren't reported to police are rare, though they don't keep track.

"I hope and trust it's an anomaly," said Twito of the case involving Rumph.

State law requires teachers, medical professionals and others to report to police incidents of child abuse and neglect. But state law doesn't require social workers to make similar reports.

Twito said that means police would have never started investigating Rumph if not for the anonymous caller.

"If we don't get this anonymous tip, we don't have anything," he said.

According to recently filed charging documents, the social worker handling the case interviewed Rumph in March 2010 and said Rumph admitted he allowed the girl to touch him, but he denied touching the girl in a sexual manner.

The social worker interviewed Rumph a second time.

"According to her report, (Rumph) was `tearful' and `very remorseful,'" court records state. Rumph said several times that "this was nobody's fault but his."

It's unclear if the social worker interviewed the girl. A police detective interviewed the girl in August. The girl told police Rumph "had sex with me" and told her she would go to "little girl jail" if she told anyone.

Rumph is free on $30,000 bond. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 100 years on each sex offense charge.

Twito said sex abuse allegations should be reported to police not only because a possible crime has been committed, but because victims can receive help through the crime victims compensation fund, which can pay for counseling.


No comments:

Post a Comment