Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Teacher Sentenced to Three Years' Probation for Child Abuse and Battery - Wisconsin

By Sara Kronenberg

Calumet County - A former teacher accused of abusing students was sentenced to probation Wednesday -- with the threat of a year in jail if she violates the requirements.

Calumet County prosecutors charged Mary Berglund this past March with ten counts, including five felonies, for allegedly abusing six disabled students at Janet Berry Elementary School back in 2009.

At Wednesday's court hearing, Berglund pleaded no contest in a plea agreement that amends the child abuse charges to five counts of misdemeanor battery and one felony count of child abuse.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Berglund to probation and counseling.

The judge decided to put Berglund on probation for three years with anger management courses, counseling, and 100 hours of community service. She'll spend a year in jail if she doesn't follow through.


California courts redefining who counts as a parent

By Hudson Sangree

Even as the definition of family in America expands and shifts, California courts are trying to keep pace by redefining whom the law regards as parents.

Judges have moved beyond traditional notions of biology and adoption and have assigned parental rights to adults with no genetic or legal ties to kids.

In a recent Sacramento case, an appeals court said a woman who never adopted her ex-girlfriend's children was nevertheless their parent because she acted like one – providing for them financially, cleaning up after them when they got sick, and volunteering at their school.

"We're redefining what constitutes a family," said McGeorge School of Law Professor Larry Levine, an expert on sexual orientation and the law. "It's a whole new way of thinking about this."

In the Dec. 9 ruling, the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal said the woman had a good reason for not adopting the children.

She was a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and was afraid of being expelled from the military if she violated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in force at the time. The controversial policy, which began in 1993 and ended in September, barred openly gay men or lesbians from serving in the military.

Had the woman been open about her sexual orientation by forming a domestic partnership or adopting her girlfriend's children, it might have ended her military career.

The court referred to the woman and her former partner only by their initials: S.Y. and S.B. The Bee agreed to do the same to protect the privacy of the children.

"It was never even something we discussed about me participating in the adoption or formalizing the relationship," S.Y. said in an interview. "It was just a given because of 'don't ask, don't tell.' When it's something you can't do, you don't go there."

S.B. declined through her attorney to comment on the case.

Her lawyer, Elizabeth Niemi, said S.B. always planned to be the children's sole parent. She hadn't wanted S.Y. to jointly adopt the children, and S.Y. acknowledged that was true in trial testimony, she said.

"Neither party ever intended for S.Y. to have parental rights or obligations," Niemi said.

But the court said the adoptive mother's intentions weren't the deciding factor.

"Whether S.B intended for S.Y. to obtain legal rights with respect to the children is irrelevant where, as here, S.B. allowed and encouraged S.Y. to function as the children's second parent from birth, and S.Y. openly embraced the rights and obligations of being a parent," wrote acting Presiding Justice Cole Blease for the unanimous panel.

The three justices on the panel – including Justice George Nicholson and Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – upheld a ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Helena Gweon.

Experts said the case continues a trend in which courts have ruled that adults who aren't biological or adoptive parents can still be assigned parental rights and responsibilities.

The purpose: to promote the well-being of children and ensure their financial support, Levine said.

"The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood," he said. "That's true for straight and gay couples."

The string of cases that led to this month's ruling in S.Y. v. S.B. included the California Supreme Court's 2002 decision in a case involving a boy identified as Nicholas H. In that case, the court granted custody to a woman's former live-in boyfriend, who admitted he was not the boy's biological father but had acted as his father since birth.

The biological father was nowhere to be found.

Traditionally, adults not related by blood or adoption would have been deemed "legal strangers" to children, but things have changed, said Courtney Joslin, a professor at the UC Davis School of Law, who specializes in family law and sexual orientation and the law.

In the recent case, "the court says you have to look at the reality of families' lives, and the most important inquiry is whether a person is actually functioning as a parent."

Deborah Wald, the lawyer who argued the case for S.Y. at the appellate level, said the decision was part of "a sea change that started with In re Nicholas H."

"What we've seen is that the courts are starting to look at parentage issues from a child's perspective, which is a very big shift. Before, children were treated more like property.

"Now the courts are starting to ask, 'Who do these children think their parents are?' It's a child-centered approach that relies on looking at behavior. Courts aren't willing to take children away from people whom they rely upon."

Niemi, the lawyer for S.B., took away a different lesson from the case.

"If you are a single parent, and there's not another parent somewhere," she said, "you have to be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids."


Sunlight May Not Be Enough To Disinfect A Corrupt Missouri Judiciary

Posted by CultureVigilante on December 20, 2011

Better Courts for Missouri released a statement, today, outlining a judge’s dereliction of duty as reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch. In the Post’s investigation, they found that Judge, Barbara T. Peebles took a two-week vacation to China, without reassigning her docket, and left her clerks in charge to make judicial decisions. Apparently, this was not the first time something like this has happened in Judge Peebles’ court, and the St. Louis Public Defender was quoted as saying that it was common knowledge the Peebles’ clerks acted on her behalf in the past. At least 350 cases were handled by court clerks in her most recent two-week absence.

What is even more disturbing is that no one, lawyers, clerks, officers of the court system felt the need to report this behavior to the proper authorities of the Missouri Bar Association. It is obvious there is a brotherhood among the judicial network that covers for its own.

Supreme Court rules state: A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.

It looks as if the passing of the buck now begins in the St. Louis Circuit Courts. While its presiding judge blamed Peebles and her lack of management over her own court, what of his own decision to sweep any disciplinary action, in this case, under the rug? While cases such as this should be reported to the Commission of Retirement, Removal and Discipline for investigation, it appears that Ohmer will just reassigned Peebles to another court. Apparently because discipline of this type, not having been administered to another judge in over 30 years, was deemed as too harsh a punishment to do so in this case.

St. Louis Circuit Court Presiding Judge Steven Ohmer called the conduct of both Peebles and her clerks “wrong.” He blamed an “overall lack of management and supervision.” …

… Ohmer said he considered — but decided against — removing Peebles from that division after the full scale of the problem was revealed. It would be the kind of action he said has not happened in 30 years. Next month, she will move to a civil trial division as planned.

Better Courts for Missouri, ”a coalition of Missourians from all walks of life, dedicated to fixing the method by which Missouri judges are selected.” as described on their web page, was formed to bring “Openness, Accountability, Independence and Excellence in our Judiciary,” and has worked to inform citizens of the dishonor and corruption in the Missouri Plan, which is the method now used in Missouri to select judges.

At the end of BCfM’s Get Involved page, they state:

The judiciary is too important to leave in the control of unaccountable special interests who stand to gain from picking judges in secret. Please join us as we fight to protect the rule of law.

The work of BCfM has been to promote openness and accountability in the selection process, which is absent from the current plan. However, there seems to be no mention, on their website, of the provision in the Missouri Constitution, that provides the power and authority of the State Legislature to impeach judges who are derelict in their responsibilities. While sunlight would certainly provide the public with ability to identify the corruption that has been allowed to mutate in the judiciary over the decades, there still seems to be no catalyst to provide discipline to those who have abused their power and authority.

Article 7: Section 1. All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.

Article 7: Section 2. The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried before the supreme court, except that the governor or a member of the supreme court shall be tried by a special commission of seven eminent jurists to be elected by the senate. The supreme court or special commission shall take an oath to try impartially the person impeached, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of five-sevenths of the court or special commission.

It would appear that the brotherhood among the judicial network has extended to the legislature since there has been no judge impeached, in Missouri, since the civil war according to the Missouri Court’s website:

Before the commission was created in 1972, an impeachment trial was the only means by which a judge could be removed from office. Since the Civil War era, however, the House has impeached only two Missouri judges – both St. Louis County circuit judges and both in the 1960s. In both cases, the judges resigned from office before the Supreme Court held their trials. While the impeachment mechanism is still available, the commission serves as a more efficient method of ensuring judges adhere to the code of conduct and remain subject to disciplinary review even for ethical lapses that may not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

Would this be the same commission that is charged with oversight of the St. Louis Circuit Courts? It would also appear that the commission, and any other form of authority, from the circuit court to the legislature, has worked very hard to cover for their own since we all know there is much corruption in the judicial branch of government, and there has been very little, if nothing at all, done to stop its escalation of corruption.


Professor who helped youths in foster care systems charged with rape and sexual child abuse

Dwain Pellebon, 54, arrested for rape and lewd acts
Denies charges but admitted being 'affectionate and sensual'
Admitted watching child porn

By Rachel Quigley

A social work professor accused of rape and performing other lewd acts on teenage girls has been formally charged.

Dwain Pellebon, 54, of the University of Oklahoma, was arraigned on two counts of rape, two counts of lewd acts with a child and two counts of sexual child abuse.

The professor was arrested last week after authorities received allegations from a child welfare worker he had sexually abused two teenage girls in the past two years. He denies all the allegations.

A state Department of Human Services worker told Norman police that a 13-year-old reported seeing Pellebon fondle another 13-year-old during a sleepover at the suspect's Norman home, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The girl was interviewed by police last week, according to NewsOk, and told them she woke up in his home on at least two occasions with Pellebon lying beside her touching her 'from her hair to her ankles'.

The alleged abuse started when she was 11.

The social worker also said Pellebon sexually abused a mentally disabled 15-year-old at least twice.

The girl also told police the suspect would remove her from bed, take her clothes off and 'display her on a bed for viewing'.

Court documents also revealed the girl said Pellebon kept track of her menstrual cycle and showed her 'parts of the body you weren't supposed to see'.

The social work professor admitted taking off the girl's clothes but said he did it to apply cream to her 'chest, back and butt' while they were alone in his bedroom.

NewsOk reported that though Pellebon denies any sexual contact, he described himself to investigators as an 'affectionate, sensual man who liked to hug, kiss, cuddle and stroke young girls that he felt close to'.

He also told police that he had viewed child pornography once but did not download it.

In 2001, Pellebon was investigated by DHS under similar circumstances but no charges were filed because the alleged victim — the daughter of a former Norman police officer — failed to give investigators a statement, documents show.

He has been placed on administrative leave without pay and is free on $75,000 bail.
The 54-year-old was a director on a local board for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), which helps children in juvenile court and foster systems.

He took a leave of absence from the board earlier this year, a Cleveland County CASA spokesman told The Oklahoman.

Pellebon teaches a course on human sexuality that looks at ‘sexual behaviour, gender differences and sexual values’, reported CNN.

After he was arrested a university spokesman said they 'acted swiftly to suspend Pellebon from any contact with students and from use of any university facilities'.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Counselor charged with having sex with 17-year-old - Kentucky

By Valerie Chinn

MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- A counselor for abuse victims is now behind bars, charged with raping a teenager in her care.

Sunrise Children's Services says a child in its care made the allegations against Counselor Brooke Briscoe. The 27-year-old from Louisville is now at the Bullitt County Detention Center. Briscoe is charged with one count of rape and one count of sodomy.

The Sheriff's Department says she had intercourse and oral sex with a 17-year-old male resident at Sunrise Child Services in Mt. Washington on Sunrise's property. The organization says it cares for children who are victims of abuse or neglect.

Detective Scotty McGaha with the Bullitt County Sheriff's Department says, "16 is the legal consensual age in the state of Kentucky, however, even though he's of a consensual age, the problem with it is Rape in the Third because she is in a caretaker role with him. She was a counselor for him."

Briscoe's neighbors wouldn't go on camera, but say she has young children. The Sheriff's Department is looking into other possible victims at Sunrise. Briscoe was on administrative leave, pending the investigation. But Sunrise says her job is now terminated.

The Sheriff's Department says she did not have a prior criminal background.

Sunrise Children's Services issued the following statement:

"Allegations were brought against Ms. Briscoe by a child in our care. That day, we initiated the investigation by reporting the allegations to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Child Protective Services (CPS). We immediately put Ms. Briscoe on Administrative Leave pending the investigation. We have cooperated fully with OIG, CPS and the Bullitt County Sheriff's Department. Per the information we received today, Ms. Briscoe has been terminated.

We are conducting an internal investigation and are reviewing our policies and procedures to determine if there is anything we need to change to avoid a situation like this in the future. We conduct a full background check on all of our employees. Moreover, we hold ourselves to the highest standards possible as the only child care agency in this area certified by the highest accreditation body for health care agencies.

We work, every day, to protect the children in our care and to provide them a better future. We take this situation very seriously and are shocked and saddened to find out the allegations are true. But we are grateful that someone stepped forward to alert us to the situation so we could stop it."


Kentucky child-welfare officials draw sharp criticism from lawmakers

Written by Deborah Yetter

FRANKFORT, KY. — At a packed committee hearing, Kentucky legislators berated the state’s top child-welfare officials Monday for failing to accurately report child-abuse fatalities.

And one lawmaker called for the resignation of the cabinet secretary who oversees Kentucky’s child-welfare programs, saying the state was withholding information.

“It concerns me the cabinet appears to have the attitude that it does not have to comply with the law, and it does not have to comply with court orders,” said Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican who is co-chairman of the interim joint Health and Welfare Committee, adding that the cabinet is “is broken, has gone rogue and is shrouded in secrecy.”

During a contentious committee hearing, several lawmakers said changes may be needed in state law to ensure that officials more accurately report cases of children that result in serious injuries or death.

State officials issued a report earlier this month that said 18 Kentucky children died of abuse or neglect in the fiscal year that ended June 30 — though The Courier-Journal reported Sunday that at least eight others were omitted.

Among those left out was the case of 9-year-old Amy Dye, a Todd County girl who was beaten to death by her adoptive brother.

Three Todd County school officials told the committee Monday that the case constitutes proof that Kentucky’s most vulnerable children must be better protected.

“One thing we want to make sure of, Amy Dye’s life did count for something,” said Todd County School Supt. Michael Kenner, testifying before the committee.

Lawmakers on the committee posed a number of questions, including why Amy’s death and others like it weren’t included in the cabinet’s annual report of child deaths and serious injuries.

Kenner said school officials had repeatedly tried to alert cabinet officials to suspected abuse of Amy after the agency approved her placement in the adoptive home — but to no avail.

“We’re not reporting cases just to be reporting them,” said Kenner, who appeared with an assistant superintendent and the principal from South Todd Elementary, Amy’s school. “It hurts when we feel like the things we report are not being taken seriously.”

The school officials said that they heard nothing back from the cabinet, despite repeated calls to a phone line designated for such matters, and that they never knew the outcome of any investigations.

“Out information goes into some big dark hole,” Kenner said. “We never know what is happening.”

The purpose of Monday’s hearing was for cabinet officials to explain its annual report on child abuse and neglect fatalities, which it released Dec. 1 — three months past the deadline under state law.

But discussion of Amy’s death dominated the discussion, even though the cabinet did not include her in that report, arguing that it didn’t have to because she was killed Feb. 4 by her 17-year-old brother, not a parent.

A judge has rejected that argument as a misinterpretation of state law, as did several lawmakers Monday.

“I do think the General Assembly meant to have these kinds of cases included in this report,” Denton said.

Denton, accusing the cabinet of obstructing lawmakers and withholding information, demanded the resignation of secretary Janie Miller.

Denton noted that the cabinet missed the deadline for filing its annual child-abuse report and has continued a legal fight over disclosure of records in cases involving child abuse deaths and serious injuries long after Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd first ordered their release under open records law.

“I’m calling for the resignation of the secretary,” she said. “The buck stops with the secretary.”

Miller did not attend the hearing and through a spokeswoman declined to respond directly to Denton’s demand.

“I am very disappointed that Sen. Denton has resorted to a personal attack rather than deal with these very difficult issues,” she said in a statement.

Speaking for the cabinet on her last day of the job was Patricia Wilson, commissioner of social services, who has resigned.

Wilson described in general how the cabinet conducts child abuse investigations and reports fatalities from abuse and neglect. Amy’s death, she said, was not counted as an abuse death because the law requires the cabinet to report only those deaths caused by a parent, guardian or other person exercising custodial control.

And she stopped short of saying the cabinet failed Amy when she was asked by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, whether “the system” failed her.

“No I don’t believe we violated any of our policies or practices,” she said.

Some lawmakers objected to that statement.

“If Amy Dye is cold in the ground, the system failed her,” said Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, a Lexington Republican.

Said Givens: “The death you are not counting is a death of neglect. We all need to prevent the next Amy Dye.”

Wilson said that because a sibling killed Amy her death was not included in the annual report, which lists 18 child deaths from abuse or neglect during the most recent fiscal year.

Shepherd already rejected that argument in a ruling last month, saying the death was abuse — or at a minimum — neglect by adults in the home who allowed the abuse.

“To be clear, a parent need not personally administer the fatal blow in order to be held responsible for abuse or neglect,” Shepherd said in his order that the cabinet must release its records related to Amy’s death.

State law, conforming to federal law, allows the disclosure of cabinet records in the event of a child death or serious injury from abuse or neglect.

Several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the cabinet’s refusal to count Amy’s death or other such deaths in its annual report of child abuse deaths.

Sen. Joey Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, wondered how many other cases are not in the report.

“I want to know how many children are murdered or killed within the home by a parent or sibling,” Pendleton said.

The Courier-Journal reported Sunday that at least eight other child deaths were not included in the report — most in cases in which parents or caregivers were charged with abuse, neglect or murder. Midkiff took exception with that report, saying that child fatalities are reported “consistent with the statutes.”

Rep. Martha Jane King, D-Lewisburg, whose district includes Todd County, said after the hearing that lawmakers should act if the law needs to be clearer.

“It’s out responsibility to make sure that if there’s a loophole, we go ahead and address it,” she said.

Camille Dillingham, the principal at Amy’s school, said after the hearing that she hopes the girl’s death brings about some changes.

“She was a quiet girl, she was very loving,” Dillingham said. “She was a very good student.”


Iraq War Veteran, Fit Father Has Parental Rights Terminated

by Robert Franklin, Esq.

A veteran of the Iraq war has had his parental rights terminated despite having in no way wronged his child or its mother. Read about it here (Booneville Democrat, 12/8/11).

The facts of the case are straightforward. Edward Glover served in the U.S. armed services. He was deployed to Iraq. His wife, Michelle gave birth to a child, E.G. in November of 2008. While Edward was serving abroad, Michelle took up with one Maliki Raheem who had a history of domestic violence. In April, 2009, it came to the attention of the Arkansas Department of Human Services that E.G. had been severely abused by Raheem. Here is how the dissenting judge of the Arkansas Court of Appeals described the child’s injuries.

The abuse was severe: E.G. had scalding on his chest and abdomen, bruising, blood inside his eyes, head injuries, perforation of his stomach, a liver contusion, three rib fractures, bilateral retinal hemorrhages, bruising around the eyes and scalp consistent with trauma, a possible lung contusion, and burns to the abdomen, shoulder, right thigh, and left scrotum.

Edward Glover obtained emergency leave and returned home, but was sent back to Iraq 10 days later. Glover remained deployed oversees while legal proceedings played out. The ADHS of course took his son into foster care and eventually succeeded in terminating Michelle’s parental rights. At all but two hearings, Glover was neither present in person nor represented by counsel.

Irrespective of the fact that Glover had done nothing wrong and was never accused of any form of wrongdoing toward anyone, the trial court, at the request of ADHS, terminated Glover’s parental rights and the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling. Indeed, if there was a claim by anyone at any time that Glover had ever in his life done anything to indicate unfitness as a parent, neither the trial nor the appellate court mentioned it.

So how is it possible for a father, who has not a single black mark by his name, to entirely lose his rights to a child, born during his marriage and therefore presumptively his? The cogent dissent from the Appellate Court’s decision says he can’t, but more about that in a bit.

Apparently the reason the trial judge terminated Glover’s rights is that he didn’t follow the court’s orders to avail himself of certain “services” of the ADHS. Now, remember, that ADHS is an agency of the State of Arkansas, but during most of the court proceedings, Glover was nowhere near Arkansas and therefore could not be ”served” by ADHS. More importantly, the “services” ordered are transparently aimed at a parent who has abused his/her child. Here they are:

-provide complete medical history for juvenile
-parenting classes
-anger management classes
-forensic psychological evaluation – follow recommendations
-random drug screens
-remain drug free
-remain alcohol free
-provide vital info for fetal alcohol syndrome assessment
-drug and alcohol assessment – follow recommendations
-medication assessment and follow recommendations
-maintain stable and suitable housing
-attend staffings at DHS
-cooperate with Department
-maintain contact with Department
-attend visitation with juvenile
-demonstrate improved parenting
-maintain reliable transportation or seek reasonable assistance from DHS
-complete affidavit of Financial Means
-refrain from criminal or illegal activity

So what we have is a state agency and four separate judges who couldn’t quite grasp the fact that, although there was an abused child and although there was a father in court, the father hadn’t abused the child. Glover didn’t need any of the “services” ADHS said he needed.

Likewise, the fact that he was out of the country most of the time and in the hospital part of the time when he returned from abroad and was honorably discharged from military service, and therefore unable to avail himself of the “services” never sank in on the judges or ADHS.

Late in the game, the court appointed counsel to “represent” Glover. I use quotation marks around the word “represent” because the dissenting justice at the appellate court described that representation this way:

The quality of the appointed counsel’s representation at this late stage of the case supports an inference that the purpose of the appointment was not to assist Mr. Glover in negotiating his way through the juvenile courts to gain custody of E.G., but rather to facilitate his exit by terminating his parental rights.

The dissent’s description is given considerably more weight by the fact that Glover’s lawyer made no effort to assert at trial any of the very obvious legal issues presented by the termination of a fit father’s parental rights. Having failed to assert them at trial, they couldn’t be asserted on appeal. To make her malpractice still more obvious, Glover’s attorney filed his appeal but under a “no-merit” procedure. That’s one in which the lawyer files the appeal because her client demands it, but tells the court it has no merit. This was “zealous representation” by an attorney? It’s more like a bad joke.

In short, the lawyer worked hand-in-glove with ADHS and the judges to cut the father out of his child’s life. My strong belief is that ADHS wanted that all along. That’s why its counsel convinced the judges to order the long list of “services” for Glover to comply with. ADHS hoped that Glover wouldn’t comply due to his deployment overseas and failure to comply would lose him his parental rights. And that’s just what happened. Some people may call that justice. I call it a conspiracy.

Not surprisingly, Glover lost his appeal. The appellate majority said he hadn’t raised any of his issues on appeal, so there was no way he could win. Fair enough. Or was it?

On the contrary, the dissenting judge, Josephine Hart, completely destroyed the majority’s summary dismissal of Glover’s appeal. She points out that, due to a case decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court (the Mahone case) during the pendency of Glover’s case, the state cannot interfere with the parenting rights of a fit parent.

The Mahone court overruled Judkins and held that custody of a child taken from a custodial parent should result in first shifting custody to the nonoffending, noncustodial parent.

Importantly, the Mahone court relied on U.S. Supreme Court precedent in so ruling.

The United States Supreme Court has stated that it is a fundamental right to parent a child without interference by the state. Accordingly, there first must be a showing of unfitness before the state may intervene. The fact that one parent is unfit does not alter the state’s burden to prove that the other parent is also unable to care for the child before it may interfere in the family… Without a finding of unfitness, the state has no constitutional authority to exercise that power. Under current Supreme Court authority, the existence of a single fit parent, regardless of the acts of the other parent, negates the state’s ability to interfere in the family unit.

Those are, once again, Judge Josephine Hart’s. She was writing at the appellate level in Mahone and, when the case got to it, the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed.

More importantly still, the trial court in Glover’s case had no jurisdiction. In order to exercise any authority over his rights, it had to first find that he was unfit. It didn’t because he wasn’t. Therefore, the matter could be raised for the first time on appeal.

It can therefore be raised before the Arkansas Supreme Court. From here, it looks like a slam-dunk win.

To date, however, the lesson Edward Glover’s case teaches us is just how determined child welfare agencies are to cut fathers out of the lives of their children and how willing courts are to comply.


Niveen Ismail Seemed Prison-Bound for Plot to Kidnap Son Until Jurors Heard Her on Tape

By Matt Coker

Niveen Ismail headed into a Santa Ana courtroom last week facing the possibility of a three-year prison sentence for allegedly asking a private investigator to kidnap her 7-year-old son from his foster parents.

But, after three hours of deliberations, the jury found the Newport Beach 45-year-old not guilty, and based on the press accounts from the trial, it's easy to see why.

Ismail, who lost parental rights to her son in 2005 when officers found him home alone, contacted and met P.I. Robert Young in November 2009. According to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), Ismail proposed paying Young a large sum of money to kidnap her son from his foster family in Lake Forest and take him to Tijuana. From there, prosecutors alleged, Ismail planned to take her son to Europe or her native Egypt.

But the investigator later contacted the Newport Beach Police Department, and another meeting was set up on Dec. 4, 2009, that had Ismail joined by the P.I. and an undercover cop she believed was working with her point person. At that meeting, the OCDA claimed, Ismail discussed obtaining passports for her and her son, asking again for her son to be kidnapped in exchange for money. She was then arrested, and when trial began Dec. 7 Ismail was facing one felony count of solicitation to commit kidnapping.

What blew the case for prosecutors were the secretly recorded tapes from Ismail's meeting with Young and the undercover, according to Jon Cassidy's coverage in the Orange County Register. Young testified that Ismail threw out the kidnapping idea as a "what if" at the first meeting, but while she is heard discussing such a plot at the follow-up meeting, she did not actually request it, Cassidy reports. Instead, Ismail is heard continually trying to steer the conversation back to another idea: spying on the foster family, according to Cassidy, who adds it was the investigators who were heard repeatedly bringing up the kidnapping.

Ismail was told a kidnapping would cost $5,000 versus $500 for surveillance on the foster family. After initially providing Young and his fake partner with a photo of her son--and indication she was in on the kidnapping--she later changed her mind and only paid $500, Cassidy reports.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Beth Costello presented circumstantial evidence that Ismail had begun applying for an Egyptian passport and looked online for driving directions to the Mexican border and flight information from Mexico to Europe, but that obviously was not enough for the jury to buy that the mom had, as the charges suggest, solicited to commit a kidnapping.

"We had an intelligent jury that sifted through rumor, innuendo and distraction thrown at them by the prosecution," Ismail's attorney, Ann Cunningham, reportedly told Cassidy. "The case was all on tape."


Sacramento's 'girl with a hundred scars' files claim for damages

By Marjie Lundstrom

Since the moment she was born 10 weeks premature, with cocaine rippling through her 21/2-pound body, Lilly Manning has been the recipient of other people's poor choices, bad judgment and terrible timing.

Now, the 19-year-old woman who escaped torture in a south Sacramento home is seeking retribution.

Last week, lawyers for Manning filed a claim for damages against Sacramento County's Child Protective Services and the Sacramento City Unified School District.

The claim, a precursor to any lawsuit, alleges child welfare workers and school employees failed to protect her from the violent household into which she was adopted.

"Lilly and her siblings were kept in a virtual prisoner-of-war camp where they were repeatedly, systematically and sadistically beaten and tortured by their adoptive mother, Lillian Manning-Horvath, and her husband, Joseph Horvath," according to the claim.

The legal matter has opened the curtain on Lilly Manning's past, and how she and her four siblings wound up in their great-aunt's care, only to endure savage beatings, tongue-lashings and death threats.

Confidential records recently released by the county reveal how one CPS social worker aggressively promoted the Manning children's adoption in the 1990s. The worker lavished praise on Lillian Manning-Horvath, while dismissing alarms raised by others, according to CPS and Juvenile Court documents.

The claim also singles out six workers associated with the Sacramento City Unified School District for allegedly failing to report their own suspicions of abuse, as required by law. The workers include a teacher, a school nurse, a Head Start coordinator, a vice principal, an assistant principal and an attendance clerk.

"The failure of all these mandated reporters to file (abuse) reports – it just drives me nuts," said Sacramento attorney Joseph C. George, who is representing Lilly Manning.

Yet again, timing and judgment will play a critical role in the case – for both Lilly Manning and for the government entities she seeks to sue.

In California, government is generally immune from civil liability, with exceptions. Timeliness also plays a key role, because a claim involving death or injury must be brought within six months of the alleged harm.

Manning was 15 when she escaped in October 2007 from a locked closet in the home of her adoptive mother.

The teenager, who suffered the bulk of the abuse, was stabbed, burned and beaten with 2-by-4s, broomsticks, shoes, a hammer and a swinging padlock. After she fled, the secrets tumbled out as doctors discovered a young body ravaged with more than 100 scars and injuries.

The Bee has chronicled her story since July, when the Manning children's adoptive mother was sentenced to a mental hospital and life in state prison. Horvath was convicted by a jury in 2009 and sentenced to consecutive life terms.

Now, a Superior Court judge may ultimately decide if Manning, who turns 20 in January, can pursue civil damages.

At issue: Does her claim have merit? And even if the government agrees that it does, was it filed in time?

"I feel like this is something I should do," said Lilly Manning, who returned to Sacramento last month after a short stay on the East Coast. "Somebody should pay. Hopefully this is a message to everybody to do their job right."

'The only mom I knew'

Laura McCasland, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS, said the county would not comment on pending litigation.

School district spokesman Gabe Ross issued a statement Friday saying:
"Anyone who has heard Lilly Manning's story would find it both tragic and heartbreaking. The district and its legal representatives are appropriately evaluating and responding to the claims filed by the Manning family. The safety and security of our students and employees is a top priority for SCUSD."

Manning's attorneys also have filed a claim on behalf of her younger brother, Kenyata Manning. George, a lawyer and psychologist who has worked with numerous child-abuse victims, said the core of the Lilly Manning case is the number of public workers who suspected abuse but did not formally report it.

In her claim, attorneys contend that the young woman suffers from Stockholm syndrome and was unable to recognize that she was a victim – or take any legal action – until her adoptive mother was sentenced this year.

The claim defines Stockholm syndrome as a "psychiatric disease and psychological phenomenon where hostages express empathy and have positive feelings toward their captors."

"Lilly's adoptive mother … was viewed as the person who was in control of her basic needs for survival and for her life itself," according to the claim. "In short, Lillian Manning-Horvath was viewed by Lilly as giving Lilly life simply by not killing her."

In interviews with The Bee last summer, Manning described her conflicted feelings about her adoptive mother and acknowledged making efforts to stay in touch with her.

"She was the only mom I really knew," Manning said in July.

Others to blame

But Manning also said she believes that others bear responsibility for her torturous upbringing.
Confidential Juvenile Court documents obtained earlier this year by The Bee revealed that four different agencies visited the family at least 11 times on reports of suspected abuse or neglect in a five-year period, but did not move to protect Manning or her siblings. Numerous attempts by the children to get help went unrecognized or unheeded.

The newly released CPS records show how the agency – and one social worker in particular – ramrodded the adoption, despite a series of red flags.

The five children were taken into protective custody in February 1994 after being found "abandoned by their mother … in a filthy crack house" littered with feces, used condoms, crack pipes and an open 40-ounce beer bottle, according to a CPS report to the Juvenile Court.
CPS placed Lilly Manning and her two brothers "on a trial basis" with their great-aunt a month later, and the two older sisters joined them seven months after that. At the time, Manning's home in North Highlands was found by CPS to be "appropriate for placement."

Lillian Manning renamed all five children and eventually proceeded with adoption after the CPS caseworker filed numerous glowing reports about the home.

In one confidential court document, the woman who later smashed her adoptive daughter's fingers with a hammer and burned her with boiling water and a curling iron was described as "capable, experienced and energetic."

The lead social worker who pressed for their adoption repeatedly fended off criticism of the elder Lillian Manning, describing in reports how the children thrived in the "loving environment."

"Their caretaker, Lillian Manning, manages the seemingly herculean task of caring for these children with great strength and a great sense of humor," the CPS worker wrote in July 1995. "The children are all well-bonded with her. They hover around her, and their interactions are laced with affection."

The social worker continued to defend the household, even after a social worker for Sacramento Child Advocates raised "numerous concerns" about the children's safety.

The second social worker, acting on behalf of the children's court-appointed attorneys, said one child had informed her that the caregiver was using corporal punishment. And she expressed concern that Lillian Manning was requiring the children to "sleep on the living room floor so she could monitor them."

"The minors' caretaker, Ms. Manning, has displayed a lack of insight regarding the special needs of these minors," according to the social worker's 1996 declaration to the court.

"Ms. Manning becomes defensive when concerns are raised, and has made statements about wanting to give the minors back to the Dept. because it is too much hassle now."

The social worker complained that her concerns "went unheard or were discounted" by CPS. The worker requested and got a mediation with the parties, but documents show there was little resolution – and the adoption went forward.

Alarms go unanswered

Health workers, too, raised alarms about the home.

In 1997, Lilly Manning's 6-year-old sister was examined at the UC Davis Medical Center, where a nurse identified injuries consistent with battered child syndrome, medical records show.
A physician who viewed the semi-circular "closed loop" injuries on the girl's body said they were "classical for ones inflicted by an electrical cord," according to the doctor's notes.
The physician did not believe the story that the girl had been struck with a coat hanger by her older sister, saying the injuries were not consistent with that scenario.

However, the CPS worker continued to champion the adoption and told the court the abuse allegations were unsubstantiated. The social worker said she "feels strongly that this (adoption) plan is in the children's best interest."

Documents show that the social worker had been told a week earlier about previous abuse in the household. A counselor seeing the family told the CPS worker in a June 1997 letter that Lillian Manning "does not hit any of the children and has not done so since 1994 when she was using a plastic spoon, on occasion, to discipline the children."

In the newly filed government claim, Lilly Manning's attorney cited the spoon beating as one in a series of allegations that fell on deaf ears.

The claim also singles out six workers associated with the Sacramento City Unified School District.

As reported earlier in The Bee, the school workers are described in documents as having varying degrees of concern and suspicion about the Manning home. At one point, the school nurse and a Head Start coordinator scheduled a home visit to follow up on Lilly Manning's numerous scratches but left the home without seeing her. Neither filed a child abuse report, according to the claim.


CPS taking down videos of parents and foster parents exposing the truth

DYFS worker accused of child endangerment - New Jersey

ELIZABETH — Authorities say an adoption specialist with New Jersey’s child welfare agency sent sexually charged messages to a 15-year-old boy that he met through church.

Frednel Lambert also worked as a choir director at the church in Newark.

Authorities say the 34-year-old Union Township resident is charged with 3rd Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow says the boy’s mother contacted the Springfield Police Department in September. The prosecutor says the chats were conducted through Facebook over a two-week period.