KS Steps Up For Children In Hot Vehicles

.jpg photo of director of kidsandcars.org shows how to break glass and save child from hot vehicle
Amber Rollins, director of KidsAndCars.org, demonstrates how to safely break a window using a device, the Resqme emergency window breaker and seat belt cutter.

Kansas removes lawsuit fear for rescuers of
children, pets trapped in hot cars

Beginning Sunday, good Samaritans in Kansas won’t have to think about getting sued for busting out the window of a hot car to save a child or pet trapped inside.

A new state law underscores that lives are more important than property when it comes to hot cars.  Kansas joins 18 states — including Missouri — in giving rescuers legal immunity when they believe a person or a pet is in imminent danger.  Two additional states have laws protecting pets only.

Amber Rollins, director of the non-profit Kids and Cars, on Monday demonstrated how a simple device can in seconds shatter the window of a locked vehicle, making rescue possible.  Rollins used a disabled SUV at the 129 Auto Parts salvage lot in Spring Hill, Kansas.

A hand-held, spring-loaded device called “resqme” was the only tool she needed.  It must be used on a side window because windshields and rear windows are made to not shatter.  The device, which shoots a metal pin at the glass, should be applied to a corner of a side window.  Applying it to the center of the window will not work.

The tool “resqme” can be ordered from kidsandcars.org for $7.50.

Regular nail punches available at hardware stores can also be used.  In fact, Johnson County MedAct units each carry nail punches. A crowbar or stone or any other implement also can be used.

Some things to consider when busting out a window:

  • First check to see if the vehicle is locked. Obviously, if it is not the window does not need to be broken.
  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Use appropriate force against a side window furthest away from the child or animal inside as the glass can fly.
  • Get the victim to a cool place, remove clothing and apply water.
  • Stay until emergency responders arrive.

In addition to Kids and Cars, the Kansas law was championed by Safe Kids Kansas and the Humane Society Legislative Fund of Kansas.

Although Kids and Cars is not aware of any case in which a rescuer was later sued for causing property damage to a vehicle, Rollins pointed to a New Mexico hot-car death in which two witnesses told police they saw the victim in distress but did not act.

Rollins keeps two resqmes handy.  One is attached to the driver’s seat belt of her car so it will be immediately available to use in escaping if the vehicle becomes submerged in water.  The resqme also has a blade to cut the seat belt if necessary.

Rollins keeps her other resqme on her key ring in case she notices a vulnerable child or pet in a hot car.

“A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult,” said Cherie Sage, state coordinator for Safe Kids Kansas.  “Their developing bodies are not as efficient at regulating their temperature.  When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees major organs begin to shut down.  And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees that child can die.”

During Monday’s demonstration, the outside temperature was in the low 80s but the temperature inside the SUV was over 100 degrees.  The air inside a vehicle can jump that much in a matter of minutes, even if the windows are partially open, because the windshield has a greenhouse effect.

There have been 18 child deaths in hot cars in the United States so far this year, about par with the average of 37 a year.  But there are three other suspected cases this year awaiting autopsy results.

In most cases the parent did not know or simply forgot that their child was in the back seat.

Kids and Cars suggests that parents make a habit of putting their smart phones in the back seat so they will have to go there to retrieve them.  Another idea is to keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and move it to the front seat when a child is strapped in to serve as a visible reminder for the parent.

LESS VIABLE OPTIONS FOR TRAFFICKED CHILDREN

.jpg photo of U.S. Department of Justice Building
United States Department of Justice Building

Trouble Ahead for Wrongly Criminalized
Trafficking Victims

In a major blow to survivors of human trafficking, the US Department of Justice has announced that it will no longer allow funding to be used to help survivors get legal representation to clear their criminal records that resulted from their victimization. The decision by the Office for Victims of Crime will affect $77 million of human trafficking grants this year.

The abrupt policy reversal was initiated by the Trump administration and goes against the consensus of survivors, advocates, and law enforcement.  The new funding restrictions are expected to go into effect in just a couple of weeks.

In an opinion piece in The Hill, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney, and Kate Mogulescu, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Law at Brooklyn Law School, write:

It is widely acknowledged that victims are frequently arrested when they are trafficked.  A 2016 National Survivor Network survey found that over 91 percent of respondents reported having been arrested, over 40 percent reported being arrested 9 times or more.

No one questions the detrimental impact this has on survivors’ ability to move forward.  Criminal records act as concrete barriers for survivors, and lead to denial of employment, housing, and other services.  Furthermore, the message to survivors living with criminal records because of their trafficking is clear — you did something wrong, you deserve this, this will live with you forever.

That’s why Manhattan prosecutors screen every prostitution arrest for evidence of trafficking and dismiss prostitution cases after individuals receive counseling sessions and other services.

But the most effective legal response to correct the injustice of past convictions is vacatur or expungement, laws that provide survivors a way to clear their record of charges they were convicted of that were a result of trafficking.  New York was the first state to pass such a law in 2009, and almost every state in the country has taken some steps toward relieving survivors of the burden of a criminal record since then.

In one example, Vance and Mogulescu point to the case of a young woman who was sex trafficked for five years in New York, starting when she was just 16.  During that time, she was arrested for prostitution six times.

Yet, because of collaboration between the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Brooklyn Law School, her convictions were vacated, ensuring that she would she would not be haunted by them for the rest of her life.

Prosecutors have come to rely on partner organizations to help identify trafficking victims and bring vacatur motions or expungement petitions.  Under the new funding rules, victims who can’t access legal representation will be forced to file petitions on their own — a significant burden to those seeking justice.

As Vance and Mogulescu conclude, this policy will have tremendous impact on the ability for trafficking survivors to simply live their lives:

“Funding for this work is critical — for the survivor trafficked into prostitution over two decades ago, who has focused on her education, earned a Masters degree in counseling, but is prohibited from taking a state licensure exam because of her criminal record;  for the survivor parent of a nine-year-old child who faces humiliation at being fingerprinted to chaperone a school trip;  for the survivor who secures an entry level service sector job but has the offer rescinded when a background check reveals her criminal record.”

Severe Abuse Suspected In Indiana Case

.jpg photo of man arrested for severely abusing children
Shannon Breaux, 33

Couple arrested in Child Abuse case out of West Lafayette

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN  –  A man and woman are facing charges after two children were abused in West Lafayette, according to the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office.

.jpg photo of woman arrested for severely abusing children
Ashley Stigers, 32

Deputies were called to investigate the case in the 6100 block of Warrior Dr. Tuesday evening.

The investigation was eventually turned over to detectives, who later arrested 33-year-old Shannon Breaux and 32-year-old Ashley Stigers.

Breaux is facing charges of neglect of a dependent, battery by strangulation, and confinement, all level 6 felonies.  Stigers has been charged with neglect of a dependent.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Stigers had posted bond and Shannon remained in custody at the Tippecanoe County Jail.

Authorities did not provide details regarding the suspects’ relation to the victims.

TX AG Unit Takes Award Of Excellence

.jpg photo of Texas Attorney General Logo graphic
TX AG Ken Paxton’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was selected for the top award from 50 units nationwide.

AG Paxton’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Named Best in the Nation

AUSTIN, TX  –  Attorney General Ken Paxton today congratulated the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of his office after it received the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s award of excellence in fighting fraud, waste and abuse.

Attorney General Paxton’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was selected for the top award from 50 units nationwide because of its highly effective collaboration with the Office of the Inspector General, the FBI and other federal partners.  During fiscal year 2017, the unit obtained 108 indictments, 137 convictions and led the nation in recovering more than $534 million.

“Medicaid fraud drives up the cost of health care for all of us and steals from taxpayer-funded programs that help Texans receive medical care,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “All Texans should be proud that they have the best Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the country working for them.  My office will continue to crack down on anyone who schemes to evade the law and profit from defrauding the Medicaid program.”

In honoring Attorney General Paxton’s Medicaid Fraud Unit, the Office of Inspector General highlighted several of the unit’s most notable collaborative successes from last year, including:

  • Participation in 121 joint investigations, such as a national health care fraud takedown involving 14 individuals and $49 million in fraudulent billings.
  • A multi-agency investigation resulting in the conviction of a Houston home health care owner and several individuals resulting in prison sentences and more than $22 million in restitution.
  • A multi-agency investigation that stopped a medical biller after it stole the personal identifying information of over 1,500 Medicaid and Medicare recipients, which was used to obtain food stamp benefit cards and credit cards in Texas and other states.

The Office of Inspector General’s prestigious award of excellence was presented to Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Division Chief Stormy Kelly during a ceremony on Monday in Washington, D.C.  Since 2000, the Office of Attorney General of Texas has recovered more than $1.8 billion for taxpayers under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act.

Treatment Withdrawn From Infant

.jpg photo of woman accused of shaking infant.
Maria Antonio-Jose, 24

Bonita woman faces aggravated Child Abuse charges after baby in her care is
seriously hurt

LEE COUNTY, FL  –  A 5-month-old baby boy has severe brain damage, and a Bonita Springs woman is facing aggravated child abuse charges after the infant she was watching for a friend stopped breathing, and a medical exam found he had suffered extensive internal injuries.

Maria Antonio-Jose, 24, was arrested Saturday and remains in Lee County Jail on $200,000 bond.  Her arraignment will be July 9.

The Florida Department of Children and Families has opened a child protection investigation into the incident.

“We have not had prior involvement with the child or the alleged perpetrator,” said Natalie Harrell, spokeswoman for Suncoast Region of DCF.  “At this time, as the investigation is ongoing, the information we can share is limited.”

A Lee County Sheriff’s Office report said the baby was left with Antonio-Jose on May 15 while the mother, a friend, went to work.  At noon Antonio-Jose called the mother and told her the baby had stopped breathing due to choking on milk.

The sheriff’s report said Antonio-Jose’s husband also said she called him at work and said the baby had choked on milk and wasn’t breathing.

The infant was first taken to North Collier Hospital and then transported to Golisano Children’s Hospital in south Fort Myers. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, extensive retinal hemorrhaging, ripped right retina, considered to be in a persistent vegetative state and was not expected to recover.

Examination of the child also found that the injury was not consistent with choking but rather with severe child abuse.

A sheriff’s report said the child protection team at Golisano described the brain injury as the result of a rapid acceleration/deceleration injury which, according to medical dictionaries, can be caused by blows or vehicle crashes and results from the abrupt movement and deformation of the brain in the cranial cavity.

Treatment was withdrawn Friday and the infant was transferred to hospice care.