Thursday, April 22, 2010
C.A.: Man’s Sexual Abuse of Daughters Justifies Detention of Son
By Steven M. Ellis, Staff Writer
This district’s Court of Appeal has ruled that a man’s alleged sexual abuse of his 2-year-old son’s 12- and 14-year-old half-sisters supported a finding that the boy was also at risk.
Div. Eight held Tuesday that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge D. Zeke Zeidler did not err in ordering the child a dependent of the court and declining to release him to his father.
Writing for the appellate court, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman, sitting by assignment, said precedent supported a conclusion that “aberrant sexual behavior by a parent places the victim’s siblings who remain in the home at risk of aberrant sexual behavior.”
The boy, identified as “Andy,” and his four half-siblings were detained in January 2009 after police received a child abuse report from the other children’s father indicating that the boy’s father, identified as “A.G.,” fondled and exposed himself to the two eldest children, among other acts.
The Department of Children and Family Services brought a dependency petition contending the sexual abuse by A.G., as well as the children’s mother’s alleged pressure on the girls to recant, placed the children “at risk of physical and emotional harm, damage, sexual abuse, danger and failure to protect.”
Department workers reported that the mother told them that she thought the girls were lying and that their father was trying to get A.G. out of the house in order to control her.
The department had been supervising the family at the time of the alleged abuse under a voluntary family maintenance program to ensure adequate and appropriate parenting by the children’s mother. A.G. was not a part of the program because the children and their mother reported he did not live in the home and only had visits with his son, but it was later discovered that he did live there.
A.G. denied the allegations and challenged his son’s detention. However, the 12- and 14-year-old half-sisters gave testimony as to the alleged abuse and Zeidler, finding them credible, ordered Andy a dependent and declined to release him. Zeidler also ordered A.G. to attend sexual abuse counseling for perpetrators.
On appeal, A.G. argued that evidence showing he sexually abused Andy’s half-sisters was not sufficient to show that the boy was at substantial risk of sexual abuse since there was no evidence “of suspicious contact between [father] and his son…or between [father] and any juvenile or adult male.”
Lichtman, however, referred to a 2006 opinion by this district’s Div. Three in In re P.A. 144 Cal.App.4th 1339, which in turn cited that division’s opinion in In re Karen R. (2001) 95 Cal.App.4th 84, and concluded that a parent’s aberrant sexual behavior towards one child puts siblings in the home at risk.
In both cases, the Court of Appeal affirmed rulings by Zeidler that evidence supporting a finding that a father molested a daughter supported a finding that a son was at substantial risk of sexual abuse.
Lichtman noted that while Andy may have been too young to be cognizant of his father’s alleged behavior, it occurred while the boy was in the same room. The judge also pointed out that A.G. allegedly used Andy to get one of the girls to approach him before exposing himself.
“This evinces, at best, a total lack of concern for whether Andy might observe his aberrant sexual behavior,” the judge wrote.
Lichtman further, in a footnote, flatly rejected as “without merit” A.G.’s claim that his case plan should be revised to omit sexual abuse counseling for perpetrators.
Presiding Justice Tricia A. Bigelow and Justice Laurence D. Rubin joined Lichtman in his opinion.
The case is In re Andy G., B215772.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company