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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Legal Witch Hunts & Mad Hatters

By Thornton Crowe

Last Tuesday morning, in Wicomico County’s Circuit Court, Dove Pointe’s Director Donald Hackett was demonstratively absent as his former employee, Amy Francois, faced criminal misdemeanor charges; neglect of a minor (Statute Code CR.3.602.1.(b)). We all remember the inciting incident that happened over a year ago June at Leonard’s Mill Pond when a special needs child, Jyrah Brown, in the organization’s summer program, passed away days after he was found face down in the water.

Situations such as this always incites an urgency to ‘hold someone (anyone) accountable’ for such an unthinkable tragedy. In this case, the wrong ‘someone’ was put on trial and while Francois was acquitted because the State failed to meet the intent standard, she will live with this experience the rest of her life and the heartbroken Brown family have yet to see justice served for Jyrah’s death.

In reality, it’s Dove Pointe’s upper management, not Francois, whom bears the criminal negligence charge because it was their laxity that set the stage for this catastrophe to unfold. Yet, no upper management from the organization was present in Tuesday’s proceeding.

This leaves one to question why the State has not gone after Dove Pointe or its administrators, the ones ultimately responsible as they knowing put two severely special needs children with one caregiver who lacked the training to handle such a task. To date, no civil suit has been filed against the organization either. The question here is, why?

Are we seeing a two-tier justice system in play right here on the Shore?

We’re always told Dove Pointe is a great asset to our community, but how can they be when they allow their former employee to go through this ordeal without so much as an obligatory appearance. Of course, some could argue Hackett wants to distance his association from this event – perhaps in the hopes of not suffering scrutiny. However, one must wonder what kind of positive influence he has on Salisbury when his management threw their employee under the proverbial bus, knowing she was far from being a decision and/or policy maker.

Additionally, why would the State choose to go after the weakest link when all directives made, were far beyond her scope of influence and didn’t meet the statutory standards to secure a criminal conviction? This fact was brought to the State’s attention late June in a Dismissal Motion filed by Francois’s attorney, Luke Rommel. By not thinking through their stance to any legal or logical conclusion, the State Attorney's office not only set the victim’s family up for an imminent disappointment, it also needlessly wasted taxpayers’ money.

Did the State Attorney’s Office create more victims?

At its bare essence, the only thing Francois did was go to work that fateful day and do what she was told to do. Is this mundane activity now a reason to be threatened with a five-year prison sentence? If so, we’re all in legal peril every time we go to work!

Even though she was completely exonerated of any wrongdoing, Francois, a woman in her twenties, will live with future consequences as a result. Therefore, does she now have an excellent case against the State Attorney’s office for wrongful prosecution?

What happened to judicial duty and due diligence? If we still have any semblance of said responsibility in our jurisprudence, Dove Pointe should be next to face repercussions for their hand in this senseless death!

Only time will tell…


JoeAlbero said...

Once again, excellent article. For once, someone, (SBYNews) once again calls out the BS in the system. Were these BOGUS charges against the weakest link. I immediately thought, drain this young woman's bank account, (probably for life) to defend herself AND the taxpayers for trying a case that should have been directed at the upper powers instead? What would be nice is for an honorable attorney stand up and take on her case, BECAUSE IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Not for the money. Times will tell.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out too the Brown family for their heartbreaking loss. No family should have to go through losing a child. Even with my sympathy to them, the fact the State continued to press forward with this case was incomprehensible and flat out wrong on so many levels they can't be counted. They really did take this family for a losing ride not thinking about their feelings at all. If the lawyers at our State Attorney office don't know the laws and application, why are they even there. How many other families have been needlessly drug through this process only to find they had the wrong person? Shameless.

Anonymous said...

On its face, Francois may have grounds to sue Dove Pointe for failing to provide adequate training.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the person in charge of her or the director should be on trial for criminal charges not the flunky. What a waste of time and money!

Anonymous said...

State Regulations mandate certain 'MINIMUM' levels of supervision in programs such as the one in which Jyrah was receiving services and of which Ms. Fransois was an employee. In no way does 'MINIMUM' = 'Safe' in many circumstances. Upper management at this facility- Dove Pointe - lives by the $$$$'s that are Lorded over by the CFO Parks.

Ms. Francois, as Mr. Crowe and commentors have pointed out, had no say in level of supervision...this would be dictated by mandated minimums as defined in COMAR and further dictated by administration in determining levels of safety for any outing such as the one in question. In any case, an outing such as this of which Jyrah was a part, a huge consideration should have been given to the environment in which it was occurring. Water activities present some inherent risks that can be ameliorated relatively easily with adequate and safe supervision provided by those in charge. In this case those in charge did not include Ms. Francois. Good bet is that if she had refused the assignment on the grounds that she did not feel it was safe...she would have been discharged on the spot.

Mr. Crowe is dead on with his commentary. One can only hope that Jyrah's family as well as Ms. Francois can eventually see justice served by holding the party or parties truly accountable in this unfortunate situation.

Anonymous said...

By the way, a very well thought out and well written article Mr. Crowe

Anonymous said...

Is this Hackett guy somehow involved with the good ole' boys because things like this happening to other agencies wouldn't get this much silence. After the initial reporting, other media here have not covered it at all. With a child involved I would think the media would be at the trial or at least report on the ruling. I didn't even know there was anyone even charged until yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Hackett + Rotary Club

Connect the dots now!

Anonymous said...

Makes perfect sense now 157. Thanks. Didn't know that info.

Anonymous said...

Has Rotary meetings and breakfast there every Wednesday morning taking up all the parking for clients and staff coming into work

Anonymous said...

the child that drowned was completely the fault of Dove Pointe they are a regulated program and did not report the staff for clearances ask for a Public Info Doc from Office of Child Care its all in there ..the Office filed a report with the noncompliance and reported the violations and Dove Pointe is being sued for negligence and it is not being reported. 410.713.3430 is the number for Office of Child Care in Wicomico County call you can find out everything you need