Saturday, October 24, 2009

Caregivers Want "Silver Alert"

Ask Elaine McDuffie what it felt like when her elderly mother went missing and she'll describe the same fear parents get when they've lost a small child.

"Your heart is beating hard. You feel it almost coming out of your chest. You're in a complete state of panic. ... All the bad things pop into your head," said McDuffie of Sleepy Hollow.

McDuffie cares for her mother, Iley Henry, 79, who has Alzheimer's disease. In the past three years, Henry wandered into the streets twice, once ending up in the White Plains Hospital emergency room after a woman walking a dog found her facedown on a grassy lawn.

Henry is safe and at home with her family now, but other incidents of people with dementia have ended in severe injury - frostbite, dehydration, stroke - or death.

Some of the cases have made headlines recently, including a 73-year-old Yonkers man who went missing for days and was found this week in midtown Manhattan.

With a significant rise in Alzheimer's diagnoses projected, local advocates are looking for tools to help find missing seniors before it's too late, including a system identical to one that helps find missing children.

Silver Alert, a copy of the Amber Alert system for missing children, would help police departments communicate with each other and residents in the community when a senior wanders.

The Rockland County Legislature on Tuesday unanimously approved a countywide Silver Alert program. Legislator Bob Jackson, D-Nanuet, proposed the bill after reviewing programs in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Full Article and Source:
Caregivers Want Alert System for Eldely

Federal Charges Dropped

Prosecutors have dropped federal charges against a New Jersey flight attendant accused of bilking an elderly Midland woman out of more than $55,000 has been dismissed.

United States District Court Magistrate Charles E. Binder signed an order to dismiss the charges against Elan Saraf without prejudice, meaning U.S. attorneys can re-open the file.

The dismissal order said the government needs more time to gather evidence and decide whether prosecution is in the public’s best interest.

“The government’s ability to prosecute this case properly would be substantially impaired were it required to proceed to indictment or information within the 30-day period prescribed by the Speedy Trial Act,” said U.S. Attorney Terrence G. Berg.

Saraf, of Newark, was charged with one count of mail fraud.

U.S. Postal Service inspectors alleged the woman was tricked into believing she won a $1 million sweepstakes.

Full Article and Source:
Charges Dropped in Case Against Newark Man Accused of Swindling Midland Woman With Phony Sweepstakes

Safe Haven for the Abused Elderly

A nonprofit care group Tuesday opened the state’s first safe haven for elderly residents abused by family members, spouses and others.

The program — offered by Saint Elizabeth Community — is timely, say experts.

Last year, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence helped 315 abused seniors.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Deborah DeBare, executive director of the coalition. Many victims of elderly abuse go to the hospital for an injury, then return home without calling for help.

Saint Elizabeth Community will house 20 people a year in rooms and apartments in its nursing homes and assisted-living complexes in East Greenwich, Bristol and Providence, said president and chief executive officer Steven J. Horowitz.

“Sadly ... elder abuse is on the rise in the United States and here in Rhode Island,” he said.

Full Article and Source:
R.I.'s First Safe Haven For Elderly Opens in East Grenwich

Former Lawyer Sentenced to Two Years and Restitution

Visiting Judge Scott Epstein on Friday sentenced former attorney Alex Frank Gallegos, 57, to two years in prison for felony theft related to a trust account for which he had responsibility .

The judge ordered Gallegos, a former South Fork resident, to pay $506,593 restitution to the William H. Sherman Revocable Trust.

Sherman died in an automobile accident on Jan. 20, 2008. The sole beneficiary of the trust, which had an approximate cumulative value of more than $1 million at the time of his death, was the Rio Grande Hospital.

At the time investigations began the hospital had received 0 while Gallegos had begun drawing funds from the various trust accounts shortly after Sherman’s death. Gallegos was the personal representative and trustee of the estate until the court replaced him in January.

Full Article and Source:
Local Attorney Sentenced to Two Years

Guilty Plea

An Arma woman pleaded guilty this week to charges of financially exploiting an elderly woman in her care.

Attorney General Steve Six announced Wednesday that Ernestine Anselmi, 73, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of mistreatment of a dependent adult, a level six person felony. Anselmi, and her late husband Ernest Anselmi, were charged in September 2008 with making unauthorized payments to herself from the checking account of 97-year-old Lena Zanichelli totaling nearly $1 million. Anselmi intentionally used undue influence, coercion, deception or false representation to take unfair advantage of Zanichelli, according to Six’s office. Ernest Anselmi died earlier this year.

Sentencing is set for February 2010. The possible sentence for a level 6 person felony is between 17 and 46 month depending on the defendant's criminal history. In this case, it is likely presumptive probation because Anselmi has “little to no” criminal history, according to Six’s office.

Full Article and Source:
Anselmi Pleads Guilty to Exploitation (With Plea Documents)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Update: Seidlin v Kasler

An 83-year-old neighbor of former Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin contends he and his family exploited her frail state and swindled the millionaire out of several hundred thousand dollars in real estate, furniture, electronics and school tuition.

In an unusual legal twist, Barbara Kasler now is trying to prevent Seidlin from complaining she was abused or exploited by others to law enforcement or the state Department of Children and Families, which already has cleared him of an elder exploitation allegation.

Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch convened an emergency hearing last week on Kasler's motion to enjoin Seidlin, his wife, his in-laws and their attorneys from lodging abuse complaints involving her after DCF and Fort Lauderdale police twice responded to tips that she was receiving inadequate medical and nutritional care.

In court documents, Kasler's attorney, Bill Scherer, claims the only harm his client is facing is from frivolous abuse reports and the subsequent investigations.

"Further intrusion and questioning of Ms. Kasler by DCF and law enforcement would be traumatic to her health and physical well-being" and could "lead to a panic and stress-induced death," Scherer of Conrad & Scherer in Fort Lauderdale wrote in an Oct. 11 motion, citing concerns raised by the woman's psychiatrist.

Kasler suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and end-stage Parkinson's disease, which can be accompanied by dementia. Her ex-husband and children are dead. Two distant relatives are now her caretakers.

Kasler's one-time attorney, Robert Bissonnette, filed an emergency guardianship petition in July in probate court, claiming he was wrongfully discharged and Kasler was being unduly influenced by her caretakers.

In another court, Kasler's civil exploitation case filed in June against Seidlin, his wife Belinda and his in-laws alleges the former probate judge preyed on her vulnerability. Kasler and Seidlin live in Marine Tower on Las Olas Boulevard. The lawsuit contends Seidlin began introducing himself as Kasler's son and wearing diamond and gold jewelry that belonged to her dead sons within six months of befriending her.

Full Article and Source:
Judge From Anna Nicole Smith Case Caught Up in Elder Abuse Claims

See Also:
Rank Greed
Elderly Sues Judge Seidlin

60 Days in Jail, 10 Years Probation, and Restitution

The former county clerk in one eastern Kentucky county is indicted on several charges, including abuse of public trust.

The Herald Leader reports a judge handed down the ruling against Wayne County Clerk Melissa Turpin Tuesday.

Turpin pleaded guilty to four counts, two on abuse of a public trust and two of theft by unlawful taking.

She will report to jail on Thursday to serve a 60 days in jail.

The rest of a 10 year sentence will be probated.

Turpin will also have to pay nearly 140-thousand dollars in restitution.

Former County Clerk is Indicted

Editorial: Judging the Judges

While the focus of the upstate Pennsylvania cash-for-kids scandal rightly has been on two rogue judges, a legislative oversight panel last week began a review that should make other stakeholders in juvenile-justice and political circles squirm.

The former Luzerne County judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, initially agreed to plead guilty, but a judge rejected the deal. They are now fighting a 48-count federal indictment for taking $2.6 million in bribes.

In return for those payments from the operators of two private prisons, the judges allegedly engaged in misconduct that hearkens back to grim Dickensian times: They packed off hundreds of kids to jail, often after perfunctory hearings at which teens were advised they didn't need a lawyer.

In the tradition of public corruption going back to Tammany Hall, the former judges could be said to have seen their opportunities, and so they "took 'em."

But what about other key players in the county and statewide who turned a blind eye, ignored red flags, or found themselves powerless to object?

That's the most important line of inquiry for the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, an 11-member panel formed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, Gov. Rendell, and state lawmakers.

Federal prosecutors no doubt will want to track the commission's inquiry, as well, for any evidence of other wrongdoing.

Full Editorial and Source:
Editorial: Judging the Judges

Facing 25 Years in Prison

A jury on Friday convicted a former investment broker who recently lived in Aptos and attended Twin Lakes Church of 20 charges in a securities fraud case that involved bilking investors out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Kenneth Doolittle, 49, convinced people he met through church and other community involvement, such as the Rotary Club, to invest in a mobile home refurbishing company that promised a 13 percent return on their money, according to Santa Cruz County assistant district attorney Kelly Walker, who prosecuted Doolittle during the three-week trial.

Most of the victims were elderly, Walker said. She added that prosecutors believe there were as many as 50 victims, but the case detailed only 10.

Doolittle, who now lives in Idaho, bought mobile homes for $5,000 and resold them for $30,000, often to buyers who could not afford the payments. Walker described it as a "flip this house" scheme.

"Sometimes he pays the investors, sometimes he didn't," Walker said.

But most of his investors never got their money. One woman lost $132,000, according to Walker.

Full Article and Source:
Former Aptos Man Convicted of/a Investment Scam, Faces 25 Years in Prison

"Broken Trust"

Saturday, October 24 at 6:30 pm
Monday, October 26 at 5:00 pm

Broken Trust is an MPBN special hosted by Jennifer Rooks, which looks at the prevalence of elder abuse in Maine. What is being done about it? Why is this issue so under reported?

Experts estimate that there are 12,000 victims of elder abuse in Maine each year – but the vast majority of cases are never investigated.

“It's just starting to become apparent to us what is happening,” says former Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe. “We're seeing that this is really an epidemic.”

Broken Trust highlights the compelling stories of Westbrook resident Dot Jarmin, Al Wagner - formerly of Cape Elizabeth and Brunswick - and Portland’s Olivia Spallholz, all victims of elder abuse or financial exploitation. The program explores some of the innovative work being done by police officers in Maine to combat elder abuse.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Abuse in Maine

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sheriff Closes Sale; Property Owner Incarcerated and Incapacitated

Out-of-town developers closed their deal on the former Walker properties on Highland Avenue Sept. 29.

However, no one from the family that owned portions of this property since 1947 and the entire tract since 2001 signed on the dotted lines that finalized this real estate transaction. Instead, Barbour County Sheriff LeRoy Upshaw, who was named the emergency guardian and special conservator for property owner Henry David Walker, Jr. on Sept. 28, closed the sale.

Barbour County Probate Court documents reveal that Walker, 37, was arrested Sept. 25 on failure to appear charges stemming from a speeding ticket and operating a vehicle without insurance citation.

Walker did not appear at the Eufaula emergency guardian and special conservator hearings or at the property closing where he cleared $178,007 from the $239,000 sale. Walker was not only incarcerated but was alleged in a local attorney’s petition for emergency guardian and special conservator to be incapacitated at the time of this transaction and required a guardian to determine the best method for his care and rehabilitation and a special conservator to bring the Eufaula real estate sale to fruition.

Barbour County Probate Judge Nancy Robertson granted Eufaula attorney Courtney Potthoff’s petition for an emergency guardian and special conservator for Walker and named Upshaw to those roles for a period of 15 days.

Full Article and Source:
Sheriff Closes Deerfield Sale: Highland Property Owner Incarcerated and Incapacitated

Proposed Elder Abuse Victims Act

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Retirement and Aging, and Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) introduced the Elder Abuse Victims Act, a bill that would improve the law enforcement community’s ability to target and combat abuse and exploitation of senior citizens. A companion to the Elder Abuse Victims Act (H.R. 448), introduced by Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA), was passed earlier this year by a vote of 397 to 25 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“For years, Congress has failed to take concrete action to address the consequences of elder abuse, and that must change,” said Senator Kohl. “With this bill, we hope to help local enforcement agencies and other advocates tackle the often-hidden scourge of elder abuse.”

“The elderly are often among the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Senator Leahy. “We must do all we can to protect our seniors from abuse and exploitation. The Elder Abuse Victims Act takes a positive step in that direction.”

Among key provisions, the Elder Abuse Victims Act:
· Stipulates that elder abuse includes mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud aimed at elderly people;
· Seeks to develop a common definition of elder abuse as knowing infliction of physical or psychological harm, or the knowing deprivation of goods or services that are necessary to meet essential needs or to avoid physical or psychological harm;
· Seeks to develop a common definition of elder exploitation as fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper acts or processes of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an elder for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an elder of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets; and
· Funds creation of positions within State courts, prosecutors’ offices or State Medicaid Fraud Control Units to coordinate elder justice-related cases, training, technical assistance, and policy development for State prosecutors and courts.

Full Press Release and Source:
Kohl, Leahy, Mikulski, Lemieux Introduce Bill to Improve Enforcement of Elder Abuse Laws

Sentencing Delayed

A New Hope man, who pleaded guilty to swindling his 78-year-old mother, temporarily avoided sentencing Tuesday because a judge acknowledged that the man remains the sole caregiver of the mother whose bank account he depleted.

Anna Sitte has Alzheimer's disease, which was diagnosed years ago, but until plans for her immediate future are made, sentencing for her son Steven Carl Sitte, 53, can't be determined, said Hennepin County District Judge Warren Sagstuen.

Jimmy Sitte, who turned in his brother to authorities earlier this year, has asked that their mother be moved back to North Dakota. There, three acres remain of a century-old 188-acre family farm that Jimmy Sitte says his brother liquidated without his mother's knowledge.

"In a case as complex as this, one that involves the health and well-being of one of our senior citizens, I would be remiss" to immediately sentence Steven Sitte, said Sagstuen. He moved to delay sentencing until Nov. 16.

Full Article and Source:
Sentencing Delayed for Swindling New Hope Son

Felony Charge Dismissed

A Cambridge woman is no longer facing a felony charge alleging financial exploitation of her 85-year-old father-in-law following his death the same day she made a first appearance in court.

Kelly Rae Annis, 49, appeared before Judge P. Hunter Anderson Sept. 30 in response to a summons resulting from an investigation that began when Isanti County Family Services received a notice from a care facility that the victim was going to be discharged for lack of payment.

The investigation revealed that Annis, who had admitted him to the facility in 2007, had failed to make application for Medical Assistance for him and that the man’s three sources of retirement income were not being used for his care.

The care facility arranged to have those checks paid to the facility directly but it was found that $20,356 of the victim’s funds had also been deposited in an account at a local bank to which Annis had legal access. That money was now missing.

According to the criminal complaint, Annis told investigators her husband, the victim’s son, was not involved in the thefts and that she had withdrawn the cash from the account herself using an ATM card.

The charge was dismissed by the prosecuting attorney Oct. 9 based on the victim’s death Sept. 30.

Charge Dismissed in Isanti County With Death of Elderly Victim

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jailed Lawyer Seeks Help

A southwest Missouri lawyer is asking the state Supreme Court to intervene after he was sentenced to 120 days in jail for writing in a court document that a judge and prosecutors were potentially abusing their power.

A Douglas County jury convicted Carl Smith, 62, of Ava, of criminal contempt in August. He was sentenced Sept. 28 to 120 days in jail. He cannot appeal the sentence because the case was prosecuted under common law, as opposed to statutory law.

Smith's attorney has asked the Missouri Supreme Court to intervene, saying that while Smith's arguments may have been better expressed, the punishment is excessive.

"The key thing here is what is the appropriate sanction when an attorney overstates or inartfully drafts an argument," attorney Bruce Galloway said. "My position is that the First Amendment right of free speech would prevent the use of a criminal sanction for an attorney who oversteps in his pleadings."

Full Article and Source:
Jailed Lawyer Seeks Help From Missouri High Court

"An Age for Justice; Elder Abuse in America"

A video documentary on elder abuse featuring stories of victims and survivors from across the country premiered on Capitol Hill today as part of a briefing where expert speakers urged Congressional passage of the Elder Justice Act.

"An Age for Justice; Elder Abuse in America" was developed as part of Elder Justice Now, a campaign that uses the power of video and the Internet to put a human face on the problem and allow elders and others a way to advocate for Congressional action.

Produced by the National Council on Aging and WITNESS, an international human rights organization, the documentary will -- in combination with hundreds of individual video stories filmed by trained elder advocates -- shine the light on what one interviewee called a "dark mark on our humanity."

"The voices and images of so many victims, adult protective services workers, law enforcement, family members and caregivers drive home the need for action," James P. Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging said at the briefing. "Our nation's seniors, especially the vulnerable, the frail and the very old, need federal protection now."

The documentary shows families and individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by elder abuse.

The Senate Finance Committee recently incorporated the Elder Justice Act into its health reform bill, but passage of the Act still remains a question.

The documentary and the video stories can be found on the campaign Web site

Full Article and Source:
Elder Abuse Victims, Survivors and Advocates Tell Their Story in Campaign Documentry

Sentenced to Four Years and Restitution

A disbarred Halifax lawyer was sentenced to four years in prison yesterday for stealing over $1.3 million from the trust funds of clients from 2000 to 2005.

Srinivasen Pillay, 51, pleaded guilty last month to 33 counts of theft over $5,000 and one count of theft under $5,000. As part of his sentence yesterday in a Halifax courtroom, Pillay was also handed a restitution order for $1.38 million to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, who disbarred Pillay in 2005 after finding him guilty of professional misconduct.

Full Article and Source:
Disbarred Lawyer Gets Four Years in Prison

Mother & Daughter Arrested

Two Sarasota women have been busted for exploiting the elderly woman they were hired to take care of.

Sarasota County Sheriff's deputies say over a period of 8 months, Christina Coulton and her mother Gwen Davis stole more than $170,000 from their victim, spread out over 39 different checks.

The woman is 77 years old and takes the powerful painkiller Hydrocodone, which impairs her mental abilities.

Full Article and Source:
Mother-Daughter Caretakers Arrested For Stealing From Elderly Woman

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Disbarred Lawyer Confesses

An Erie lawyer known for his service to the poor walked into the Erie County Courthouse seven months ago and admitted to prosecutors that he had drained nearly $200,000 from an estate in his care.

It appears that the now-disbarred lawyer, J. Gregory Moore, will be making his final confession on the matter to a federal judge.

Moore, 62, was charged Friday in U.S. District Court in Erie with two felony counts of mail fraud stemming from his handling of five estates in his care.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Moore spent about $200,000 from estates in his care on his own expenses. It said he also used nearly $65,000 out of two estates to make disbursements from three others.

The charges were filed via a "criminal information," in which the Attorney's Office pursues charges without first presenting the evidence to a grand jury. Moore waived an indictment, which in federal court signals that the case will proceed on a fast track directly to a guilty plea. In return, Moore will receive credit for his cooperation with authorities.

Moore was not taken into custody with the filing of the federal charges. He has been free after posting $1,000, or 10 percent of the full bond of $10,000, related to state charges still pending against him.

Full Article and Source:
Disbarred Erie Lawyer Faces Federal Mail Fraud Charges

No Deal

A judge denied a city woman’s request to lower her $5,000 cash bond Friday in a case alleging she stole money from a woman she worked for as a health aid and conservator.

Audrey Curtis, 45, 256 Riverside Ave., second floor, was arrested Wednesday by Torrington police on a warrant charging her with first-degree larceny.

Ira Mayo, Curtis’ attorney, said his client wants to be released from jail to find a job and make restitution to the victims of her crimes. “She knows these are very serious charges,” Mayo said. “She is working very hard to make this right.”

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Dawn Gallo said the state had already permitted Curtis some time to make restitution and she failed. “She owes about $81,000,” she said. “She was arrested after a home visit by probation officers and police and found her hiding in a closet to avoid police contact.” Curtis denied hiding from police, claiming she was tending to some kittens that were living in a crawl space in her apartment.

Curtis reportedly admitted to police that while she served as a conservator for a 73-year-old Goshen woman, she liberally used the woman’s bank accounts to pay her own bills and fund a lifestyle that included drugs and gambling.

Curtis is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 6.

Full Article and Source:
No Deal: Judge Denies Bail Reduction for Woman Who Allegedly Stole 73-Year-Old Woman's Savings

See Also:
Health Aide Accused of Theft

Brooke Astor: Park Avenue Poster Child

To senior citizens' advocates, Brooke Astor is a Park Avenue poster child for an insidious kind of financial crime.

They kept close tabs as the late philanthropist's son and a lawyer were tried on charges of exploiting her mental decline to raid her nearly $200 million fortune. An article on the AARP's news Web site called it "the most infamous case of financial elder abuse in recent memory."

Advocates and legal experts saw last week's convictions as a high-wattage signal that such cases, often seen as difficult to prosecute, can succeed — even if few others spur a five-month-long big money trial with boldface names.

"To lose this kind of case would have sent a very discouraging signal" to prosecutors pursuing elder abuse cases, said Thomas L. Hafemeister, a University of Virginia law professor who specializes in financial exploitation of the elderly.

There have been plenty of prominent court fights over claims that elderly millionaires were manipulated into parting with money.

J. Seward Johnson Sr.'s children accused his third wife — and former chambermaid — of browbeating the dying drug company heir into leaving her nearly all his $500 million fortune; the 16-week trial in 1986 ended with a settlement giving the children and an oceanographic institute about $160 million. Former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith's inheritance tussle with her oil-tycoon husband's son reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but continues years after both she and the son died.

But these and many other fortune feuds played out in civil courts — not in criminal cases carrying the prospect of prison time, which Astor's 85-year-old son now faces.

Full Article and Source:
Advocates: NCY Astor Case a Win on Financial Abuse

Couple Accused of Bilking Elderly Man

An elderly Portland man who relied on his weekly cab rides to get to the doctor, grocery store and do errands soon became a victim of the taxi driver and his wife, police say.

Together, the pair allegedly bilked the man out of more than $300,000.

Jerry Lee Knight, 70, and spouse Cheryl Diane Knight, 60, of North Portland, were arrested this week and face a 44-count felony indictment accusing them of multiple first-degree mistreatment, first-degree aggravated theft and first-degree theft charges.

"They've basically been brainwashing and grooming him over the years," said Detective Jay Pentheny of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. "They were surviving off his good fortune, and making more money than most Americans make."

Full Article and Source:
Cops Say Couple Bilked Elderly Man Out of $300,000

Monday, October 19, 2009

Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 303

Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 303, a proposed law that would require doctors to inform residents about the dangers of psychotropic medications, and require nursing homes residents to give consent before such drugs can be given.

According to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), the use of psychoactive drugs has become an epidemic in California. According to one study, nearly 60% of all California nursing home patients are administered psychoactive narcotics, a huge increase from only a decade earlier.

Governor Schwarzenegger admitted that misuse of antipsychotic drugs is a serious problem in nursing homes when he vetoed the legislation, and even cited a study that found more than half of all residents on psychoactive drugs are in violation of federal guidelines.

“It is shocking that the Governor is protecting doctors and nursing homes that are drugging tens of thousands of elders with dementia into submission,” said Patricia McGinnis, CANHR’s executive director. “Thousands of nursing home residents will continue to die from these deadly drugs.”

Full Article and Source:
Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill to Reduce Drugging of Nursing Home Residents"

Devoted Husband, Wife in Chains

The rugged land near Bagley, Minn., is still dotted with the woods, lakes and swamps from which Jennings Sunderland's uncle carved a dairy farm 100 years ago -- treacherous territory for an Alzheimer's patient.

Sunderland's wife, Clarice, a retired nurse with the disease, began wandering this summer, so Sunderland would settle her in a chair in the barn while he and his son, Kurt, milked the cows, or take her along in their pickup to the fields.

At home in the late afternoon, he had the chain.

Tired from the chores he began before dawn, Sunderland, 78, would settle in his recliner beside his wife of 50 years, watch TV, and sometimes fall asleep. To keep Clarice close, he looped a length of chain around her and her chair, the other end in his hand. "If she started to get up or lift off that chain, well, it rattled and woke me up,'' Sunderland said. "It was a pretty good idea, I thought.''

The county attorney disagreed. What followed was a two-month drama in which Sunderland was jailed and his fragile wife removed from their home.

The battle only ended late last week when the county attorney dropped the charges and avoided a court showdown Monday over whether Sunderland's method for coping with his 76-year-old wife's illness was cruelty or kindness.

Now the family is concentrating on how to get Clarice home again.

Full Article and Source:
A Devoted Husband, and a Wife in Chains

Seeking Answers in Luzerne County

What did they know and when did they know it?

It’s the question at the heart of the investigation into failings within the Luzerne County juvenile justice system – a question John M. Cleland, the chairman of the state commission created to probe those failings, says will be asked of lots of people, including several in positions of high power, over the next few months.

It started Wednesday with Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski, state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township and state Rep. Todd Eachus, D-Butler Township, who testified at the first of several hearings that will be held by the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice.

All three were peppered with questions regarding whether they were ever advised by an attorney, court official or juvenile about concerns relating to former judge Mark Ciavarella’s handling of juvenile court.

Similar questions are expected to be asked of several other top Luzerne County officials in November, when the commission will hold a two-day hearing in the Wilkes-Barre area.

“Our concern is not only the action of two Luzerne County judges. Our concern is also the inaction of others. Inaction of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, the defense bar, public officials and private citizens – those who knew but failed to speak; those who saw but failed to act,” Cleland said in his opening statement. “All of those involved – whether by action, inaction or silence – whether by willful choice or benign ignorance – engaged in an assault on the fairness and impartiality of our legal system.”

The 11-member Interbranch Commission was formed in August to analyze what went wrong in Luzerne County’s juvenile system and provide recommendations to ensure those problems are not repeated elsewhere.

Full Article and Source:
Seeking Answers and the Truth

Son Accused of Bilking Mother

Authorities said a family member has been bilked by her son.

Clarence Annett, 56, is charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his elderly, disabled mother, while he was her guardian.

"This is not a unique situation," said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe. "We're seeing more and more of these cases where dependents are being taken advantage of not only by strangers, but their own family members."

Annett was arraigned in Johnson County court on charges of making a false writing, felony mistreatment of an adult, and theft of between $25,000 and $100,000. Officials said he stole from his mother who he was living with.

"It's not just young children or senior citizens, but dependent adults who may not be able to protect themselves," Howe said. "That's the job of the prosecutor's office to protect those who can't protect themselves."

Full Article and Source:
Man Accused of Stealing From Elderly Mother

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court

Everybody knows the criminal justice system is far from perfect. But journalist and lawyer Amy Bach sees it from a different perspective — injustice that is a product not of incompetence, but of the natural human instinct to go along to get along.

Bach, 41, is a New York City native who has lived in Rochester for four years. She worked five years as a journalist, writing for publications such as The Nation and New York magazine. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School, and thanks to a Soros Foundation grant, was able to travel the country for a year observing courtrooms and discovering what she calls a "pattern of lapses" that legal professionals often do not feel responsible for. Hence the title of her just-released book, Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company).
Bach's reporting challenges the reality of the justice system Americans believe in: a speedy trial, a competent defense, prosecutors in search of the truth (not just a win), victims treated fairly.

Bach is quick to say that this is not a book about villains, about lawyers and judges who willfully subvert the pursuit of justice. It is about the natural human inclination to avoid conflict.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer's Book Tells of Lapses in Legal System

Daughter Charged with Embezzlement

A daughter is accused of embezzling more $100,000 from her elderly parents.

Eloise Russo, 53, was appointed the guardian to her parents, Thomas Sherwin, 90 and his 83-year-old wife, Ada, in April 2007. But in July 2008 she was removed as the guardian over allegations of fraud.

Sherwin died on Monday. Her mother is currently living in a nursing home.

Russo's siblings declined to comment.

She has been arraigned in Hudsonville District Court on the felony charge and faces up to 10 years if convicted.

Her attorney told 24 Hour News 8 she intended to return the money and that she was the only one of five children to take care of her aging parents.

"She never intended to steal as alleged," said attorney Kelly G. Lambert, "and in fact she's even paid substantial sum of that money. I see the allegations against her well in excesss of over a $100,000. That's nowhere near true. Ms. Russo has paid over $60,000 of the funds back and she did it earlier this year."

Full Article and Source:
Parents Embezzled,Daughter Charged

Health Aide Accused of Theft

A Torring­ton woman hired as a home health aide for a Goshen senior with Alzheimer’s told police she spent thousands of her client’s dollars on tattoos, drugs and gambling.

Police arrested Audrey Cur­tis, 39, at her 256 Riverside Ave. home Wednesday and held her on $5,000 bond on a charge of first-degree larceny, the latest in a string of charges filed by lo­cal police in recent years.

Curtis was previously charged in March with stealing more than $35,000 from the es­tate of a man with whom she had a relationship. Drug charges are also pending, along with charges of first-degree burglary, violation of a protec­tive order, criminal mischief and forgery, all charges leveled by Torrington police in the last year.

To date, Curtis has pleaded not guilty to all charges. She was held overnight, unable to post the $5,000 bond.

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Health Aide Accused of Theft