Saturday, October 14, 2017

Probate judge forced to resign, could face criminal charges

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. -- A probate judge in southern New Mexico has been forced to resign in the face of some serious criminal charges.

According to documents from the Judicial Standards Commission, Sierra County Probate Judge Pam Smith will never be a judge in New Mexico again.

Documents show she's accused of using her position to allow her and her husband to take possession of a dead man's estate. The documents claim the Smiths then closed the man's bank accounts and transferred around $280,000 into their own accounts.

New Mexico State Police are investigating the accusations.

Full Article & Source:
Probate judge forced to resign, could face criminal charges

Open wounds, maggots discovered on nursing home resident

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police said they are investigating an elder abuse case involving a patient at a local nursing home after a horrifying discovery.

According to a police report, the elderly resident of Ashton Place on Walnut Grove Road went to the hospital after he started running a high fever. Hospital workers told investigators and a social worker they discovered five open wounds to different parts of his body and a bruise to his stomach during treatment. He also had severe dry skin that was "flaking off his body."

But that wasn't all they found.

The patient had previous health problems that led to his left foot and right leg being amputated. They found maggots inside the wound, according to police.

“Even the police got violently ill witnessing that," the victim's daughter said.

She said her sister first suspected something was wrong during a visit Sunday night. He had the fever and went to the hospital Monday.

As nurses were treating the individual, they discovered the staples had not been removed from his right leg and the bandages were labeled "October 7."

Ambulance service employees also said they had found the man in feces.

“I’ve been in the medical field for a while and this is one of the worst I’ve ever witnessed and this is my father," the victim's daughter said. "It’s indicative he wasn’t getting basic care."

WREG went to Ashton Place to get an explanation. The manager told WREG reporter Stacy Jacobson to wait outside for an interview. After waiting 30 minutes, the crew went back inside where the desk clerk said he was not coming out and had no comment.

The charge nurse at the care center told police the patient had refused care.

Memphis Police said they have not made any arrests.

Full Article & Source:
Open wounds, maggots discovered on nursing home resident

When Alzheimer’s Patients See Things That Aren’t There

As if an Alzheimer’s diagnosis isn’t awful enough, a certain percentage of patients experience hallucinations in the later stages of the disease, making it vital for caregivers to understand the situation and how to handle it.

Continue reading for important information on what’s happening to your loved one and how you can help them through what can be a very difficult and reoccurring experience.



According to Alzheimer’s Association, “Hallucinations are false perceptions of objects or events involving the senses. These false perceptions are caused by changes within the brain that result from Alzheimer’s…” So it is the very underpinnings of the disease, mainly memory and cognitive function loss, that are to blame for the hallucinations — in most cases. There are other possible culprits that are worth investigation with your loved one’s primary care physician. Those include:
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eyesight or hearing problems
  • Medication side effects
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Physical issues, including kidney or bladder infections, dehydration, and intense pain
No matter the suspected cause, it is necessary to schedule an appointment with the patient’s physician immediately after the onset of hallucinations.  While non-drug approaches are always the preferred method of treatment, it may be necessary to pursue a course of medication, in order to keep the patient calm during this potentially traumatic experience.  (Click to Continue)
Full Article & Source:
When Alzheimer’s Patients See Things That Aren’t There

Friday, October 13, 2017

Woman Conserved Despite Protest

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A 53-year-old woman who was placed in a temporary conservatorship at the request of attorneys for the Vanderbilt University Medical Center is fighting to keep the conservatorship from being made permanent even as she is being shuttled by ambulance from one facility to another.

Reba Sherrill, a paraplegic as a result of being hit by a car, said in an interview that she was taken from Vanderbilt to a nursing home, then back to Vanderbilt over her protests and today to a nursing facility in Robertson County.

"It's the most atrocious thing I have ever experienced," she said.

Vanderbilt Medical Center did not respond to requests for comment as did the three attorneys representing the facility.

In late August, Vanderbilt's attorneys, petitioned Davidson Probate Court to place Sherrill in a temporary healthcare conservatorship so she could be transferred to another facility.

The petition stated that Sherrill, who was admitted to Vanderbilt on Aug. 8, "no longer requires acute hospital care but instead requires admission to an appropriate facility."

She had been admitted to Vanderbilt for treatment of physical ailments.

One day after arriving at the nursing home, Richland Place in Nashville, a facility she chose, an ambulance driver appeared telling her he was going to take her for a ride.

She said she was brought back to Vanderbilt and was there for five or six day when she was transferred to The Waters at Robertson.

Between the time she went to Richland and her return to Vanderbilt, her conservator had filed a report showing she had won a substantial settlement from the accident. The conservator also moved to force the settlement money to be deposited with the court. The motion was granted.

As a result of the latest move, Sherrill said it is unlikely she will be able to attend a Wednesday hearing on the petition to make her conservatorship permanent with a lawyer, Cathryn Armistead, named in Vanderbilt's original petition to act as the overseer of her health, finances and everything else.

Her attorney has filed a motion to have the conservatorship dismissed, or in the alternative, to have her brother named as conservator. The dismissal motion states that under state law, an action for a conservatorship must be filed in the county where the person resides and Sherrill owns a home in Sumner county and she and her family have lived there for decades.

Armistead did not respond to requests for comment.

In the meantime, Sherrill said she has been dosed with a powerful anti-psychotic drug, Haldol, to which she is allergic.

She said a doctor who has been overseeing her care for years filed an affidavit confirming she should not be administered the drug. She said she already has been injected with Haldol multiple times.

Full Article & Source:
Woman Conserved Despite Protest

Suspended Goodsprings judge resigns

Former Justice of the Peace - Dawn Haviland
A longtime Goodsprings judge has resigned less than a month after being suspended without pay for a year.

Former Justice of the Peace Dawn Haviland resigned effective Sept. 18. She had served as Goodsprings’ only justice of the peace since she was appointed to the position in 1999.

Haviland’s attorney, Albert Marquis, said the former judge was disheartened by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline’s investigation into and ruling on ethics charges that led to her suspension without pay in late August.

“What a terrible injustice was reaped upon Dawn Haviland,” Marquis said. “Three disgruntled employees conspired together to drag a judge off the bench, and with the help of the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline they succeeded.”

Marquis added that Haviland could not afford the “thousands of dollars” it would cost to attend classes at the Nevada Judicial College at her own expense, which was a requirement of her punishment.

County spokesman Erik Pappa said three temporary justices of the peace will rotate to cover Haviland’s calendar. The same arrangement has been in place since December, when Haviland was suspended with pay.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss Tuesday how they will replace Haviland and Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Deborah Lippis, who resigned in August.

Commissioners can fill the vacancies by either appointment or special election.
Haviland’s term was set to expire in January 2019.

Year-long investigation

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline suspended Haviland with pay in December based on findings “into numerous allegations of judicial misconduct,” according to a public notice released at the time.

In March, state disciplinary investigators charged Haviland with multiple ethics complaints, including sealing her then-son-in-law’s criminal records, ordering staff to run background checks on her friend’s boyfriend, and bullying employees while using commentary rife with vulgarity.

In a 14-page written response Haviland claimed the charges were false and concocted by disgruntled employees.

“I have at all times during my 20-year career attempted to administer justice fairly and within the confines of the law,” Haviland wrote.

The commission suspended Haviland without pay in late August.

In its ruling, the commission wrote Haviland was punished for her “repeated failure over several years to follow the law, her proclivity towards following her own moral compass in administering her version of justice irrespective of the law, and her lack of remorse and admission of wrongdoing for the same.”

Full Article & Source:
Suspended Goodsprings judge resigns

Testimony: Gary Ott had dementia long before 2014 campaign

WEST JORDAN — Though questions have swirled for nearly two years about Gary Ott's declining health, exactly what ailment the former Salt Lake County recorder has suffered, and when it all started, have remained unclear.

That is, until now.

Two of his former top staff members, who have been accused of attempting to hide Ott's health issues to keep their jobs, often attributed his struggles to shingles or an old hand injury, while also insisting he was still in charge of his office, but just wasn't a "detail leader."

But during court testimony Thursday, it was revealed that Ott has been diagnosed with "not just Alzheimer's, but stage 4 Alzheimer's," said Mary Corporon, an attorney representing Ott's siblings in a legal battle with the former recorder's girlfriend and former employee, Karmen Sanone.

There are seven stages of Alzheimer's, with patients in stage 7 "nearing death," according to

Additionally, Ott was showing signs of mental impairment as early as 2012, long before his last re-election campaign in 2014, according to sworn testimony Thursday from friends and medical experts.

Sanone and Julie Dole, Ott's former chief deputy recorder, ran Ott's 2014 campaign and spoke on his behalf during campaign events.

A key issue in the legal fight between Ott's siblings and Sanone, who has been identified as Ott's girlfriend, fiancee or caretaker, is whether Ott was competent when he signed an advance health care directive in January 2015 nominating Sanone to make medical decisions for him.

Sanone and her attorney, Aaron Bergman, argue she should be his guardian because she has been the one caring for him over the past several years, not his family.

But witnesses called by Corporon Thursday testified Ott had already declined beyond being able to make decisions for himself when he signed that document.

"He would sign whatever you told him to sign" in 2013, testified Tonya Keller, who was Ott's longtime chief deputy before Dole.

The new details of the turmoil surrounding Ott came to light for the first time publicly on Thursday during the legal battle between Ott's family and Sanone, shortly after 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck decided the case would be open to the public.

Lubeck's order — in favor of a motion filed by the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, KTVX Ch. 4 and the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists — paves the way for an expected two days of under-oath testimony from multiple county employees and elected officials subpoenaed in the case.

Ott's Alzheimer's diagnosis was the reason he was excused from court Thursday, even though Lubeck said last month that he wanted to hear from Ott before proceeding.

A 'puppet'

Neurologist Trevor Squire said he had determined Ott had some form of progressive dementia back in October 2013.

At the time, Squire said Ott scored a 7 out of 30 in a cognitive test. A score under 26 is typically considered "possibly abnormal" and the lower the score the more likely there is "cognitive impairment."

Ott, a Republican who now resides at an unspecified medical facility, last campaigned for office in 2014 and was elected that November to serve a six-year term beginning in January 2015.

Ott's family's attorney alleged that hundreds of documents — including three boxes of mail and old unpaid bills since 2013 — show a "consistent pattern of financial neglect of Mr Ott" by Sanone who "claimed" she was taking care of Ott.

Sanone's attorney argued those documents don't prove Sanone neglected Ott and that Sanone "vehemently denies" those accusations.

Corporon argued the unpaid bills, combined with witness testimony and police reports detailing welfare checks on Ott in Weber County showing Ott "wandering," "unattended" and "disoriented" while he was apparently in Sanone's care calls into question whether Sanone is "fit" to be his guardian.

Even further, Corporon said testimony shows Ott was "essentially a puppet" in the 2014 campaign so Dole and Sanone could keep him in office and thus keep their jobs.

"That's a degree of manipulation of this person that's extraordinary, you're honor," Corporon said. "It's material from which this court could infer deliberate elder abuse of this individual."

Dole and Sanone have been accused of taking advantage of Ott to stay in their high-paying, appointed positions in the county recorder's office. Both women have denied those accusations.

Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill has said his office is continuing to investigate such accusations.

For nearly two years, questions about Ott's health have played out publicly after a Deseret News investigation into a bizarre incident in January 2016, when Ott was found stranded and wandering alone on a rural Tooele County road. Still, he remained in his elected office.

County officials grappled with how to address the situation because state law provides no mechanism to remove an elected official unless he or she commits certain crimes.

Last year, Ott collected nearly $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits.

Ott eventually resigned in August after his family sought temporary emergency guardianship of him and struck a deal with Salt Lake County leaders that was later approved by Lubeck.


Squire's diagnosis in 2013 backed the suspicion that another doctor, Charles Richardson, Ott's physician, had earlier that year — that Ott was probably experiencing a form of progressing dementia after he complained of headaches and trouble concentrating.

Before Ott was sworn into office for a fifth time in 2015, Richardson said Ott likely couldn't read "complex documents" and had difficulty remembering words. And when Ott visited Richardson about a dozen times between August 2013 to January 2016, he said he would often be accompanied by Sanone.

Before his family was granted temporary guardianship of him, Ott was living with Sanone on her rural property in Weber County, according to testimony from Tonya Keller and her husband, Eric Keller.

The Kellers — who called themselves longtime friends of Ott — said they noted hints of Ott's decline as early as 2011, before Ott announced he would run for Salt Lake County mayor in 2012.

"I could tell he was deteriorating," Eric Keller said. "No question in my mind."

The Kellers told of how Ott began having trouble in his daily life and in his office. They told of how, even though he had been to their house "hundreds of times," he eventually couldn't remember how to get there. Ott even started having trouble reading and went from being a "micromanager' in his office to uninvolved.

"He couldn't drive, he couldn't read, he couldn't find his way home some days," Tonya Keller testified.

She said she was fired soon after she became "very vocal" about her intentions not to help him run for another term and after she made multiple suggestions to Ott that perhaps he should retire.

Eric Keller recounted a day in September 2014 when he ran into Ott at a restaurant, where Ott was with Sanone and Dole, who were at the time running his re-election campaign.

He said Sanone, when she saw him approach Ott, "grabbed (Ott) by the arm and pulled him away."

Ott's sister, Kristine Williams, said she was aware Ott lived with Sanone and that they were a couple for several years, but in 2016 she started getting phone calls that suggested Ott didn't want to be with Sanone anymore.

"He began calling us ... upset that Karmen was being mean to him, that he needed to get out of there, would we please help him," she said.

Ott's nephew, Jonathon Williams, also testified his uncle didn't recognize him when he saw him in 2012 during a caucus night, when Ott was running for county mayor.

"I told him who I was, but he still didn't recognize me. He shook my hand and asked for my vote," Jonathon Williams said.

Then in 2015, Jonathon Williams recalled how his mother called him asking if he would go help Ott because he was "upset and disoriented" at his house.

Jonathon Williams said when he arrived, he found Ott "shaky and crying," his kitchen in disarray with tools scattered all over the counter, and his house devoid of food. When he took his uncle to a restaurant, he said Ott was "ravenous."

Most of Thursday's court hearing was consumed by witnesses called by Ott's family attorney. Sanone's attorney is expected to call more witnesses during Friday's proceeding, after which Lubeck will determine who will be Ott's permanent guardian.

Full Article & Source:
Testimony: Gary Ott had dementia long before 2014 campaign

See Also:
Sister, brother file for legal guardianship of embattled county recorder

Jay Evensen: What is the solution for an incapacitated politician?

Lawmakers continue conversation about bill to remove incapacitated elected officials

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cases raise questions about guardian oversight and lawyer-hospital relationships

Cases in Michigan and South Carolina are raising questions about lawyers who receive guardianship appointments as a result of their relationships with hospitals.

A Michigan judge removed lawyer Catherine Jacobs from several cases in which she served as a guardian or conservator after raising questions about a conflict of interest, the Lansing State Journal reported last week. Judge Richard Garcia of Ingham County also referred Jacobs for a possible ethics investigation, then refused her request to remove himself from her cases, the Lansing State Journal reports in another article.

Garcia had removed Jacobs after noting an undisclosed agreement with a hospital in which she was paid to petition for guardianship of certain patients. In at least two of the cases, the hospital paid Jacobs for time spent with the patients after she was appointed guardian, according to the Lansing State Journal story.

Garcia also said Jacobs’ granddaughter and the granddaughter’s boyfriend had lived in the home of a woman for whom Jacobs is guardian and conservator.

Jacobs’ lawyer, Donald Campbell, told the Lansing State Journal that Jacobs has a “pristine record” and follows rules regarding conflicts of interest “to the ‘T.’”

An alleged conflict of interest was at issue in a second case in South Carolina involving a hospital general counsel who agreed to serve as a patient’s guardian and conservator. The lawyer, Lisabeth Kirk Rogers, received a public reprimand (PDF) on Oct. 4 in an agreement for discipline by consent. The Legal Profession Blog noted the case.

Rogers billed more than $8,600 for her time as conservator and paid her son $700 to do repair and cleaning work at the patient’s home. At some point, Rogers’ son moved into the home without her knowledge; she had meningitis and was hospitalized for three months during the time period. The son also vandalized the patient’s home and sold the patient’s car after forging her name on a car title, the reprimand says. Rogers reported her son to police when she discovered what had happened.

Rogers didn’t immediately respond to an ABA Journal request for comment.

The New Yorker, meanwhile, is raising questions about the guardianship system in Clark County, Nevada, in which elderly people were removed from their homes without notice and without a lawyer to represent them.

“Hundreds of cases followed the same pattern,” the article reported. “It had become routine for guardians in Clark County to petition for temporary guardianship on an ex-parte basis. They told the court that they had to intervene immediately because the ward faced a medical emergency that was only vaguely described: he or she was demented or disoriented, and at risk of exploitation or abuse.

The guardians attached a brief physician’s certificate that contained minimal details and often stated that the ward was too incapacitated to attend a court hearing.”

The article focused on one guardian, April Parks, who was awarded a guardianship once a week, on average, and had up to a hundred wards at a time. There was evidence that Parks visited hospitals and lawyers to build relationships and generate leads for potential clients.

Debra Bookout, an attorney at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, told the New Yorker that some hospitals were eager for a guardianship appointment. “When a hospital or rehab facility needs to free up a bed, or when the patient is not paying his bills, some doctors get sloppy, and they will sign anything,” she said, referring to the physicians’ certificate used to obtain ex parte guardianships.

Parks was indicted last March for perjury and theft in a case that focused on alleged double billings and sloppy accounting, the New Yorker reported.

Nevada is reforming its guardianship system; a new law will entitle all wards to be represented by lawyers in court. The New Yorker questions whether that is enough. The guardianship commissioner who approved Parks’ appointments was transferred to dependency court but didn’t lose his job. And another guardian who is considered “the godfather of guardians” in Nevada is still listed as a trustee and administrator in several cases.

Full Article & Source:
Cases raise questions about guardian oversight and lawyer-hospital relationships

Bank teller foils scam attempt on seniors

Disreputable individuals were sent back to the gutter after attempting to bilk an elderly couple out of their money.

Sicamous RCMP Cpl. Wade Fisher credits an alert bank teller for having prevented the couple from being bilked for more than $1,000.

“The client told the teller that she needed to make a large cash withdrawal to pay for the services of a gutter cleaner who had done some extra work,” reports Fisher.

The bank contacted the police and, in the course of their investigation, Fisher said it was learned the couple had agreed to pay $150 to have their gutters cleaned. When it came time to pay, however, the gutter cleaner claimed to have done some extra work, and therefore the bill would be substantially higher.

The gutter cleaner asked that the bill be paid in cash.

“The gutter cleaners were questioned by police about their questionable business practices and their apparent targeting of an elderly couple,” said Fisher.

“Residents are encouraged to get a written estimate before engaging the services of any contractor, especially one making unsolicited offers to perform work.”

Full Article & Source:
Bank teller foils scam attempt on seniors

Bill would crack down on caregivers who abuse the elderly

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State lawmakers are looking to close a loophole that allows caregivers who abused the elderly to keep their licenses to work after 5 Investigates exposed the problem last year in horrific cases of elder abuse.

5 Investigates found case after case where many certified nursing assistants who were criminally charged with abusing the elderly and admitted to their crimes were still licensed to work in the state.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) to address the problem was heard by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

In several cases, caregivers admitted they abused the elderly, but reached deals with the court that would allow the charges to be dismissed if they completed probation.

Since there was no guilty finding, the caregivers could keep their licenses.

Jehlen’s bill would allow the state to permanently suspend the licenses of caregivers who reach that type of deal with the courts and prevent them from working as caregivers ever again.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen

“On your station we saw examples that were appalling,” Jehlen told 5 Investigates. “And what happened when we filed the bill and that became known is that quite a few people wrote to us about their own experiences and their relatives' experiences.”

The bill would prevent a caregiver who is suspended due to allegations of abuse from working in any other caregiving capacity during that suspension.

It would also stop companies, including home health agencies, from hiring caregivers who appear on a state registry that tracks elder abuse cases.

Full Article & Source:
Bill would crack down on caregivers who abuse the elderly

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The System Of Court-Appointed Guardians Continues To Fail The Elderly

If you are elderly and haven’t legally arranged for someone to take care of things for you should you become incapacitated, a state court can give a total stranger complete control over your life savings, your home and even which medicines you are given. It’s a system that has led to a cottage industry of paid professional guardians managing the affairs of our elderly ― a role traditionally performed by a spouse, adult children or other close relatives or friends. And sadly it has often been abused.

The practice of a state court appointing a legal guardian to take over the financial and care-giving decisions for someone whose cognitive abilities have waned is a well-intention idea, but, as a recent New Yorker story illustrated, the result can be devastating. Case after case has come to light of elderly people being ripped off in what critics have called a “con game” that has led to “a silent epidemic of elder abuse.”

And the prognosis isn’t pretty. Despite investigative journalism, lobbying by multiple elder-care groups and even celebrity attention to the problem, little has changed to rid the guardianship process of its flaws. It’s a situation likely to worsen as baby boomers age, essentially presenting a greater pool of opportunities for unscrupulous guardians.

Pamela B. Teaster, director of the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech, told HuffPost that the current guardianship system needs better oversight ― and that the examples of abuse we see are likely just a fraction of what goes on. Multiple elderly advocacy platforms, including the National Council on Aging, agree that elder fraud and abuse are greatly under-reported.

“In most states around the country, it is easier to qualify as a guardian than it is to become a hairdresser,” Teaster told HuffPost. On top of that, “there are no sanctions when they serve poorly.”

Excluding the family member guardians, the ratio of protected person to guardian is way too high, she told HuffPost. She said Virginia has a guardian-to-ward ratio of 1 to 20. In Florida, it’s a 1-to-40 ratio, and the state is working to lower it to 1:20. But in a recent abuse case featured in The New Yorker, one Nevada guardian oversaw the care of about 400 wards. “Ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination,” Teaster told HuffPost.

She called the current guardianship system “a morass, a total mess.”

The powers given to guardians are often vast ― the ability to sell a person’s home and personal property, to enter into contracts on their behalf, to clear all medical treatments ― and yet there are no data on the outcomes of these arrangements or even how many of them there are, Teaster said.

State laws vary, and in most places the court records are sealed. A Government Accountability Office report noted that background checks and training for guardians vary by state. The GAO also noted that it couldn’t locate “a single website, federal agency, state or local entity, or any other organization that compiles comprehensive information on this issue.”

“It is unconscionable that we don’t have any data,” Teaster said, “when you think about the vast power given to a guardian. It is one of society’s most drastic interventions.”

The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, which advocates for guardianship reform, called the current system “a growing menace which feeds on greed.” The group criticized the judicial system for its complicity in usurping people’s liberties and property.

NASGA President Elaine Renoire said that it was too easy to make a person a ward and that “most courts aren’t monitoring or holding bad guardians accountable.”

“There is nowhere for wards or their families to go for help. The system becomes a menace because opportunists exploit loopholes and get rich at the expense and detriment of the very people they have been court-appointed to protect,” Renoire said.

Most guardianships start out with good intentions. A concerned relative or social worker asks a state Family Court to appoint a guardian for someone who can no longer take care of themselves because of age or mental or physical problems. If the person is deemed mentally incompetent, very often the family member or friend who brought the case to the court will be appointed a guardian. Sometimes the finding of incompetence is made without notifying the person being put under a guardian’s protection.

If a private guardian is appointed, that person is allowed to charge “reasonable” fees for services, although there’s no definition of what is considered “reasonable” in state law, noted the Las Vegas Journal-Review in a story about abuses in the Clark County guardianship program.

And that is one of the places where things can get dicey. For example, Nevada law requires paid private guardians to report to the court annually to show how they spent each ward’s money, but that doesn’t always get done, wrote the Review-Journal. Nobody checks the guardian’s actual billings unless someone complains.

According to the American Bar Association, “legal guardianship is a fiduciary relationship created between a person determined by a court to be incapacitated (the ward) and a person or organization deemed suitable to manage the ward’s personal care or finances.”

That’s the broad-brush version. In reality, there is little screening or oversight of guardians, as evidenced by the number of cases of abuse that come to light.

High-profile cases involving the abuse of guardianships regularly surface. In June 2003, The Washington Post published a series that found massive neglect and exploitation by court-appointed attorney guardians in the District of Columbia. About a year later, The Dallas Morning News turned the nation’s attention to how two men took control of a frail 87-year-old hospitalized woman as her daughter was out searching for a rehab facility for her. About a year after that, the Los Angeles Times took a look at more than 2,400 conservatorship cases and reported that “judges frequently overlooked incompetence, neglect and outright theft.” Most recently, a Nevada abuse case was spotlighted in The New Yorker, detailing how an elderly couple wound up becoming wards of a professional guardian who sold their home and possessions out from under them.

Congress has held numerous hearings and published reports on the problems of guardianship. A decade ago, in December 2007, the Special Committee on Aging released a report on guardianship of the elderly and called for the development of new care models.

And yet we are still seeing abuses.

Teaster says the system needs greater oversight. While you are waiting for that to happen, here are a few things that Eric Goldberg, a certified elder law attorney and co-founder of Goldberg Law Group, suggests:

Execute a comprehensive power of attorney that includes the ability of the person you choose to both manage your money if you become incapacitated and assume the role of your guardian if necessary. If a family member isn’t suitable or available, this can be a lawyer.

Execute a comprehensive health care power of attorney that allows your chosen representative to make all health care decisions if you are incapacitated.

 Review these documents often in regard to the age of your representative and any changes that may have occurred in that person’s life, such as a bankruptcy, illegal activity, divorce, lawsuits, fiscal irresponsibility or changes in your relationship.

Submit these documents to the appropriate parties before it becomes necessary. Ask banks and other financial institutions to examine the power of attorney and authorize it while you are still healthy. Ask if your bank has its own proprietary power of attorney. Ask doctors and local hospitals if the medical directives and health care power of attorney are acceptable.

And then do it all over again. Goldberg says it’s important to re-execute powers of attorney every few years. Despite federal and state law, many financial institutions claim that a power of attorney becomes stale after some arbitrary period of time. Having newer documents that reflect the same wishes as those contained in older documents is wise.

Keep originals in fireproof cabinets and PDF copies electronically. An attorney can also keep copies.

Full Article & Source:
The System Of Court-Appointed Guardians Continues To Fail The Elderly

Man's 'outrageous' abuse of mother nets 10 years in prison

Russell Carwile
URBANA — A Champaign County judge called an Urbana man’s abusive conduct toward his late mother “outrageous” before sentencing him to 10 years in prison.

“As far as he was concerned, (she) didn’t die fast enough,” Judge Tom Difanis said of Russell Carwile.

The 57-year-old was sentenced Friday for financial exploitation of an elderly person, having pleaded guilty to that in July. He admitted stealing more than $190,000 from his mother between November 2013 and Sept. 8, 2015, while he served as her power of attorney. The maximum he could have received was 15 years in prison.

It wasn’t until a welfare check by Champaign County sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 7, 2015, that the deplorable physical condition of his then-88-year-old mother was discovered.

Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Clifton had three deputies and a paramedic testify about what they saw at the woman’s mobile home in Urbana late on the afternoon of Labor Day 2015.

Sgt. Dave Sherrick and deputies Ted Nemecz and Stacy Corray described the woman as malnourished, dehydrated and covered in urine and feces that appeared to have been present for weeks.

Nemecz, responding to a welfare check phoned in by a neighbor, said he tried to get in via a sliding glass door but couldn’t get it open enough to enter.

Hearing the faint voice of an elderly woman as he called out, Nemecz said he climbed through a window into the home, which he said “smelled like an unclean public bathroom.”

He found the woman lying on a bed naked with a single cover, covered in excrement. He said she was blind, partially deaf, and asked him for water.

Nemecz called for an ambulance and while he and his fellow deputies were present, Carwile drove up to the house, appearing “agitated” and “not compliant.”

Sherrick said Carwile told the deputies in rather coarse terms that there was no need to summon an ambulance for his mother, who suffered from dementia. The son told deputies his mother had last seen a doctor seven months earlier and that he didn’t take her because there was nothing medical professionals could do for her.

A neighbor told deputies that Carwile usually spent the night in his mother’s home but left her alone for several hours during the day even though she was unable to get food or water for herself or get to a bathroom. Neighbors said Carwile locked the doors from the outside to prevent his mother from getting out, Sherrick recounted.

Sherrick identified pictures that showed the mother’s non-air-conditioned room and bathroom in horrible condition while Carwile’s bedroom and bathroom were relatively clean and cooled by a window air conditioner.

Sherrick said he also found a brown rope with two loops in it, two plastic-bag corners containing cocaine, and 11 guns and ammunition in Carwile’s bedroom.

Corray said he was informed by a nurse at Presence Covenant Medical Center that the woman was “extremely dehydrated, malnourished and had feces on her body” that had to be “scraped” off of her.

She also had an open wound on her leg with a bandage that hadn’t been changed in a long time.

Arrow Ambulance paramedic Michael Lynch said he saw maggots in the wound on closer inspection.

Carwile was arrested that day and charged with criminal abuse or neglect of an elderly person and unlawful use of weapons. After the woman’s death on Feb. 13, 2016, the more serious charge of financial exploitation of an elderly person was filed against him in March 2016.

Clifton said police learned after the woman’s death that, while acting as her power of attorney, Carwile took more than $190,000 of his mother’s money and used it to buy himself a home on East Main Street in Urbana.

Clifton urged Difanis to impose the 10-year sentence he agreed to ask for when Carwile pleaded guilty.

“This is the kind of offense that can and must be deterred,” the prosecutor said. “He could have easily taken her money and hired someone to care for her. Instead, he took the money for himself.”

“It shows a callousness, disregard and egotism that’s almost unmatched,” Clifton said.

Assistant Public Defender Tony Allegretti asked the judge to consider a lesser sentence, noting Carwile’s guilty plea, his agreement to repay his mother’s estate $190,350, and his poor health, which includes diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Carwile had an aggravated-battery conviction from 1978, three misdemeanor convictions after that and one for driving under the influence in 2007. He declined to say anything on his own behalf.

Carwile is eligible for day-for-day good time in prison. He’s been out on bond since the charges were initially filed.

“I think the Department of Corrections will take better care of him than he took of her,” Clifton said after the hearing.

Full Article & Source:
Man's 'outrageous' abuse of mother nets 10 years in prison

Workers laid off at now-closed Florida nursing home where 12 died

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(CNN)A Florida nursing home where a dozen patients died after Hurricane Irma knocked out power has closed and laid off its 245 employees, according to a notice to state officials.

The patients, between the ages of 57 and 99, died last month after The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills failed to evacuate them from the sweltering facility in the days after the storm, state officials said.

The nursing home informed state officials in a letter dated September 27 that the facility had closed seven days earlier and its employees were out of jobs.

"A 60-day notice could not be provided due to unforeseen business circumstances that occurred after the impact of hurricane Irma," the letter said.

The 245 workers included occupational, speech and physical therapists, nurses and dietary aids, according to the letter.

The exact causes of death have not been released, but a number of the 141 residents eventually evacuated were treated for heat-related issues.

The deaths are part of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Hollywood, Florida, police department. State and federal agencies are also conducting administrative investigations.

Nursing home residents were exposed to the heat after Hurricane Irma downed a tree that knocked out the transformer powering the air conditioning system. Many were moved into the hallways, next to fans and spot coolers.

Despite multiple calls between the nursing home and state authorities, the facility did not report that its patients were in danger or that they needed to be evacuated, according to a report last week by the office of Gov. Rick Scott.

Several families have filed lawsuits.

Full Article  & Source:
Workers laid off at now-closed Florida nursing home where 12 died

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

S 178… Probate is about to get far worse for families targeted

by Marti Oakley

While many are applauding the provisions of S. 178: Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017 I do not share this view.

Pay careful attention here to the word “ACT”. An ACT is something the government is going to do by force rather than by actual power granted to them in the Constitution. In this particular instance, congress is charging the DoJ with law making which is unconstitutional.

Those of us who have actually read the bill and have at least a modicum of understanding of how legislation actually works and affects us, know that this bill is going to cause irreparable harm not only to the elderly, but to those family members and others who have waged this battle against the growing human trafficking of the elderly by professional predators working in tandem with unethical attorney’s , corrupt probate administrators, Adult Protective Services agencies, and professional predators who prey on the elderly and others, and who make a parasitic living off the targeting of the elderly to profit themselves.

  • Did you see one word in this bill that addressed the issue of identity theft that results from being declared a ward of the state?

  • Is there one word about stopping the assumption of identity by the predators who now present themselves as the victim and begin bleeding the estate dry?

  • Was anything said about the resulting abuse, neglect and exploitation by professionals and agencies that results from this civil death? ( by declaring the living human being a “ward of the state”, the victim has suffered a civil death, equal in its legal consequences to natural death) You are dead in the law, but still breathing.

  • Was anything mentioned about holding these administrators liable for violating the rights of the targeted victim?

  • Did you see one word directing these probate tribunals to follow rules of evidence?

  • To cap fees?

  • To stop the predators from isolating the ward?

  • Anything about stopping chemical restraint to silence the victim?

  • Any sighting as criminal activity the actions by these predators who make their living stealing the lives of their victims for profit?

Are we really this ignorant?

This bill is not a “good start”. It will not benefit the public in any manner. The provisions in this bill clearly relieve both houses of congress from any responsibility they had, to rectify the ongoing predator based system of elder abuse and exploitation we know as “kidnap, isolate, medicate and steal the estate”, by professional predatory guardians and their cohorts in these inhumane crimes and members of the BAR Associations who participate for profit resulting from the continued trafficking of the elderly. 

This bill is clearly intended to target only the public, and all that will come of its future rules, regulations and statutes is that it will not apply to the professional predators in the system, but will apply (watch the careful wording they will use) only to possible family members who might abuse, or others in the community who might abuse the elderly. 

If this bill was supposed to be the catalyst for changing the system….why are the only references to this system listed as miscellaneous? While the remainder of the bill is a reiteration of standing state and federal laws against internet scams, wire fraud, etc.? 

Have we not been told repeatedly, that due to separation of powers that neither the judicial nor legislative branch can intervene? These are executive branch issues, meaning the president or your governor. 

What the bill does do, is to further empower the very agencies and agents that we have been battling, and adds several more to the list who will now be funded and empowered to prey on the elderly. 

Any state which receives block grants, is contracted to HHS on the Federal level. Each state has a memorandum of understanding which states the terms of the coming contract they agree to. This is followed by the formal contract and its accompanying funding…the block grant. In order to obtain your block grant, the state must follow federal guidelines and meet various standards which will now be legislated by the DOJ, a non-legislative body that is also directly connected to the system by virtue of their BAR Association. (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
S 178… Probate is about to get far worse for families targeted

There's a legal way for someone to take your home, your stuff, and your money — but everyone ignores the two documents that can help keep you safe

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No matter how old you are, you need a power of attorney form on file.

A bombshell report in the New Yorker detailed how one woman allegedly took control of strangers' financial and health decisions in Nevada.
• Experts say the case represents a nightmarish scenario that stemmed from a lack of judicial oversight.
• Two easily accessible legal forms — that don't require a lawyer to complete — can help prevent this type of abuse.
It could happen to anyone.

For 12 years, April Parks showed up at strangers' homes, court documents in hand, informing them they could no longer care for themselves, and that she would be taking over their financial and medical decision making.

Parks and her workers would identify these people through physicians' offices and rehabilitation centers, arrive unannounced, whisk them away, and take inventory of their possessions, according to a harrowing report from The New Yorker's Rachel Aviv. Parks is accused of selling their property, cars, and belongings, and transferring their cash to a bank account in her name. All the while billing them an hourly rate for her services.

But this alleged network wasn't comprised of burglars or kidnappers. Parks was a legal guardian, appointed by a judge to take care of over 400 people throughout her career, according to the New Yorker.

Now, she and three of her associates her lawyer, husband, and business partner have been indicted, facing a total of 270 counts on seven different felony charges.

Guardians are meant to make decisions for those who cannot care for themselves or their affairs, due to age, mental illness, or developmental disabilities. It's a role typically filled by family members or friends. But in rare instances when no one is available, or loved ones are deemed unfit, a court may appoint anyone who has completed the state's guardian qualification process, even if that person is a stranger.

In Parks' case, the scheme was allegedly carried out in such a way that the victims' relatives didn't know what was happening until it was too late.

April Parks guardian  
April Parks, pictured, is accused of exploiting the people she was was supposed to be protecting.  
KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas/Youtube
It truly represents a worst case scenario, Jenny Flom, a New Jersey attorney at Cole Schotz who focuses on guardianship actions, told Business Insider.

"The whole system isn't totally corrupt," Pamela Teaster, the director of Virginia Tech's Center for Gerontology, told Business Insider. "There are pockets of corruption, and when there are pockets of corruption it's a total mess and it is totally unconscionable."

The nationwide system was far more fraught with abuse a few decades ago. The Associated Press helped expose the "ailing system" of guardianship in the 1980s, Teaster said. Today, she said the laws surrounding guardianship vary by state, but are "pretty darn good," generally speaking.

In New Jersey, where Flom practices, she said there are certain safeguards in place. A person's relatives are always contacted early in the process. The court also requires certifications — including a diagnosis and prognosis — from either two physicians or a physician and a licensed psychologist, as well as detailed documentation of the person's assets. If a guardian is ultimately appointed, all financial accounts are monitored to ensure no monetary impropriety takes place.

Still, Teaster said prudent guardianship — regardless of whether the guardian is a stranger or related to the person — requires monitoring, which involves "more time and more money than is presently devoted to it."

Simple documents — like a power of attorney form and healthcare directive — can help you retain control, even if you are no longer able to care for yourself.

"Nobody needs to not go to sleep at night or lock their doors or think the judiciary is going to, with its long, swooping arm, take you," Teaster said.

The best way to protect yourself from experiencing similar mistreatment or abuse, according to Flom, is to make sure your estate planning documents are complete — and that means more than just a will. "Make sure your power of attorney and your healthcare directive are completed," Flom said.

Supreme court of nevada 
The Supreme Court of Nevada, the state where April Parks was operating. Wikimedia Commons
A power of attorney form is a legal document that gives one or more people access to your financial accounts and the ability to make decisions with your money when you can't. A health care directive does the same for medical decisions. Both forms, which vary by state, can be found for free online and completed without the help of an attorney — though having a lawyer review the forms can help ensure they are legally sound.

You can create your own power of attorney form with step-by-step instructions from LegalZoom, and make it official by having two people sign it as witnesses. Some states require the form to be notarized as well. AARP has free downloadable health care directive forms for each state. Keep a hard copy and a digital copy somewhere safe, and make sure your chosen caretaker knows where to find them.

It's especially crucial that you keep updating those two documents, to reflect changes over time. If your chosen caretaker is no longer willing or able, then you need to choose someone else and complete new forms.

According to AARP, more than half of Americans do not have have basic estate planning documents like a will or power of attorney in place. Among millennials, that number jumps to 78%.

If you haven't completed the documents, according to Flom, it could leave the court no choice. "If you need someone to make decisions for you at that point, you're stuck in probate court in New Jersey and there's a guardian being appointed over you."

Teaster said most guardians take on the role for the right reasons, but that more attention and resources should be devoted to the system in order to stamp out abuse.

"When it works well, people are safer," she said. "When it works badly, it's a draconian action that strips people of their rights with little due process and oversight."

Full Article & Source:
There's a legal way for someone to take your home, your stuff, and your money — but everyone ignores the two documents that can help keep you safe

Conference raises awareness of elder abuse

Adult Protective Services held the 10th annual Crimes Against the Elderly Conference Sept. 26 at the Region 19 Education Service Center.

About 650 people attended the free event, which included experts who spoke on how to protect seniors and disabled adults, white-collar crimes that target the elderly, guardianship abuse and mental health.

APS presented the Community Partner Award to Margie Resendes with Texas 211. She was honored for her dedication and service to protecting a vulnerable population.

Founding board members Mitch Ayala, Susana Reza and Mary Yanez were each awarded the Legacy Award.

Last year, APS validated 1,973 victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation in the El Paso area. However, four of five incidents of elder abuse are never reported to the authorities, according to APS.

Full Article & Source:
Conference raises awareness of elder abuse

Monday, October 9, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio with Marti Oakley: Abolishing Probate #3: Chris Forsyth & Judicial Integrity Project

Hosted by Marti Oakley and including Luanne Fleming, Robin Austin and Brian Kinter.

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

Abolishing Probate #3: Our guest will be Chris Forsyth of the Judicial Integrity

"In the state of Colorado the discipline commission dismisses 97% of complaints against judges. That’s because our Supreme Court writes the rules for the commission and the executive director of the commission reports to the Supreme Court. Bad judges have little to worry about in Colorado.

Although the American Bar Association and American Judicature Society recommend public judicial discipline proceedings, Colorado’s system is dark. 35 states have public judicial discipline proceedings because it creates public trust. But in Colorado it’s actually harder to obtain documents about a judge than any other public servant.

Why? Because the judges made their own rules about their records and the legislature let the judges get away with it.

There are other issues that need to be addressed in Colorado's judicial branch as well. From 'retired' unaccountable judges still serving on the bench to the judicial branch excepting itself from Colorado's Open Records Act, we have a lot of work to do to improve the system.

And that's not even mentioning our state court administrator's office that has an annual budget that exceeds 500 million dollars. It's run by an unelected official who's already misled the legislature to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars." against court embezzlement unethical standards f.a.c.e.u.s.

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

Miami attorney disbarred following gross negligence allegations in guardianship cases

Miami attorney Angela Marie Abell, also known as Angela Hill, has been disbarred following a Aug. 24 Florida Supreme Court order following allegations of gross negligence in guardianship cases and misappropriation of client funds.

The state high court issued its two-page order of disciplinary revocation, tantamount to disbarment, with leave to seek readmission after five years. The Florida State Bar announced the discipline and the supreme court's order Sept. 27.

Abell was already suspended following a state high court order issued July 13, which made her disciplinary revocation effective immediately, according to the August high court order.

Abell also was ordered to pay $3,457 in costs, according the high court's order.

In Florida court orders are not final until after time to file a rehearing motion expires. Attorneys disbarred in the state may not reapply for admission for five years. Even then they must pass through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.

Abell was admitted to the bar in Florida on Jan. 22, 1988, according to her profile at the state bar website. Abell had no other discipline before the state bar for at least 10 years, according to his profile.

On June 21, the state bar filed a petition for emergency suspension against Abell regarding allegations concerning seven minor guardianship cases and two probate cases, all connected, that she was handling in Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit, according to a petition filed July 11 with the state high court. All of the guardianship cases stemmed from an automobile accident that left the children, ages 3 months to 8 years, severely injured, according to the petition. All of the cases began in 1997 and all of the children came of age with some of the cases remaining open, according to the petition.

Abell failed to terminate the open guardianship proceedings or convert the guardianships into adult proceedings and she allegedly "exhibited gross negligence in the execution of her duties and responsibilities as guardian," the petition said. A bar audit revealed at least $7,123 of misappropriated client funds and about $134,831 "of unsubstantiated transfers" from the client trust account to her checking account, according to the petition.

Full Article & Source:
Miami attorney disbarred following gross negligence allegations in guardianship cases

Daughter of Deceased Guardianship Victim, Al Katz, Needs Help!

See Also:
NASGA:  Al Katz, Indiana/Florida Victim

Making Encounters With Police Officers Safer for People With Disabilities

Rob Zink, an officer with the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota
An Op-Ed essay last month about the fraught encounter between an Arizona teenager with autism, Connor Leibel, and a police officer inspired thoughtful comments, so we invited the author, Steve Silberman, to address a few in this follow-up. Comments have been edited for clarity and length.

Hen3ry in Westchester County, N.Y.: It’s not only police officers who need to understand how autistic people behave. Plenty of “normal” people should as well. What I’ve seen is this: People find young handicapped children adorable or great but once those children grow into tweens, teens and young adulthood they run from them. They also tend to react badly to developmentally handicapped adults and read various things into their behavior that aren’t there.

A. I agree completely. This is a problem for people with many types of disabilities, in part because fund-raising organizations have historically put cute kids front and center to tug at donors’ heartstrings, going all the way back to Jerry Lewis’s annual Labor Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association featuring “Jerry’s kids.” Portraying disabled people as infantile, dependent and incapable of making their own decisions adds to stigma and fear, while sidelining the needs of disabled adults for suitable accommodations in employment, housing and health care in favor of an often elusive search for a cure.

Even profoundly disabled adults (including those often described in the press as “wheelchair-bound”) can take a very active role in public life, as evidenced by the bold protests mounted last week in Washington against the Republican Party’s proposed cuts to Medicaid by grass-roots groups like Adapt.

For decades, autism was defined by the psychiatric establishment as a form of childhood psychosis akin to schizophrenia, and teenagers and adults in this country were unlikely to receive a diagnosis of autism until the introduction of the concept of Asperger’s syndrome in the early 1990s.

Furthermore, for most of the 20th century, the recommended course of treatment for autism was lifelong institutionalization, largely because psychiatrists mistakenly believed that autism was caused by cold and unloving “refrigerator mothers.” Removing the child from the allegedly toxic family environment was considered therapeutic, while parents were told that they should quietly remove their son’s or daughter’s pictures from the family photo albums and “move on.” Thus the first two generations of children with autism diagnoses disappeared behind the walls of state-run institutions as they grew into adolescence and adulthood.

The fear-mongering messaging of parent-run advocacy organizations like Autism Speaks — such as a retracted 2009 video called “I Am Autism,” which featured images of children being stalked through playgrounds by a disembodied threat that works “faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined” — hasn’t helped to frame autism as what it truly is for a vast majority of those affected: a chronic condition that requires accommodations and support for life. The relentless focus on children also skews research priorities worldwide, favoring studies that focus on kids while neglecting the needs of adults, which include learning how to advocate for themselves once their parents are no longer alive.

Fortunately, that’s starting to change in response to criticism from autistic-run groups like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autism Women’s Network. In 2015, Autism Speaks appointed two autistic self-advocates to its board, which is a small step in the right direction. Autistic people should play prominent decision-making roles in any organization that claims to represent them.

From KidsDoc in New York: This article highlights the challenges special-needs people face daily. By no means do only autistic people face these difficulties. Imagine a hearing-impaired person not “responding” to an officer’s command. The real issue is not lack of training but lack of empathy and an overwhelming deference to law enforcement in this country. If you are a person of color and autistic, as many of my patients are, it is scary. The Americans With Disabilities Act mandates all kinds of accommodations, but it cannot mandate empathy.

A. You’re absolutely right that these problems are not limited to interactions between autistic people and the police. Last month in Oklahoma City, Madgiel Sanchez, a deaf Hispanic man who carried a short pipe that he used to communicate, was fatally shot by an officer outside his home as his young neighbor shouted, “Don’t kill him, he’s deaf.”

This killing is part of a larger pattern of law enforcement failing to uphold the mandates of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires the government to provide “effective communication,” “reasonable accommodation” and equal access to services for all disabled people. An online log of alleged incidents of discrimination by police officers, compiled by a nonprofit organization called Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf, contains troubling descriptions of officers intimidating, tackling, handcuffing and shooting deaf and hard-of-hearing people while failing to provide alternative means of communication, such as American Sign Language interpreters.

This situation is even more dire for disabled people of color. Starting in 2010, a black teenager with autism named Reginald Latson, convicted of assaulting a police officer, endured a hellish four-year journey through the criminal justice system in Virginia, including stints in solitary confinement. The county prosecutor who handled the case dismissed the relevance of his diagnosis, determined to prove that the teenager was motivated by “racial hate” and “hate for law enforcement.” (Mr. Latson was transferred to a secure treatment facility in Florida after being granted a conditional pardon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2015.)

Cases like Mr. Latson’s are not isolated incidents but a systemic problem. Last February, a jury exonerated police officers of wrongdoing in the case of Tario Anderson, a black autistic man who was taking a walk on Christmas Eve in 2014 when officers responding to a report of gunshots in the neighborhood shocked him with a Taser and arrested him. “These are police officers,” Mr. Anderson’s mother, Carolyn, said after the verdict. “We don’t stand a chance, especially when you’re poor and black.”

You’re also right that laws like the A.D.A. can’t mandate empathy, and I agree that a pervasive lack of empathy for people with disabilities is one of the most serious challenges that we face as a society. The photographs of disabled activists being arrested last week for protesting potential cuts to Medicaid should shock the conscience and motivate our congressional representatives to develop a bipartisan approach to health care that doesn’t condemn disabled people to lives of misery and poverty. In a sense, however, it’s not the job of laws like the A.D.A. to mandate empathy. It’s their job to provide people with disabilities with the means to seek legal recourse when they are discriminated against. The A.D.A. is like any other civil-rights law in that way.

Jonathan Baker in New York City: It was harrowing watching the video of Connor Leibel’s encounter with the police officer because I was expecting the worst possible outcome. But the boy’s caretaker wisely defused the situation, carefully and politely explaining the boy’s medical condition. The policeman was receptive and willing to adjust to that reality. It was a misunderstanding.

A. I agree that Connor’s caretaker, Diane Craglow, handled a frightening situation with calm, grace, efficiency and good humor. One thing that struck me on reviewing the video was how many times Ms. Craglow said, “I’m sorry,” to Officer David Grossman, as if any of the events that had transpired were her or Connor’s fault. In fact, they’d done nothing wrong.

But I also don’t blame Officer Grossman for overreacting to Connor’s behavior. I blame the kind of institutionalized neglect that puts officers on the street without the training that would enable them to recognize one of the most common ways that people with autism soothe themselves in tense situations: “stimming,” the repetitive movements that Connor was making that made the officer suspicious.

Stimming and unusual movements are Autism 101, so to speak — they’re among the first behaviors you learn to recognize by observing people on the spectrum. Given how common autism is (1 in 68 schoolchildren are on the spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this is like putting cops on the beat who are unable to tell the difference between a drunken driver and a driver navigating through an unfamiliar neighborhood. It’s not fair to the policemen, and it’s not fair to the disabled people they encounter.

These misunderstandings have serious consequences. The traumatic memories of this incident have had a lasting effect on Connor’s ability to feel secure in public, Ms. Craglow says. Connor has become fearful of men in general, and when Connor’s grandfather offered to shake his hand recently, the boy replied, “Will you hurt me?” Ms. Craglow also says that she can hear Connor verbally rehearsing the incident to himself, as autistic people often do, saying: “You pushed me into a tree. You shouldn’t have done that. That wasn’t nice.”

Thomas Zaslavsky in Binghamton, N.Y.: There’s a bigger question here, behind the autism question: Why are the police confrontational? Why do they, as described here, provoke intensification of difficult situations? Why are they seeking out signs of guilt or of incipient violence? Behind that, why are we training them that way? Why are we providing them with face masks, or armored cars with mounted machine guns? What happened to community policing, when the police are part of the community, not enemies?

A. I think you’re right that the militarization of local law enforcement — which has accelerated under the Trump administration — increases the temptation for the police to use excessive force, particularly when they confront the unknown. That’s why I believe programs to familiarize police with the challenges that people with disabilities face are so important. A new law in Florida that requires police departments to provide autism training for law enforcement officers took effect this week. Several programs are already in place to reduce the risk of interactions between law enforcement and people with disabilities escalating into traumatic incidents. One of the best is the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability, run by the Arc, one of the oldest and largest disability-rights organizations in the United States. The center provides an extensive list of resources for local governments, law enforcement officers, lawyers and advocates for the disabled seeking to address this problem. “We get hundreds of calls a year about this,” said Sarah Suniti Bal, the public relations director of the Arc. “It’s a very serious problem that deserves much more media attention.”

Another resource available to law enforcement is the Ruttenberg Autism Center, which provides training on autism to police departments. The main challenge for the center, said its chief executive, David M. Maola, is “convincing departments that this is something in which they should invest.”

Training programs alone, however, may not be enough to enable disabled people and their families to feel safe in interactions with law enforcement. A disability-rights activist, Kerima Çevik, the mother of a nonspeaking teenager named Mustafa, proposes the establishment of a 911-type number dedicated to handling mental-health emergencies, with community crisis-response teams at the ready rather than police officers.

In my own thinking, I keep coming back to something that Ms. Craglow said to me in the wake of Officer Grossman’s interaction with Connor. “I had to try to calm the officer down,” she recalled. “Isn’t that his job?”

Full Article & Source:
Making Encounters With Police Officers Safer for People With Disabilities