Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Roundup

From the Los Angeles Times in Los Angeles, California, July 9, 2009 - Twenty people were arrested this morning in a $4.6-million Medi-Cal fraud scheme that allegedly used unlicensed individuals to provide in-home nursing care for disabled patients. According to the United States Attorney's office, about 75 patients, many of them children with cerebral palsy or developmental disabilities, were treated at home or at school by the unlicensed individuals who stole identities to pose as licensed nurses.

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in Seattle, Washington, July 8, 2009 - A disability watchdog organization has filed a law suit against Washington state, claiming that hasty budget cuts threaten to push some 900 adults with disabilities into nursing homes. The law suit seeks to delay funding cuts to a nursing care program that allows adults with disabilities to live in a state-run group home and still receive Medicaid-supported health care services.

Press release from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, July 8, 2009 - A coalition of disability advocacy organizations has sent a letter of support for Supreme Court candidate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter is signed by more than twenty disability rights organizations, including the Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the United Spinal Association, and cites Sotomayor's "extensive experience in, and careful approach to, deciding disability rights cases," as well as her life experience managing diabetes.

From BBC News, July 7, 2009 - According to a report by the cerebral palsy charity Scope, hate crimes against people with disabilities in Wales (UK) are unreported or unrecognised for what they are. While police recorded 132 such crimes last year, charities and campaigners said the true figures were much higher. According to Scope, of 50 serious assaults against disabled people, only one was recorded as a hate crime.

From Newsday and the Associated Press, July 7, 2009 - At the annual Little People of America (LPA) conference, the organization called for the Federal Communications Commission to ban the word “midget” from broadcast TV. The group said it had filed an official complaint with the FCC. The request was prompted by an episode of Donald Trump’s NBC reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” in which contestants created a detergent ad called “Jesse James Dirty with Midgets.” Contestants, including Joan Rivers, used sexual innuendo in talking about little people actors and suggested that they be hung up to dry.

From CBC in Canada, July 6, 2009 - Four Winnipeggers will be sentenced next Monday July 13) for their part in abusing a 23-year-old woman with developmental disabilities in early 2006. According to the report, the woman was subjected to beatings, pushed down a flight of stairs, and starved to the point of emaciation. She was also repeatedly burned with lighters, cigarettes and even a kitchen tool heated red hot on a stove. Thelma Hendricks, 63, and Amanda O'Malley, 21, have pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of assault causing bodily harm and are seeking conditional sentences that will keep them out of jail. Dale Hendricks, 34, faces 6 years in prison for his part in the abuse, and April Armstrong, 33, between four to five years.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The killing of Donna Slater: an update

Pascagoula, Mississippi, July 8, 2009 - Further to my earlier posts about the arrest of Johnny Townsend and Joe Loggins on charges of the death by stabbing of 46-year-old Donna Slater on March 5, 2009, the Associated Press reports that a third person, Nancy Scott, has been arrested and charged with her murder. Ms Slater, who had spina bifida and used a wheelchair, was found dead on the kitchen floor of her home. She had been stabbed in the neck during an apparent robbery.

For earlier reports, see WKRG-TV and here.
Arrest made in the murder of Chicago Heights woman 16 years ago

Chicago Heights, Illinois, July 7, 2009 - Police have arrested 45-year-old Van Buren Hutchinson on charges of murdering and raping 25-year-old Jeanette Reeves, a disabled woman who went missing in December 1992 from Chicago Heights and was found dead in April 1993 in the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan. As reported by the Southtown Star, Hutchinson, a private contractor who became a suspect in 1995, was arrested in South Bend, Indiana, on Friday and is being held in a South Bend jail. According to a detective with Michigan's Allegan County sheriff's office, Hutchinson is refusing extradition from Indiana to Michigan.

The story in full is here.
Abuse trial date set

South Dos Palos, California, July 7, 2009 - Martha Franco, 44, who is accused of beating her her 5-year-old autistic son until he was unconscious on May 22, 2007, will stand trial for the alleged crime on September 14. Ms Franco faces many charges, including attempted murder, torture, aggravate mayhem and child endangerment. The trial is expected to take eight days. As reported in the Merced Sun Star:

According to a sheriff's investigation report, Franco admitted abusing the boy, but was careful not to kill him so she wouldn't lose a $2,000-a-month government subsidy she received.

Investigators described the boy's injuries as horrific. For example, after the boy was transported to the hospital in a coma, doctors said he suffered a massive head injury that pushed the left side of his brain to the right side of his skull.

He also had several burn marks on his face and bite marks, scratches and bruises across his body, according to a sheriff's investigation report.

If convicted, Ms Franco faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Her husband, Jose Franco, pleaded no contest in 2007 to charges of failing to intervene in the alleged abuse. He was sentenced to 90 days jail and two years of probation.

According to Merced County Deputy District Attorney Marit Erickson, the boy is recovering and doing well.

Exploitation charges

Lexington, Kentucky, July 7, 2009 - According to WYMT, Daisy Edwards, who is the legal guardian of her sister, Ivalene Smith, who is developmentally disabled, has been charged with three counts of knowingly exploiting her. From the article:

In court Tuesday, police testified Edwards used hundreds of dollars of her sister's money to pay rent and utilities after Smith had moved to Georgetown with another family member.

Edwards is also accused of using $6,000 of her sister's money to bond a boyfriend out of jail and another $8,000 for his attorney.

Police say when questioned, she admitted to those crimes. Then, a few days later, officers say Edwards spent more than $10,000 on new furniture for her home.

Edwards' attorney says she was simply borrowing money the money and had every intention of paying it back. If she's convicted Edward's could face 15 years behind bars. She's in jail on $30,000 bond.

Caretaker abandonment charges

West Valley City, Utah, July 7, 2009 - The Salt Lake Tribune reports the arrest of a 35-year-old woman who is accused of abandoning her caretaker duties for a 91-year-old woman who died in June.

The victim suffered from renal failure, pneumonia, multiple bed sores and considerable weight loss, police wrote in charges filed Tuesday. The victim's home was found in poor condition, with black mold in the refrigerator, no appropriate food supply for the victim, empty prescription bottles and a mattress covered in stains believed to be caused by the victim's bedsores.

One of the victim's bedsores was estimated to have gone untreated for weeks, possibly months, police wrote.

A 35-year-old woman had been the victim's caretaker for three years, police wrote. She and her children were receiving mail at the victim's home, police said.

The woman was charged with aggravated abuse or neglect of a disabled or elder adult, a second-degree felony.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Alexis Glover: an update

Manassas, Virginia, July 7, 2009 - Further to my posts of March 4 and March 17 about the indictment of Alfreedia Gregg-Glover in connection with the murder of her daughter, 13-year-old Alexis Glover, the Washington Examiner reports that Ms Gregg-Glover pleaded guilty on Monday to her killing. From the article:

Alfreedia Gregg-Glover, 45, admitted Monday in Prince William County Circuit Court to felony murder, felony child abuse and filing a false police report. The Manassas woman faces up to 51 years in prison at her sentencing, which is set for October 2.

According to the Washington Post, after the plea, county police released the findings of an internal audit that found "deficiencies" in their response to reports concerning Alexis over the years.
Despite reports made to several county agencies over six years, the girl, Alexis "Lexie" Agyepong-Glover, was not removed from the home, and the case has highlighted shortcomings in the county's policies on child abuse and runaways.

The audit called for reforms in how officers train, respond to abuse reports and communicate with other agencies. From the Washington Examiner:
The report found that Glover lied to authorities; police and county social services failed to communicate with each other, and county employees did not follow proper procedures in response to abuse and neglect reports. The police department disciplined three officers for failure to follow department policy. Last month, a senior social worker was fired and two managers were disciplined.

As conveyed in earlier posts, Alexis, who was developmentally disabled, was reported missing on January 7, 2009. Sadly, her body was found submerged in a shallow creek two days later. Police said Alexis' body was placed in the creek bed the day she disappeared and before her disappearance was reported. Medical examiners determined that she drowned.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Attempted murder charges

Salem, Massachusetts, July 6, 2009 - According to the Associated Press, Kristen LaBrie, who is accused of witholding life saving cancer treatment from her dying son, Jeremy, who was autistic, was charged on Friday with attempted murder and other related charges. From the article:

LaBrie's son, Jeremy, was 9 when he died in March. He had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2006.

Prosecutors say LaBrie canceled at least a dozen appointments for chemotherapy treatment and did not fill at least half the prescriptions her son had been given.
As reported in the Boston Globe, Ms LaBrie, who had custody of Jeremy between October 2006 and February 2008, was arrested on Sunday night, and was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday.

Jeremy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2006. He died days after his father, Eric Fraser, took him to a hospice.

If convicted of attempted murder, LaBrie faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison.
Texas school fight-club trial begins

Update- According to this later report by the Associated Press, District Judge Sandra Watts said that she planned to keep a cell phone containing videos of the orchestrated fights at the facility out of evidence unless prosecutors find case law to change her mind. She said she "would likely grant a motion by a former employee at the Corpus Christi State School to suppress the evidence because it was essentially stolen property." The full report is here.

From the Associated Press/Dallas Morning News, Corpus Christi, Texas, July 6, 2009:

Trials are scheduled to begin for four former employees of the Corpus Christi State School accused of orchestrating and allowing fights among their mentally disabled residents.

In March, police announced they had obtained cell phone videos of bouts of a late-night "fight club" organized for the staff's entertainment. Six former employees were charged.

Jury selection begins Monday for three of those former employees charged with multiple counts of causing bodily injury to a disabled person. A separate trial in front of another judge is scheduled to begin for a former employee facing a lesser charge for not intervening in the fights.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Drowning charges

Las Vegas, Nevada, July 3, 2009 - The Associated Press and Fox 5 report that Raven Gibbons, 24, has been arrested in connection with the death by drowning of her 5-year-old daughter, D'Amber Myles, who had cerebral palsy. Metro police said Ms Gibbons was arrested on charges of second-degree murder and child neglect with substantial bodily harm. According to the articles, police said the drowning occurred on June 30 in an apartment complex in Las Vegas.
Japanese court orders school to make accommodations so that girl can attend junior high school

Shimoichi, Japan, July 4, 2009 - After a provisional injunction by the Nara District Court, 12-year-old Meika Taniguchi, who uses a wheelchair, and who could not be admitted to her local junior high school because of its inaccessibility, finally attended the school for the first time on July 3. From The Mainichi Daily News:

The Shimoichi Municipal Board of Education allowed the girl to attend Shimoichi Municipal Junior High School after the Nara District Court issued a provisional injunction ordering that she be admitted to the school.

The education board has appealed the decision to the Osaka High Court.

"I'm happy. I want to speak with my friends and learn English at the junior high school," said Meika Taniguchi, 12, just before heading to the school on Friday morning, as she was carried on her mother's back in front of their home in the town of Shimoichi.

Asked about the new school uniform she was wearing, Taniguchi said with a smile, "It's big for me now, but I think it will fit some day."

On July 2, Taniguchi had trouble sleeping because she was too excited -- "just like before going to a field trip," according to her mother.

Taniguchi finally met her friends again at the school on Friday, for the first time in about three months since their elementary school graduation.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday round-up

From the Baltimore Sun in Baltimore, Maryland, July 2, 2009 - The Rosewood Center, a Maryland institution that was founded in 1888 as an asylum for the “feeble-minded,” closed its doors for good this week after decades of criticism for substandard care and conditions. "It is a great thing for Maryland that this institution is closed," said Nancy Pineles, an attorney with the Maryland Disability Law Center, a watchdog group that promotes the civil rights of people with disabilities.

From the Boston Globe in Boston, Massachusetts, July 1, 2009 - The old Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation has adopted a new name for the start of the fiscal year: The Department of Developmental Services. The change marks a victory for people with disabilities and their supporters who lobbied for years against a word they perceived as offensive. Only five or six states still have the words “mental retardation’’ in the names of agencies serving the developmentally disabled, said Elin M. Howe, commissioner of the department.

From in Christchurch, New Zealand, July 1, 2009 - New Zealand police have shot and killed a male wheelchair user after he injured two people in a shooting spree in Christchurch. Shayne Sime, 42, was shot and killed late June 28, after he fired more than 100 shots indiscriminately from a shotgun and rifle in his quiet suburban street, police said.

From an American Association of People with Disabilities press release, June 30, 2009 - A study by Profs. Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse at Rutgers University has found that voter turnout among people with disabilities rose significantly in the 2008 presidential election. According to the study, 14.7 million Americans with disabilities voted in the 2008 election, compared to 10.9 million in the 2000 presidential election. Among the eligible voting population, 57.3 percent of people with disabilities voted, compared to 64.5 percent of people without disabilities. “While the voting numbers among people with disabilities in 2008 indicates that they continue to face barriers in registration and voting, the fact that 14.7 million people with disabilities voted shows that they play an important role in the political process,” said Schur.

From the Asheville [NC] Citizen-Times, North Carolina, June 30, 2009 - An editorial says it’s time for North Carolina to compensate victims of a historic state-sponsored eugenics programs. Under the program, some 7,600 people with disabilities and others who were deemed “unfit” to reproduce were sterilized. (h/t to Patricia E Bauer)

From the Lexington [KY] Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky, June 30, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a civil rights investigation into Kentucky’s Medicaid program after a family complained about a reduction in home care services for a man with multiple disabilities. Creasa Reed, who is herself disabled, filed the complaint after Medicaid cut her son’s budget for in-home care by 40 hours each week. The Reeds say their son is in danger of being sent to an institution if home care services are not restored.

From WHYY Radio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 30, 2009 - A Pennsylvania advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the state’s department of Public Welfare that claims they are not providing the community-based care mandated by the law. The suit was filed by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania on behalf of the over 1200 people still living in state-run institutions. It states that community based care provides better choices for people with disabilities, and is more cost-effective.

From the Boston Globe in Boston, Massachusetts, June 27, 2009 - Following complaints about inadequate equipment and ill-prepared medical workers, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hopital, both affiliated with Harvard University, have voluntarily agreed to spend millions of dollars to improve accessibility for patients with disabilities.

From the Seattle Times, June 27, 2009 - The families of three children with Down syndrome have sued in federal court to stop the state from cutting the hours of in-home care they receive. The families say budget problems cannot be used to justify cutting back on services the children are legally entitled to receive.

From JFActivist, June 26, 2009 - Kathy Martinez was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, June 25 as ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy) Assistant Secretary. Blind since birth, Martinez, who has worked as executive director of the World Institute on Disability (WID) since 2005, has worked in employment, asset building, independent living, international development, and diversity and gender issues in her work at WID.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Caregiver exploitation charges

Largo, Florida, July 2, 2009 - The St Petersburg Times reports the arrest of 61-year-old Peggy Friend, who is accused of defrauding the mentally ill man she was hired to care for of more than $20,000 over a 16-month period in 2007 and 2008. From the article:
According to the warrant, Friend offered to care for 52-year-old Mark Easter, who is bipolar and suffers from other mental illnesses. Easter let Friend come live with him in June 2007 so she could assist him with "paying his bills, scheduling his medical appointments and taking his prescription medicines," the warrant said.

Instead, she used Easter's credit cards without his permission and spent more than $3,000 on dental work, $2,000 for furniture, $6,000 on cookware, $1,500 on a big-screen television, $900 for a handgun and $900 for a refrigerator.

She also spent "thousands of dollars for emergency care for her pet cat," the warrant said.

The warrant does not give the exact amount that Friend allegedly stole, but said it was more than $20,000 and less than $100,000.

Friend has been charged with exploitation of a disabled adult and is being held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail. According to the article, court records show that Friend was arrested in 2001 on charges of title fraud and grand theft, but those charges were later dropped.
Sex crimes

Jackonsville, North Carolina, June 1, 2009 - JD News reports that 48-year-old Timothy Mark Gray was charged on Wednesday with raping a physically disabled woman on June 15, 2009. According to a Sheriff's Department press release, the woman, who is paralysed on the right side of her body from multiple strokes as the result of an automobile accident, stayed with Gray during May and June. She was unable to fight back, according to the release. Bond was set at $100,000 secured.

San Antonio, Texas, June 30, 2009 - San Antonio News reports the arrest of 46-year-old Guadalupe Esparza on the charge of sexually assaulting a woman with a neurodegenerative disorder that causes limited short-term memory and an unsteady gait on February 23 near a fire station. Esparza, who is homeless, was arrested after police used DNA evidence to connect him to the assault. His bond was set at $75,000.

New Orleans, Louisiana, June 29, 2009 - According to the New Orleans Metro, a mother has reported the repeated rape of her 14-year-old developmentally disabled daughter by "two known males" in recent weeks after a group of teenagers lured her to an abandoned building near her Uptown home. The girl was lured out of her home to the building while her mother is at work, it is reported. According to the New Orleans Police Department, detectives are investigating the case and believe they have identified a suspect.

Tampa Bay, Florida, June 28, 2009 - Tampa Bay News reports the arrest of 43-year-old William M. Reich of Holiday who is accused of sexually abusing a young developmentally disabled girl, whose age is stated as between 9 and 10 years old, in May. According to the Sheriff's Office, Reich "forced the child to use a sex toy by telling her she would be in trouble and punished if she didn't." Reich was released on $20,000 bail. According to the police report, Reich has "a history of this type of allegation" against him.

Grand Junction, Colorado, June 25, 2009 - The Grand Junction Sentinel reports the arrest on Wednesday of 46-year-old Roger Dale Smith on suspicion that he raped a developmentally disabiled woman in her room at Hilltop Community Resources, then broke into the facility 12 days later and attempted to rape another woman. He is being held on $200,000 bond on two counts of sexual assault, second-degree burglary and attempted sexual assault.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Teacher indictment alleges deliberate injury to a student

Allen, Texas (June 30, 2009) - Susanne Means, a special education teacher at Lowery Freshman Center, an Allen ISD school, was charged earlier this month with knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a 14-year-old boy with disabilities in early 2008 by using a cooking pan to burn his buttocks. As reported in the Dallas News:

An Allen police affidavit filed on July 9, 2008, says Means caused burns to the boy, and describes him as "mentally challenged."

The affidavit says the boy's father became aware of the boy's injuries in early March 2008 and took him to a physician.

The physician found a 12-inch diameter "scald" in a circular pattern on the buttocks.

The boy later told an interviewer that the teacher applied a hot pan once to each of his buttocks, the affidavit says.

The investigating officer found her classroom included a kitchen that had a stove and "various cookware," the affidavit says.

According to the report, Ms Means, 45, who posted bail after being book into the county detention center on July 30, 2008, had worked for Allen ISD since 1997. She resigned from the district earlier this month. A police spokeswoman said she did not know why it took almost a year for the grand jury to return an indictment.
HRW urges Rwanda to amend reproductive rights bill

From BBC World News America (July 1, 2009) -

Rwanda [east-central Africa] is being urged to drop a draft law which would forcibly sterilise people who are mentally disabled.

US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said the proposed law was deeply flawed and violated the government's obligation to uphold human rights.

It also requires people to have an HIV test before getting married.

"Provisions in the current bill that increase stigma, rely on coercion and deny... reproductive rights should be removed," HRW's Joe Amon said.

Forced sterilisation is regarded as a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Rwanda has successfully managed to lower the spread of Aids in recent years thanks to its HIV campaign.

Figures from the World Bank in 2007 put the prevalence of Aids in the country at about 3%, down from 11% in 2000.

"While Rwanda has made notable progress in fighting stigma and responding to the Aids epidemic, and has pledged to advance the rights of persons with disability, forced sterilisation and mandatory HIV testing do not contribute to those goals," said Mr Amon, the health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

"These elements of the bill undermine reproductive health goals and undo decades of work to ensure respect for reproductive rights."