Tag Archives: CoverUp

NY Doctor Accused Of Child Sex Abuse

.jpg photo of Doctor accused of abusing his patients
Dr. Reginald Archibald

An Esteemed Doctor, Child Sexual Abuse
Claims and a Hospital That Knew for Years

For almost 30 years, parents sought out Dr. Reginald Archibald when their children would not grow.  They came to his clinic at The Rockefeller University Hospital, a prominent New York research institution, where he treated and studied children who were small for their age.

He also may have sexually abused many of them.

The hospital sent a letter last month to former patients of Dr. Archibald asking about their contact with him.  Ten days later, on Oct. 5, it posted a statement online saying it had evidence of the doctor’s “inappropriate” behavior with some patients and that it first had learned of credible allegations against him in 2004.  The letter went out to as many as 1,000 people, said a former patient who spoke with a hospital administrator.

Dr. Archibald, an endocrinologist who spent most of his career at Rockefeller, died in 2007.  His son, Larry, declined to comment.  “This doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

The New York Times spoke with 17 people, most of them men, who said they were abused by Dr. Archibald when they were young boys or adolescents.  Most of them learned of the possibility of other victims for the first time when they received the letter.  A few, however, said they had filed complaints with the hospital or authorities in the past, but their allegations were not investigated.

“To know that they knew about this in 2004 and didn’t reach out to people, it’s absolutely outrageous,” said Matt Harris, now 58, a former patient of Dr. Archibald.

The men all described similar experiences with Dr. Archibald, who would tell them to disrobe when they were alone in his examination room.  He would masturbate them or ask them to masturbate, sometimes to ejaculation.

The doctor took pictures of them, while they were naked, with a Polaroid camera, and measured their penises both flaccid and erect, the men said.

Some of the former patients said they saw Dr. Archibald only once and some went back annually for many years as subjects in his studies.

Their stories paint a picture of an esteemed doctor who wielded great authority with parents desperate to help their children and patients too young to know the difference between legitimate medical practice and molestation.  The alleged abuse would have occurred in an era in which few safeguards existed for those patients.

“You are robbed of knowing what’s real and what’s not real.  That’s the real cost of this thing,” said Mr. Harris, who, like many of the patients who spoke with The Times, has talked to a lawyer.

In response to questions from The Times, the hospital said in a statement Thursday that after the letters were sent, it heard from many former patients alleging abuse. The hospital said it has set up a fund to provide counseling for the victims.

“We are appalled to hear those accounts of Dr. Archibald’s reprehensible behavior. We deeply regret pain and suffering caused to any of Dr. Archibald’s former patients,” the statement read.

A hospital spokesman declined to answer questions about when the hospital first learned of the allegations and why it did not try to contact a wider array of former patients earlier.

In its earlier statement, the hospital said that in 2004, it received an allegation of “impropriety” during Dr. Archibald’s physical examinations, which it did not specify.

The hospital said it informed the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the state office that oversees medical conduct and a federal research agency.  It also hired Debevoise & Plimpton, a law firm, to investigate.  The inquiry turned up two additional reports dating to the 1990s.

The hospital did not say where the allegations from the 1990s were filed and what the response to them had been.  A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could not immediately confirm whether the office had received the allegation from the hospital in 2004.

Earlier this year, separate allegations against Dr. Archibald were reported to the hospital, which again hired Debevoise & Plimpton.

Based on its investigation, the law firm concluded that some of Dr. Archibald’s behaviors involving these patients were inappropriate,” the statement said.

The hospital said it has scrubbed Dr. Archibald’s name from its web pages and rescinded his emeritus status.

The possibility of a large number of victims could pose a serious financial threat to the research institution.  Under current New York law, the statute of limitations for victims to sue the hospital has long passed.

But a proposed change to the law, supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would lengthen the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges and civil suits in child sexual abuse cases, and crucially, create a one-year window in which all victims could sue, regardless of when the abuse happened.  The legislation has been held up in the State Senate and is vigorously opposed by institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, which has argued that the one-year window could lead to catastrophic financial damage.

Dr. Archibald worked as a doctor, researcher and professor at The Rockefeller University Hospital from 1941 to 1946 and again from 1948 to 1980. He kept his affiliation with the institution, as an emeritus, until 1987.

His former patients remembered him as avuncular and authoritative, with white hair as he grew older.  They also remembered his strange methods.  Their allegations suggest a pattern of sexual abuse from the 1950s through the 1970s among patients as young as 6 and as old as 17.

Michael Manfre, now 57, recalled Dr. Archibald asking him to masturbate when he was about 12 years old and then doing it himself.  “Keep trying,” Mr. Manfre, of Massapequa, N.Y., remembered Dr. Archibald saying, encouraging him to ejaculate.

Mr. Harris, who now lives in Port Washington, N.Y., said that during a visit in the 1970s, the doctor massaged the area between his testes and anus, asking if it felt good.

Many of Dr. Archibald’s patients were short for their age, and their parents worried about the teasing and shame they might experience in school if they hit puberty years behind their peers.

Dr. Archibald was known as a growth specialist who administered hormones, such as testosterone, which he hypothesized could help spur puberty and increase the height children would reach.  To better understand children’s growth and create a control group, he often had siblings come to the clinic, former patients said.

Taking measurements of boys’ genitals when doctors were concerned about delayed puberty was considered normal until the 1980s or 1990s, said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan.  But doing so when they were erect, asking them to masturbate, particularly while the doctor was present, was not considered acceptable, even at that time, he said.

Nearly every victim remembered having to strip naked, stand against a wall and hold their palms out facing forward while Dr. Archibald took photographs.  One patient provided a copy of a release signed by that person’s mother giving Rockefeller permission to photograph her child “for the advancement of medical science.”

At least two articles published by Dr. Archibald contain pictures of naked boys in the stance described by these victims.  One of those articles also contains close-ups of the boys’ genitals.

While almost every alleged victim said the abuse occurred in the doctor’s examination room, one described a dark encounter far away from the hospital.  A 58-year-old Brooklyn man said he believed Dr. Archibald raped him on a trip to the doctor’s Canadian summer home.

The former patient, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John, because of the nature of the alleged assault, said Dr. Archibald watched him masturbate during examinations at the hospital.  But one summer, when he was about 13, the doctor convinced his parents to let John accompany him to the house.

One of Dr. Archibald’s former neighbors in Pelham, N.Y., who visited the lake, recalled that every year Dr. Archibald would take a young boy to help prepare the wooden cabins for his family’s visit.
John said Dr. Archibald tried to shower with him at a motel on the two-day trip to the house but he ran out of the bathroom.  Once they arrived, John said, he believed Dr. Archibald drugged and raped him.  He angrily insisted on being taken home, he said.

Dr. Archibald spent only two years of his career away from Rockefeller when, in 1946, he took a job at Johns Hopkins University.

It is unknown how many children participated in Dr. Archibald’s studies.

He maintained records of an estimated 9,000 patients who visited him and other doctors at Rockefeller, according to one victim who said she met with a hospital official and three attorneys representing the hospital in September.

That victim said those attorneys and Dr. Barry Coller, the hospital’s physician in chief, told her that the hospital sent letters to more than 1,000 former patients they were able to identify and locate.

The hospital would not comment on how many former patients received a letter.

We Want Net Neutrality

.jpg photo of Firefighter in California
A firefighter battling the Medocino Complex fire on August 7, 2018 near Lodoga, California.

Verizon throttled fire department’s
“unlimited” data during California wildfire

“Fire department had to pay twice as much to lift throttling during wildfire response.”

Update:  The Santa Clara fire department has responded to Verizon’s claim that the throttling was just a customer service error and “has nothing to do with net neutrality.”  To the contrary, “Verizon’s throttling has everything to do with net neutrality,” a county official said.

Verizon Wireless’ throttling of a fire department that uses its data services has been submitted as evidence in a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate federal net neutrality rules.

“County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration.  “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services.  Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.”

Bowden’s declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission.  The government agencies are seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit they filed against the Federal Communications Commission in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Throttling affected response to wildfire

“The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers,” Bowden wrote.

Santa Clara Fire paid Verizon for “unlimited” data but suffered from heavy throttling until the department paid Verizon more, according to Bowden’s declaration and emails between the fire department and Verizon that were submitted as evidence.

The throttling recently affected “OES 5262,” a fire department vehicle that is “deployed to large incidents as a command and control resource” and is used to “track, organize, and prioritize routing of resources from around the state and country to the sites where they are most needed,” Bowden wrote.

“OES 5262 also coordinates all local government resources deployed to the Mendocino Complex Fire,” an ongoing wildfire that is the largest in California’s history, Bowden wrote.

The vehicle has a device that uses a Verizon SIM card for Internet access.

“In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds,” Bowden wrote.  “These reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262’s ability to function effectively.  My Information Technology staff communicated directly with Verizon via email about the throttling, requesting it be immediately lifted for public safety purposes.”

Verizon did not immediately restore full speeds to the device, however.

 “Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan,” Bowden wrote.

Verizon “risking harm to public safety”

Because the throttling continued until the department was able to upgrade its subscription, “County Fire personnel were forced to use other agencies’ Internet Service Providers and their own personal devices to provide the necessary connectivity and data transfer capability required by OES 5262,” Bowden wrote.

Verizon throttling also affected the department in a response to previous fires in December and June, emails show.

Bowden argued that Verizon is likely to keep taking advantage of emergencies in order to push public safety agencies onto more expensive plans.

“In light of our experience, County Fire believes it is likely that Verizon will continue to use the exigent nature of public safety emergencies and catastrophic events to coerce public agencies into higher-cost plans, ultimately paying significantly more for mission-critical service—even if that means risking harm to public safety during negotiations,” Bowden wrote.

Update:  In a statement to Ars three hours after this article was published, Verizon acknowledged that it shouldn’t have continued throttling the fire department’s data service after the department asked Verizon to lift the throttling restrictions.

“Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations,” Verizon’s statement said.  “We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires.  In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us.  This was a customer support mistake.  We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward.”

Verizon also noted that the fire department purchased a data service plan that is slowed down after a data usage threshold is reached.  But Verizon said it “made a mistake” in communicating with the department about the terms of the plan.

“We made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan,” Verizon said.  “Like all customers, fire departments choose service plans that are best for them.  This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost.  Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle.”

Verizon also said that the Santa Clara “situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court.”

Throttling happened after net neutrality repeal

Verizon’s throttling was described in fire department emails beginning June 29 of this year, just weeks after the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules took effect.

Even when net neutrality rules were in place, all major carriers imposed some form of throttling on unlimited plans when customers used more than a certain amount of data.  They argued that it was allowed under the rules’ exception for “reasonable network management.”  But while such throttling is generally applied only during times of network congestion, the Santa Clara Fire Department says it was throttled at all times once the device in question went over a 25GB monthly threshold.

Even if Verizon’s throttling didn’t technically violate the no-throttling rule, Santa Clara could have complained to the FCC under the now-removed net neutrality system, which allowed Internet users to file complaints about any unjust or unreasonable prices and practices.  FCC Chairman Ajit   decision to deregulate the broadband industry eliminated that complaint option and also limited consumers’ rights to sue Internet providers over unjust or unreasonable behavior.

Emails between fire department and Verizon

On June 29, Fire Captain Justin Stockman wrote an email to Verizon, noting that download speeds for an essential device used during large disasters had been throttled from 50Mbps to about 30kbps.

A Verizon government accounts manager named Silas Buss responded, saying that the fire department would have to move from a $37.99 plan to a $39.99 plan “to get the data speeds restored on this device.”  Later, Buss suggested that the department switch to a plan that cost at least $99.99 a month.

Stockman didn’t have authority to upgrade the plan, so he sent an email to Deputy Chief Steve Prziborowski that same day.  Stockman wrote:

Verizon is currently throttling OES 5262 so severely that it’s hampering operations for the assigned crew.  This is not the first time we have had this issue.  In December of 2017 while deployed to the Prado Mobilization Center supporting a series of large wildfires, we had the same device with the same SIM card also throttled.  I was able to work through [Fire Department IT executive] Eric Prosser at the time to have service to the device restored, and Eric communicated that Verizon had properly re-categorized the device as truly “unlimited”.

Prziborowski expressed concern about the throttling in an email to Buss.  “Before I give you my approval to do the $2.00 a month upgrade, the bigger question is why our public safety data usage is getting throttled down?”  Prziborowski wrote. “Our understanding from Eric Prosser, our former Information Technology Officer, was that he had received approval from Verizon that public safety should never be gated down because of our critical infrastructure need for these devices.”

While fire department personnel thought they were already paying for “truly” unlimited data, Verizon said they weren’t.

“The short of it is, public safety customers have access to plans that do not have data throughput limitations,” Buss told Prziborowski.  “However, the current plan set for all of SCCFD’s lines does have data throttling limitations.  We will need to talk about making some plan changes to all lines or a selection of lines to address the data throttling limitation of the current plan.”

The emails started up again on July 5 and 6.  “Can confirm that after using 25GB of data, our service drops to zero.  This is unacceptable and needs to be fixed,” fire department IT officer Daniel Farrelly wrote.

Buss clarified that “data throughput is limited to 200kbps or 600kbps” after 25GB of use.  Buss also told fire officials that all Verizon plans have some sort of throttling and that the department would have to pay by the gigabyte to avoid throttling entirely.

Buss wrote:

Verizon has always reserved the right to limit data throughput on unlimited plans. All unlimited data plans offered by Verizon have some sort of data throttling built-in, including the $39.99 plan.  Verizon does offer plans with no data throughput limitations;  these plans require that the customer pay by the GB for use beyond a certain set allotment.

The Mendocino fire began on July 27.  On the night of Sunday, July 29, Stockman sent an email to Bowden:

OES 5262 is deployed again, now to the Mendocino Complex, and is still experiencing the same throttling.  As I understood it from our previous exchange regarding this device, the billing cycle was set to end July 23, which should have alleviated the throttling.  In a side-by-side comparison, a crew member’s personal phone using Verizon was seeing speeds of 20Mbps/7Mbps.  The department Verizon device is experiencing speeds of 0.2Mbps/0.6Mbps, meaning it has no meaningful functionality.

Farrelly wrote a brief email to Buss that night, telling him to “Remove any data throttling on OES5262 effective immediately.”  Farrelly emailed Buss again the next morning, saying, “Please work with us.  All we need is a plan that does not offer throttling or caps of any kind.”

Buss responded that afternoon, suggesting a plan that costs $99.99 for the first 20GB and $8 per gigabyte thereafter.  “To get the plan changed immediately, I would suggest calling in the plan change to our customer service team,” Buss wrote.

That was the last email submitted in the court exhibit.

Santa Clara apparently switched to the $99.99 plan, more than doubling its bill. “While Verizon ultimately did lift the throttling, it was only after County Fire subscribed to a new, more expensive plan,” Bowden wrote in his declaration.

Why Not Call It Battered Child Syndrome

.jpg photo of man found guilty of child abuse
Alan Farley was initially accused of sexually abusing a child.

Man convicted of Child Abuse avoids prison as part of plea deal

BILLINGS, MT  –  A judge Friday sentenced a Casper area man to probation and a suspended prison sentence for felony child abuse.

Alan Farley was initially accused of sexually abusing a child.  But he pleaded to lesser charges, including the child abuse, as part of a deal that could keep him out of prison.

Natrona County District Judge Daniel Forgey handed down seven-to-10 year suspended prison sentence that would potentially go into effect if Farley violates his five years of probation.

Farley, who frequently conferred with his lawyer during Friday’s hearing, did not speak when Forgey offered him the opportunity.

The victim of the crime addressed the court before sentencing.

“What you did to me was the worst decision you could possibly make,” the child said in a calm, measured tone.

“I want other kids to know they’re not alone and they can stick up for themselves too,” she said.

The plea agreement prevented prosecutors from seeking prison time.

Prosecutor Kevin Taheri asked Forgey for an eight-to-10 year suspended sentence and seven years of supervised probation.  Public defender Curtis Cheney asked for a three-to-five year suspended sentence with probation.

Forgey, in handing down his sentence, did not explain why he imposed the stiffer penalty.

Although Farley was charged in April with two felony sex crimes including second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, he pleaded to lesser charges: felony child abuse and misdemeanor sexual battery.

The girl, who was born in 2006, first told her guardian that she did not like it when Farley cuddled with her, according to court documents.  After the girl told her counselor more details, the guardian decided to report the girl’s allegations to police.

In a later interview, the girl said that Farley grabbed her butt under her pants while they were sitting in a recliner.  She said that he stopped briefly when someone else walked into the room and she moved to a nearby bed.  Farley then followed her to the bed, the April affidavit states.

The girl said she didn’t remember much after that, except that at some point she was completely naked and he was on top of her.  She said she was scared and that she froze, according to the affidavit.

She said that Farley later told her that he would hurt her loved ones if she told anybody about what happened.

Farley was couch surfing at the time of the report, the girl’s family told police.

Can Your Children Talk To You

.jpg photo of man accused of Child Abuse
Arnold Cowen, 85

Perry principal, teacher resign after
accusations of hiding Child Abuse

PERRY, OK  –  A Perry school principal and a teacher have resigned after allegations they both failed to report child abuse or neglect.

The Perry Public School Board of Education met Monday night to vote on whether or not to accept the resignations of 5th grade math teacher Jeffrey Sullins and Upper Elementary School Principal Kendra Miller.

The board approved the resignation agreements, KFOR crews confirmed.

Miller and Sullins each face misdemeanor counts after failing to report accusations of sexual abuse against their students.

Police arrested 85-year-old teaching assistant Arnold Cowen earlier this year on accusations he inappropriately touched at least seven girls.

The assistant chief told NewsChannel 4 at least 20 children may have been victims, likely over the course of several years.

At least 10 students may have been victimized in 2017, according to court documents, when Perry Upper Elementary School Principal Miller dismissed past allegations and failed to notify police or the victim’s parents.

Students as young as 10 complained Cowen fondled them and touched their breasts, according to arrest affidavits, sometimes during “lengthy hugs and inappropriate touches.”

According to court documents, Miller fielded multiple complaints from students but told them they had to be accidental.

“Principal Kendra Miller tells her that it’s possible, that Cowen has long arms and, when he reaches around to hug her, his long arms touch her boobs,” one student told police, according to the affidavit. “Principal Kendra Miller tells her to refrain from hugging Cowen and to only ‘fist bump’ him.”

As a result, students told police they were afraid to tell their parents about the interactions and often would cry in the bathroom.

During interviews with other teachers, police were told “Cowen was definitely the victim of false accusations and he was a model instructor and of great help to the school.”

Miller told police, according to court documents, police were not told of the complaints because they were “deemed to be false by her staff and herself.  Stating, ‘we have had these allegations on Cowen before, but we determined they were fabricated by the students.’”

In interviews with police, Miller said Cowen’s of “great moral character and was a very ‘nice guy.”

Police said, when Sullins was told of inappropriate touching, he told the student she was “making stuff up,” at one point taking her into the hallway and calling her a liar, documents show.

“[The student] was escorted to the office to see Principal Kendra Miller, but since she was not available, [the student] was sent back to class, where she continued to work with Cowen,” according to the affidavit.  “Sullins did allude to the fact that a majority of the teachers were aware of the incident/accusations.”

Cowen faces more than 20 counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child as well as child pornography possession charges.

Miller was charged with one misdemeanor count for failing to report child abuse or neglect.  Her court hearing is scheduled for April 27.

Sullins has been charged with two counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect.  He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Both Miller and Sullins had their teaching license revoked by the State Board of Education last month under emergency orders.

Cronyism In KY????

.jpg photo of victim of Domestic Violence
Julie Locke looks through records from her custody case in which a finding of child neglect against her ex-husband was reversed.

Child Abuse findings voided secretly in
Kentucky

“I don’t know how they think they are serving the public by keeping this stuff under wraps.”
Thomas Clay, Kentucky lawyer

Louisville, KY  –  Grabbing the teenage girl from behind, Kevin Watson, a security monitor for Jefferson County Public Schools, slammed her head to the table, opening a gash that splashed blood on the girl’s clothes, the table and the floor, according to accounts of witnesses at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School.

As he forced the girl’s head back to the table, Watson was overheard taunting her.

“How do you like that,” he asked the girl, then 17, according to another school security monitor who witnessed the September 2015 altercation.

Yet, despite a state Child Protective Services investigation that substantiated the incident as child abuse, Watson has a clean record with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, whose social workers issue findings in cases of alleged child abuse or neglect.

Using a secret process that not even victims may know about, Watson, exercising his right to a confidential appeal, was able to overturn the cabinet’s child abuse finding against him.  That kept his name from being added to an official list — also confidential — known as the state Child Abuse and Neglect Registry that can restrict adults from some occupations or activities, such as child care, working or volunteering with youths or serving as foster parents.

And data obtained from the cabinet by the CJ show Watson’s case is not unique.

Of the hundreds of people who file such appeals each year, more than half are successful in overturning adverse findings through the same cabinet whose workers substantiated the abuse or neglect, according to the records.  Appeals between 2012 and 2015 ranged from several hundred to nearly 1,000 a year, with anywhere from 56 percent to 66 percent being reversed or otherwise changed in favor of the person filing the appeal.

Because all proceedings are shielded by secrecy under Kentucky’s strict confidentiality laws regarding child abuse and neglect, it can’t be determined how the cabinet makes such decisions or who the cabinet notifies when someone appeals a case, including the alleged victims.  Watson, who still works at Breckinridge, did not respond to requests for comment.

JCPS officials say they can find no record they were ever notified of Watson’s appeal or offered a chance to submit the school system’s investigation, which also substantiated witness accounts.  Amari Walker, the injured student, never knew of the appeal or got a chance to participate, said her lawyer, Thomas Clay.

On July 6, 2016, the cabinet issued a single-page order with no explanation, reversing the abuse finding against Watson, according to records from his JCPS personnel file.

The cabinet rejected the Courier-Journal’s request for further records of Watson’s appeal, saying confidentiality laws protect its records of such proceedings.

Steve Davis, chief of staff at the cabinet, said the cabinet by federal law is required to offer people a chance to appeal findings of child abuse or neglect and state law requires that the records be kept confidential.

And while the law requires the cabinet to notify parties of an appeal, that generally applies to the person filing the appeal and the cabinet officials defending the findings, he said.  Davis said he knows of no requirement in the law that victims or others with an interest in the case be notified.

Julie Locke, a Louisville mother, was shocked to discover that her ex-husband successfully overturned a substantiation of child abuse or neglect related to their two daughters.  The substantiation stemmed from a 2014 finding by the cabinet that he had put the girls at risk during an incident in which he accosted Locke in front of them at a birthday party, grabbing, threatening and cursing her, according to a domestic violence petition.

“I never knew he filed an appeal,” Locke said.  “I never knew they were even entertaining an appeal.  For me not to have been notified is bizarre.”

Locke said that based on the cabinet’s reversal of its finding, a judge — over her objections — granted her ex-husband additional visits with their daughters.

Clay, who also represents Locke, said he thinks it’s time for such secrecy to end, that the state needs to revamp the laws and regulations that govern such proceedings.

“I don’t get it,” Clay said.  “They’re concealing information about the very people they are trying to protect.  I don’t know how they think they are serving the public by keeping this stuff under wraps.”

Walker, now 19, recently filed a lawsuit against JCPS and Watson. She said she still is in disbelief over the incident that left her with blood pouring down her face and required stitches.

“It was crazy,” said Walker, who now attends Doss High.  “It happened so fast.”

Davis said he can’t comment on individual cases because of the confidentiality provisions of the law.

In Kentucky, when someone appeals a substantiation of abuse or neglect, the case is assigned to a cabinet lawyer who serves as a hearing officer and typically holds a hearing, takes testimony and makes a written recommendation to the cabinet secretary on whether to uphold or reverse the finding.  The secretary makes the final call.

Davis said the cabinet relies on the judgment of the hearing officers and that cabinet officials don’t like to “tinker” with a case because people filing appeals are entitled to an impartial hearing.

“We expect them to issue sound decisions,” he said.

Some cases are settled through agreement of the parties or dismissed for various reasons without a hearing, according to the cabinet.

Dr. Melissa Currie, a pediatric forensic expert at the University of Louisville who occasionally is called as a witness at such hearings, said they tend to be informal, with participants seated around a table and the hearing officer in charge. She said she doesn’t know how the state reaches a decision.

“I don’t know how the system works,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be any transparency.”

Currie said she has testified at hearings that involved what seemed to be obvious child abuse or neglect, only to find out later that the substantiation was overturned.

“There are cases that seem very clear-cut and they are overturned and we don’t know why,” Currie said.

Often, a lawyer represents the person filing the appeal.  Currie said she’s heard lawyers make arguments that don’t address whether abuse or neglect actually occurred but rather, appear to seek sympathy for the client.

” ‘This is going to ruin this guy’s life, he won’t be employed,’ ” Currie recalled one lawyer arguing.  “Of course, that should have no bearing whatsoever.”

State law says that the hearing officer should allow only “the evidence on the record” and exclude anything that is irrelevant or immaterial.

Acena Beck, a lawyer with the Children’s Law Center in Covington, said she had represented people at such hearings when she worked as a legal aid lawyer in Northern Kentucky.  Generally, the hearings are held in the county of the person filing the appeal, she said, and how they are run depends on who’s in charge.

“It can vary greatly depending on which hearing officer you get,” Beck said.  “There’s no consistency.”

Currie said she worries about the effect on social workers tasked with investigating difficult, complicated cases and reaching conclusions, only to have them overturned by the same cabinet that employs them.

“When a finding gets reversed, it undermines the investigation,” Currie said.  “It’s demoralizing.  They do all this work, they try to protect the kids.”

Locke said she’s still trying to find out how her ex-husband was able to reverse a finding against him.

His lawyer, Elizabeth Pepa, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the process.

“My client respectfully wishes for it to remain that way,” she said.

Locke provided the CJ with a copy of the Nov. 19, 2014, letter from the cabinet substantiating abuse or neglect, along with the 2014 domestic violence order she obtained against her ex-husband.

Locke said she was astonished when his lawyer in mid-2015 announced the finding had been reversed following an appeal she knew nothing about.

“How does anyone get a fair hearing if both sides are not represented?”  Locke asked.

Even more disturbing to Locke is the lack of any records of the appeal or an official explanation.

As a parent, Locke is entitled to confidential records involving her children of any hearing but when she and her lawyer asked for them, they found there were none.  A cabinet lawyer told her the case “was settled outside a hearing,” she said.

When they asked for records of the settlement, they received nothing, Locke said.

Seeking an explanation, Locke and Clay, her lawyer, said they met in December with cabinet officials who said they would look into it.

They are still waiting for an explanation, Locke and Clay said.

Some argue that at a minimum, the state’s confidential registry of people who have substantiated findings of abuse or neglect against them should be open to the public.

Among those arguing that case is state Rep. Dennis Keene, who is sponsoring a bill this year on behalf of a constituent whose infant daughter was injured by a babysitter in 2014.

Keene, a Democrat from Campbell County, said his House Bill 47 would require the cabinet to publish the registry on its website.

“It should be more transparent and accessible to the public,” Keene said.

Jennifer Diaz, the Northern Kentucky mother pushing for the law, said the babysitter was convicted of injuring her daughter and another child she cared for and sentenced to three months in jail.

Diaz said her daughter, now 2, recovered from the injuries that included bruises and head trauma.  But Diaz said she believes there should be a way for parents seeking child care to check out individual sitters or other adults around their children.

“It’s very important to us to get this passed,” she said.  “I want that registry to be accessible to the public so that everyone can see it.”