Psych Crime Reporter

April 5, 2011

Wife of psychotherapist Howard Vidaver is divorcing him for “acts of adultery and sodomy” with female patients

Patients came to him in their darkest hours, going through divorce, struggling with substance abuse, perhaps grieving over the loss of a loved one. But while some call Albemarle County social worker Howard Vidaver a therapist of rare talent and insight, court documents suggest he has been betraying one of the bedrock rules of his profession by engaging in sexual contact with patients. If true, the allegations suggest that he violated therapist/patient trust– and that it happened after he had already been disciplined by the state licensing board for similar behavior.

In a divorce complaint filed last November in Albemarle County Circuit Court, Vidaver’s wife, Laurie Vidaver, alleges her husband “engaged in acts of adultery and sodomy” with multiple female patients at various locations, including in his Charlottesville office, for more than 15 years.

“It’s devastating,” says Laurie Vidaver, reached by phone. “Several families have been torn apart by this.”

According to experts, it’s a serious problem. A 1991 study of 958 patients who had been sexually involved with a therapist found that about 90 percent of those patients were harmed by the experience– with about 11 percent requiring hospitalization, 14 percent attempting suicide, and one percent committing suicide.

Of those harmed, only 17 percent fully recovered, according to the study by Kenneth Pope and Valerie Vetter.

Currently, 23 states make sexual contact between patient and therapist an imprisonable criminal offense. Virginia is not one of them.

Client A

Since 1980, Howard S. Vidaver has been licensed to practice social work in Virginia. But that’s not to say he’s always been in good standing with the Virginia Department of Health Professions, which oversees the various counseling professions.

In April 2007, according to public disciplinary records, Vidaver was placed on supervised probation by the Board after he admitted to having sex with someone listed only as “Client A” over a period of three years, from 1999 to 2002. The acts allegedly occurred in his office.

The state responded by prohibiting Vidaver from treating individual female clients for a period of two years, although he was permitted to continue seeing couples. As part of his rehabilitation in the profession, he was required to meet with an approved supervisor once a month with an emphasis on some of the most challenging aspects of therapist/client relationships, including boundary issues and the topic of “transference.”

Transferring the feeling

While many modern practioners eschew some of the teachings of the famed Austrian psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud, one of his concepts still widely embraced is “transference,” a process by which a patient redirects personal feelings onto the therapist. While those feelings can include anger or jealousy, often they’re feelings of being in love– and a therapist must be vigilant, says local clinical psychologist Sherry Kraft.

“There is a vulnerability that is always a potential in these relationships,” says Kraft, citing in particular the risk to patients who may already be feeling lonely or isolated. The therapist, she explains, is “a person whom you see regularly, who devotes their entire attention to you, who knows things about you that you have not been comfortable sharing with the outside world and sometimes even with family members.”

Such close feelings, however, must not be mistaken for a personal relationship.

“The intimacy there is somewhat artificial,” says Kraft. “It’s a professional relationship.”

Or should be.

Problems can arise, Kraft says, if the therapist fails to recognize and appropriately deal with the feelings. Ethics codes of organizations such as the American Psychological Association require a therapist to immediately refer the patient to another practitioner if they recognize their own version of those feelings: “countertransference.”

Trouble can begin when a therapist fails to recognize countertransference, and the private nature of the therapist/patient interaction, Kraft says, increases the risk of unethical behavior.

“When you go to a doctor’s office, there’s a nurse there to protect the doctor against some of these issues,” explains Kraft. “In therapy, there’s no one else there.”

When a transgression is reported and verified in Virginia, the professional sanction is often “supervised probation.” But that supervision comes in the form of private meetings between the therapist and someone appointed by the licensing agency. The therapist can continue to see his patients alone, an opportunity to continue the behavior.

And that, according to Laurie Vidaver’s November 10 divorce complaint, seems to be what happened with her husband.

Back in practice

When the Virginia Board of Social Work reinstated Vidaver’s full unrestricted license in June 2009, a letter attested that he had complied with the terms of his two-year probation and closed with kind words.

“The board wishes you well in your future endeavors,” wrote Patricia Larimer, deputy executive director of the Board.

According to the divorce filing, however, at least some of his future endeavors remained problematic. The “adultery/sodomy” that his wife alleges in her complaint began in 1995 and “continues to this day.”

While patient records are confidential, the divorce filing takes the unusual step of naming one female client with whom Vidaver allegedly has had repeated sexual contact.

Laurie Vidaver and her attorney, Chris Smith, declined to say how they learned so much about the alleged conduct, but Hook legal analyst David Heilberg says he believes they must have evidence to back up the claim made in their legal complaint.

“I wouldn’t put that out there unless I was quite certain,” says Heilberg.

Reached for comment, the client– whom the Hook is not naming in keeping with its policy regarding victims of alleged sexual assault or abuse– confirmed that an investigation is under way but declined further comment. Vidaver did not return a reporter’s call.

And Vidaver’s attorney, Ron Tweel, noting that the social worker would not be commenting, declines to add anything. But in his court-filed response to the allegations, Vidaver pleads the Fifth Amendment, the part of the Bill of Rights that protects individuals from testifying against themselves.

A reporter was able, however, to make contact with two of Vidaver’s former clients (the reporter, who saw him, quite uneventfully, for just a single session about two years ago, is also a former client).

“He was the third therapist we saw, and he was insightful in a way that the other therapists were not,” says one former patient. Requesting anonymity, she says she met with Vidaver for treatment over several years both in individual and in couple’s counseling. “He made a real difference in our lives,” she adds.

Another former patient, calling Vidaver “gifted,” says they worked out a variety of personal problems over several years prior to 2007. Learning of the latest allegations, however, she says she believes there were times he pushed ethical boundaries.

“He cried on a couple of occasions,” she recalls, describing an emotional involvement which felt “almost like I had a relationship with him, like he was a player in my life.” During another session, she says, Vidaver asked if she’d chosen her outfit specifically for him. “He didn’t maintain the professional distance I would have expected,” she says.

As for Larimer, the Board member who wished Vidaver well upon closing the state’s disciplinary case, she says she can’t comment, asserting that any investigation cannot be discussed until it’s complete.

The policy, while protecting therapists who may have been falsely accused, can leave current and prospective patients unaware that the therapist they’re seeing may have engaged in unethical behavior.

And that worries Jan Wohlberg, founder of TELL, the Therapy Exploitation Link Line, a website that supports victims of therapy abuse. Noting the 15-year span of the new allegations and the November filing of the divorce complaint, Wohlberg says that patient safety demands a prompt response.

“I think 90 days is enough to complete an investigation,” she says.

While noting the right of accused therapists to due process, Wohlberg is one activist eager to help victims with a problem that’s more widespread than some realize.

A 1995 paper published in the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy claims that while patient/therapist sexual contact is already considered a punishable ethical breach by all major oversight organizations, seven to 10 percent of male therapists and one to three percent of female therapists have engaged in it.

“We get about 41,000 individual visitors to our website each year,” says Wohlberg, “and our website is not even that easy to find.”

A former professor at Boston University, Wohlberg has dedicated much of the last three decades to helping victims, and she says the effects of such behavior can be “horrendous.”

She has reason to know.

In 1972, at the age of 31 and with two young children, she lost her husband to a workplace murder. Soon after, she began grief and depression treatment with a psychiatrist she had previously consulted.

“He manipulated me,” she says, and the two ended up having sex in his office during her scheduled sessions.

“He was charging my insurance, and I was paying him,” notes Wohlberg, pointing out the potential insurance fraud (although he was never charged with a criminal offense).

She reported the errant therapist, but she says the ensuing investigation took more than two years. And after the Massachusetts medical board stripped him of his license to practice in that state and ordered him to reimburse her, Wohlberg says, the man moved to California and set up shop.

In the mid-1980s, Wohlberg shared her story with a similarly abused friend and, along with several other victims of alleged therapy abuse, they founded TELL in an effort to provide information and support.

The main message that she and TELL’s dozen volunteers from around the world impart: “Sex is not a part of therapy,” she says. “You could be a prostitute, naked and begging for sex, and it’s still the therapist’s responsibility to set boundaries.”

Illegal or just unethical?

Even if it’s widely accepted that therapists shouldn’t have sexual contact with their patients, should it be illegal? Clinical psychologist Gary Schoener says yes.

“It’s criminal sexual conduct,” says Schoener, a nationally renowned expert in therapy sexual abuse who notes that 23 states already have laws on the books, and 22 make it a felony.

“It’s rape, and the reason is the nature of the relationship,” says Schoener. “The ability to manipulate is extraordinary. They know your secrets.”

He says the emotional intimacy is way too deep and the power differential way too lopsided to portray it as two consenting adults.

“You can’t have valid consent,” says Schoener, “because of the distortion in the mind of the client through transference.”

As for any notion that only “weak” people can be manipulated, Schoener recalls a case in which the legal counsel for a Fortune 500 company was frequently excusing himself from important meetings to call his female therapist, with whom he was having sex.

“He got to the point where he was getting advice from her about what to tell the company’s executives,” says Schoener, who says he has also assisted corporate bosses and judges who’ve been victimized.

“These are people who are high-powered in the rest of their lives,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean that in that relationship you can’t be controlled.”

If Schoener is firmly in favor of criminalization, TELL’s Wohlberg says she’s less eager to jail offenders.

“My number-one concern is for victims,” she says. “People who’ve been victimized are often very confused about their feelings towards the perpetrator. I worry, given the ambivalence that most victims have, that criminalizing will drive it further underground.”

“The prosecutor can’t bring a criminal case without a victim’s cooperation,” Schoener responds, adding that “offering victims more options is always beneficial.”

Could therapist/client sexual contact be criminalized in Virginia? Delegate David Toscano did not return a reporter’s call, and Delegate Rob Bell says no one has approached him.

“I’d be willing to consider it,” says Bell, posing various questions about how a criminal offense might be defined.

Would it refer only to intercourse? Would it apply to all counselors, even those who aren’t licensed? How long after treatment terminates would sexual contact between the therapist and former patient be criminalized? And, Bell asks, is it even necessary– could existing laws protect patients?

Schoener says that states that criminalize such conduct limit it to intercourse between a therapist and any patient and generally define it as occurring within two years of termination of the treatment. He says that other criminal laws can’t protect therapy clients– unless they’re minors or mentally incompetent.

“There was one case,” says Schoener, “where the therapist terminated therapy, and then the two of them immediately drove to a hotel.”

While Schoener favors felony charges and permanent loss of their license for many therapist offenders, especially repeat offenders, he says each case deserves individual scrutiny. There are times, he says, when the therapist should be rehabilitated– such as one he saw suffering through a personal crisis and depression.

“His life was caving in,” says Schoener, “and he became enamored of a client. In one session with her, he kissed her, hugged her, touched her breast, then pulled himself off, terminated treatment, and reported himself.” (The therapist received treatment, abided by his sanctions, and was able to return to practice, Schoener says, in a healthier frame of mind.)

Unfortunately, he says, such one-time offenders aren’t as frequent as the serial predators– and even in serial cases, the severity of the offenses can range widely.

For decades, Northern Virginia psychiatrist Martin Stein abused his patients, sexually and by overprescribing medications, and also engaged in bizarre and unapproved treatments that resulted in false recollections of past sexual abuse by family members. As detailed in several reports in the Washington Post (and noted in the Hook’s October 16, 2003, cover story), one patient died of a prescription drug overdose, and others suffered brain damage from the dozen or more medications Stein had pushed.

Most cases of therapist abuse, however, are far less dramatic even as they devastate lives.

Moving past abuse

If a person has been victimized by a therapist, the last thing they may want is to find another therapist. But according to TELL’s Wohlberg, that’s exactly what must happen.

“It’s critical to find an ethical therapist who can help you recover,” she says, noting that the majority of licensed professionals have not transgressed. Understanding that it is never the patient’s fault is also critical not only for the victim’s recovery, but also for anyone else who may have been harmed– such as a patient’s spouse.

Schoener says he explained to one man devastated by his wife’s sexual involvement with her therapist: “It’s not an affair; your wife is the victim of a felony.”

Even in states like Virginia, which don’t criminalize the practice, the damage to victims and their families can be severe.

“We have people who’ve killed themselves,” says Schoener.

Laurie Vidaver says she understands those consequences and says she too struggled after her husband’s earlier transgression with Client A– something she believed had been a one-time thing.

“I was hoping for the best,” she says,”trying to keep my family together.”

Faced with evidence that her husband’s behavior continued, she says she felt she had no choice but to file for divorce.

“It’s totally unethical,” she says. “It’s victimizing people and taking advantage of vulnerable people who see him for help.”

As for the former patient who recalled Vidaver shedding tears during appointments, she says she finds the allegations against her former therapist “revolting,” but she notes that they reinforce at least one of the important lessons he imparted during couples counseling sessions for her and her now ex-husband.

“He taught us about ‘duality,’” she says. “It’s the idea that two things can be true about a person.”

The latest allegations against Vidaver, she says, suggest “duality” is in play in his own life.

“He can be a brilliant therapist,” she says, “and also be a deeply flawed individual.”

Source: Courteney Stuart, “Broken trust: Sex allegations against therapist prompt investigation,” The Hook (Charlottesville, VA), April 4, 2011.

April 4, 2011

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” says owner of anger management counseling service that treated accused murder Steven Zinda

Filed under: anger management,Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:46 am
Tags: , ,

It has been acknowledged for some time that the mental health profession is unable to reliably predict patient violence.

So it is no surprise that in the following article, Claudia Dias admits her inability to do that, in reference to a former client who was charged with murder just days after graduating from her anger management program (which he’d been in for a year).

One could also conclude that, in the case of the accused, anger management counseling does not work.  Columbine High School shooter Eric Harris had been through anger management counseling prior to his killing rampage with pal Dylan Klebold in April 1999.  And in June 2010, Virginia anger management counselor Jose Luis Avila was jailed for pointing a loaded firearm at federal Marshalls (Avila, who did not know they were federal Marshalls, had honked at the men, who he thought were standing in the road.  He initially left the scene but, thinking one of them had made an obscene gesture at him, came back and pointed a gun at them).

So much for anger management.

The following story describes Dias as a counselor, though the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences, which licenses mental health counselors, does not list an active license in her name (or for “Claudia Diaz”).

An anger management counselor who treated Steven Zinda for over a year said she was “devastated” when she heard Zinda was charged with killing a young man with an axe just days after he graduated from the program.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Claudia Dias, Director of Changing Courses, where records obtained by News10 show Zinda, 29, enrolled in a court-ordered anger management program in December 2009.

“I’ve done this kind of work for about 30 years and I’ve never had anyone do (anything like this) with my name on a completion certificate,” Dias said. “This is not my shining moment.”

Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators said Zinda killed David Valdez, 20, after chasing him nearly a quarter mile through a field in Rio Linda.

Valdez’ car became stuck in the mud in front of Zinda’s home early Sunday morning and Zinda apparently mistook Valdez for a burglar who had earlier broken into his home.

The counseling order is contained in a 2009 divorce petition filed by Zinda against his wife, Joanna, 21, who lives in Yuba City.

The couple share legal custody of a 2 and a half-year-old son named Lucas, although Steven had sole physical custody. The file was still active with the next court hearing scheduled for April 5.

“Parents shall participate in counseling to address issues regarding domestic violence with a licensed mental health provider,” reads the Sacramento County Superior Court order.

The file also suggests substance abuse problems. “Parents shall participate in an alcoholism and drug dependance evaluation,” the order reads.

Zinda was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in a Sacramento County Jail courtroom on a murder charge. He appeared briefly with a retained attorney but did not enter a plea and remains in custody without bail.

Clients who were leaving the Changing Courses anger management class Tuesday did not wish to talk about their former classmate, but Dias spoke for the group.

“We’re devastated. All we can think about is the 20-year-old kid and how much terror he must have been in, and Steven’s 3-year-old son, and Steven’s family. There’s a ripple effect on the people,” Dias said.

Dias said she often uses the teachings of Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl with her anger management clients.

“Between every action and reaction there’s a space. And in that space is choice,” Dias said. “And (in this case) wrong choices were made.”

Source: “Counselor devastated by client’s fatal axe attack,” ABC News10 (Sacramento, CA), March 22, 2011.

Michigan social worker Olga Ortiz-Button, sentenced to two years prison for health care fraud

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:45 am

A Kalamazoo (Michigan) social worker indicted on health care fraud in August was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $276,794.

Olga Ortiz-Button, 57, pleaded guilty to one count to of health care fraud in November for billing insurance carriers for more than $250,000 of counseling services that were never provided, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

U.S. District Chief Judge Paul Maloney also ordered Oritz-Button to serve two years of supervised release after leaving prison.

Between 2002 and 2008, Ortiz-Button, a licensed masters social worker, operated Christian Counseling Center PLC, though her home business in Grand Rapids.

Source: Fritz Klug, “Kalamazoo social worker sentenced to 2 years in federal prison for health-care fraud,” The Kalamazoo Gazette, March 18, 2011.

Divorce counselor intern Tajinder Singh Bedi convicted of child molestation in absentia; disappeared mid-trial

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:43 am

Authorities are looking for a former Pittsburg (California) counselor believed to have skipped town last week after a dramatic courthouse run-in with one of his victims after the first day of testimony at his child molestation trial.

A girl who was 13 when she was molested by Tajinder Singh Bedi during a 2008 counseling session was among those waiting for a courthouse elevator Feb. 28 when the doors opened to reveal Bedi, according to deputy district attorney Mary Blumberg.

“As soon as the victim saw him, she dropped to her knees and started sobbing,” Blumberg said. “That was the last time I saw the defendant.”

Bedi had been missing for four days when jurors Friday convicted the 38-year-old Brentwood resident of two felony counts of child molestation for sexually touching teen girls who were his clients at the former Lucas Michael Rubino Family and Child Counseling Center in Pittsburg, Blumberg said.

Bedi was a counselor intern specializing in families affected by divorce and was working toward a marriage and family therapy license. He was arrested Nov. 24, 2008, for molesting a 15-year-old client that month and a 13-year-old client in January 2008. Blumberg said she believes it was a Sikh temple that posted Bedi’s $250,000 bail through a bail bonds company three days later.

Both of Bedi’s victims, who did not know each other, gave similar accounts of how Bedi encouraged them to kneel before a couch in a yoga-like pose with their eyes closed and then inappropriately rubbed himself on their feet and calves, Blumberg said. A third former client testified that she was 22 years old in 2005 when Bedi did something similar to her in front of her infant child, Blumberg said. Bedi told police he was innocent.

The trial started in Judge Barbara Zuniga’s courtroom Feb. 15, and Bedi was present for two weeks of motions and jury selection. He was there Feb. 28 for attorney opening statements and testimony by the first witness — the mother of the girl who was 13 when she was molested by Bedi.

At the end of the court day, that mother, her daughter, a victim advocate and Blumberg came face-to-face with Bedi and his private defense attorney, Roberta Brooks, in the elevator.

Bedi didn’t show up for court the next morning without giving notice to Brooks, Blumberg said.

Authorities confirmed he was not in jail or in a hospital. His neighbors in Brentwood said they had not seen him or his car since the previous night.

Judge Zuniga issued a no-bail warrant for his arrest that afternoon. The next day, the trial continued without Bedi.

Reached at her Martinez office Tuesday, Brooks declined to comment on case.

“In all my years, it was the first time that one of my defendants failed to show up at trial,” said Pittsburg police Detective Eric Solzman, an officer for 22 years.

Bedi is facing more than eight years in prison for the molestations, and potentially more time for ditching his trial.

Source: Malaika Fraley, “East Bay counselor a fugitive after fleeing molestation trial,” Contra Costa Times, March 9, 2011.

Los Angeles District Attorney filed notice of appeal in case of Anna Nicole’s psychiatrist; will seek to have convictions upheld

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:38 am
Tags:

Los Angeles County prosecutors Friday took the first step toward appealing a judge’s decision to throw out the bulk of a jury’s verdict against two people charged with funneling drugs to the late model and actress Anna Nicole Smith.

The district attorney’s office filed the notice of appeal with Los Angeles County Superior Court. A spokeswoman said the appeal would be filed at a later date and declined to comment further.

In January, Judge Robert Perry threw out two conspiracy convictions each against psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich and Howard K. Stern, Smith’s boyfriend and lawyer, saying prosecutors hadn’t shown the two intended to break the law when they used fake names to acquire powerful sedatives and painkillers for Smith.

Perry’s ruling cleared Stern of all charges and left Eroshevich with one misdemeanor conviction — a surprise ending to a case that began with three defendants facing a total of 23 felony charges. Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, Smith’s primary care physician, was acquitted of all counts by the jury.

At the time of Perry’s ruling, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said in a statement that the jury had reached “a fair and thorough verdict” and that his office would “pursue all appellate remedies to overturn Judge Perry’s decision.”

Source: “D.A. to appeal decision in Anna Nicole Smith case,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2011.

Connectict psychotherapist John Gagnon sentenced on weapons charge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:36 am

A licensed psychotherapist with an unusual criminal record pleaded guilty Tuesday and avoided jail time after being accused of possessing firearms as a convicted felon when police last spring found two antique revolvers in his home.

John Gagnon, 64, of Oaklawn Avenue, Stamford, faced charges of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon that were lessened as a part of his plea deal, said defense attorney Stephan Seeger. Gagnon instead pleaded guilty to a single count of carrying a dangerous weapon, and must serve the next five years on probation as part of his sentence, which included a three-year suspended jail term.

Gagnon was charged with violating his probation from a 2008 marijuana possession arrest, but testimony from a psychiatrist helped determine he would not benefit from prison and his probation from the drug offense was allowed to end, Seeger said.

His most recent probation stint includes some unusual conditions. He must not possess uniforms, badges or insignia without the express consent of his probation officers, court records show. That’s because Gagnon has an odd criminal history that drew the attention of both prosecutors and Chris Hansen, the “Dateline” NBC journalist who hosted the popular “To Catch a Predator Series.”

On a January episode of the show, Gagnon, a therapist who works from his home office, falsely told a couple that he worked in U.S. Army intelligence. The couple was actually an undercover team working for “Dateline” and secretly recording the session. Another former patient told the television show Gagnon lied about being an Army general just returning from a mission.

When Hansen confronted him during the television show about not telling patients about his past, Gagnon broke down and told the broadcast journalist he was set up during his first arrest because he was about to expose police corruption.

In 1987, Gagnon was arrested for wearing a silver badge and driving a car that appeared to be an unmarked police car outfitted with a red flashing light.

He pulled a woman over with an expired temporary registration in Brookfield and told her he would let her go if she would have sex with him, according to the appellate court decision that upheld his convictions. Gagnon then grabbed the woman’s breasts, the documents said. The woman put her car in gear and sped off.

Gagnon was convicted of criminal impersonation and third-degree sexual assault. As a result of the felony conviction, he has a lifetime listing on the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

Also in 2004, a patient made a police complaint about Gagnon wearing a general’s uniform while giving therapy.

In his most recent arrest last May, Stamford police officers were investigating a separate complaint against Gagnon when they found a car registered to Gagnon that was outfitted to look like a “government vehicle” with several scanners and radios mounted inside, court records said. The officers also found large knives and medieval-style axes on his garage walls, records said.

Staff Writer Jeff Morganteen can be reached at jeff.morganteen@scni.com or 203-964-2215.

They also found several different types of “Air Soft” weapons, or plastic guns that shoot plastic pellets at low speeds.

Seeger said authorities removed hundreds of Air Soft weapons from Gagnon’s home and that they will stay with someone else for safekeeping. Seeger said his client’s criminal record drew inordinate attention to his most recent weapons charges.

“I respect the fact that the state’s attorney took a close enough look at this case so that an appropriate resolution could be reached that did not involve a jail sentence,” Seeger said.

Source: Jeff Morganteen, “Stamford therapist gets probation in weapons case,” Stamford Advocate, March 4, 2011.

Bogota psychologist Elsy Marina de Guadalupe Perez sentenced in baby-selling scam

Filed under: human trafficking — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:28 am

A doctor and a psychologist were sentenced to nine years and six months in prison for selling babies in Bogota, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo reported Friday.

Doctor Erber Jose Ochoa and psychologist Elsy Marina de Guadalupe Perez accepted the charges of trafficking and conspiracy in a plea bargain with the prosecution. In addition to almost a decade of jail time they will pay a fine of 533 times the monthly minimum wage.

Adenis Delgado Aguirre, who was also involved in the criminal scheme, was sentenced to seven years and five months in prison and will pay 433 times the monthly minimum wage.

The three worked at a Bogota health clinic called Ecomarly which apparently urged women to keep their babies instead of aborting them in order to sell the infants on. Investigations also concluded that they had told women that their babies had died in childbirth and then trafficked the newborns.

The trio, who were arrested eight months ago, were implicated in recordings of their conversations in which they offered babies for sale.

Source: Hannah Aronowitz, “Doctors convicted of Bogota baby trafficking,” Columbia Reports, March 4, 2011.

Illinois psychiatrist Zabrin Inan charged with felony child abduction

Filed under: Divorce and custody — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:25 am

A doctor was arrested Wednesday morning at O’Hare Airport and charged taking her two children across state lines without the consent of their father, police said.

Dr. Zabrin Inan, 43, was charged with felony child abduction and violating a domestic order of protection, police said. She was also wanted on two warrants.

Police said Inan allegedly took her two children out of the state without their father’s consent from Nov. 6, 2010 to Mar. 2, 2011. She was arrested at 5:10 a.m. Wednesday at O’Hare Airport and is scheduled to appear in bond court later Thursday.

Police said she has no criminal history and the warrants were issued because she missed several court dates regarding the children.

In December, 2010, the children’s father filed a police report that said he applied for an order of protection granting him temporary custody for their two children and on Nov. 6, 2010, Inan texted him, saying that she was leaving the state and moving to California, police said.

The father made an arrangement to fly out to California and retrieve the children, and when he arrived at Inan’s home he found that she and her 47-year-old live-in boyfriend had moved to an unidentified location with the kids, according to police.

According to her website, Inan is psychiatrist whose office is located at 125 S. Wacker Dr. She is an American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of attention deficit disorders, mood disorders/depression, anxiety disorders, stress disorders and eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults, according to the site.

Source: “Gold Coast doctor charged with child abduction,” Chicago Sun-Times, March 3, 2011.

Human rights groups decry abuse at Kenya’s Mathari Hosptial

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:23 am

Kenya is breaking an international convention on the treatment of disabled people, according to human rights groups.

In an open letter to Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry demanded action after a CNN documentary highlighted problems in the country’s decaying mental health system.

Tina Minkowitz, president of the group, wrote that the documentary “Locked Up and Forgotten” revealed that people with mental (psychosocial) and intellectual disabilities are being forced to live in conditions that violate their human rights.”

Other international and domestic groups are also demanding action in Kenya and the Kenyan government says it is setting up an inquiry to investigate some of the allegations made in the documentary.

In the open letter to Kibaki, Minkowitz claims the Kenyan government has contravened the U.N.’s Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Minkowitz wrote that, in particular, families forced to lock up their disabled loved ones is a failure of the government.

“Under the CRPD, the state is responsible for ensuring that confinement and restraint by private actors based on disability does not occur and must take appropriate action including positive measures to safeguard against such violations.”

The CRPD was adopted in 2006 and has already been ratified by 98 countries, an unusually quick uptake for a U.N. convention. Kenya ratified the convention in 2008.

The World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP), a global rights network based in Denmark, paid special attention to conditions at Mathari hospital, where a CNN crew was locked up by administrators.

“(The documentary) shows human rights abuses taking place in the Mathari psychiatric hospital, where the CNN crew found a dead person lying beside another live person with a psychosocial disability in a seclusion cell,” their separate letter to the president stated.

Seclusion of patients, in itself, is often cited as a violation of patients.

A report of the Special Rapporteur on torture, submitted to the U.N. general assembly in 2008, says solitary confinement cannot be justified as a form of treatment or therapy.

“Prolonged solitary confinement and seclusion of persons may constitute torture or ill-treatment,” the report states.

The responses to “Locked up and Forgotten” were not confined to international groups.

The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights, which is mandated to investigate human rights allegations, plans a “rapid response” to investigate the hospital and its staff.

“It is very troubling, it showed a clear violation of their rights,” said Commissioner Anne Ngugi. “They are there and they can’t always articulate their rights. It is so painful. These are human beings.”

The human rights groups say that several possible breaches of the U.N. convention should be investigated right away.

But Simon Walker, an advisor to the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, said that while the convention is helping raise awareness for persons with disability, enforcement and real change in all countries that ratified the convention can be slow.

“Of course human rights treaties are bridged. It can take a long time for change to happen,” he said.

When reached by CNN, the Kenyan government would not directly comment to the letters to the president.

“We are not responding to the letters publicly, but working on it internally,” said Kenya’s government spokesman, Alfred Mutua.

Mutua revealed that the Medical Services Ministry is setting up an administrative inquiry into conditions at Mathari Hospital. He said that allegations by patients of rape by other patients and forced medication required independent investigation.

“The government is instituting a procedure to find out what is really happening at Mathari,” said Mutua. “Of particular concern is the corpse and locking up of CNN journalists.”

He would not specify exactly how the enquiry will work, but that they expect findings in “one to two weeks.”

Mutua said that the problem doesn’t lie with Mathari alone and that “massive reform” is needed to change Kenya’s mental health system.

“I think we have got a lot of structural problems that have to be tackled,” he said.

Kenya’s director of Mental Health, who is ultimately in charge of Mathari Hospital, did not respond to CNN’s repreated calls and text messages to his cell phone or calls and messages to his office.

Source: David McKenzie, “Rights groups accuse Kenya of patient abuse,” CNN, March 2, 2011.

NY prosecutors bring charges in cover up of patient’s death in psych ward

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:22 am
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New York prosecutors have charged two medical personnel in the death of a Jamaican psychiatric patient more than two years ago.

Prosecutors said a nurse and an aide at the sprawling Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn have been charged with allowing Esmin Green, 49, to die on the floor of the psychiatric ward and then covering up her death.

New York City’s Department of Investigation investigated Green’s death and you can read their final report here.

Green was recorded on a surveillance camera tape lying face-down in the emergency room for nearly an hour on June 19, 2008, ignored by staffers and security personnel.

Court documents said that nursing aide Royal Easton (mistakenly reported as “Easton Royal”), 53, allegedly wrote in the observation sheet that Green was doing fine at 6:00 am – in the midst of the excruciating 57 minutes the dying woman spent on the floor.

Prosecutors said Royal was arrested on Tuesday and charged with reckless endangerment and falsifying business records.

Another nurse, whose name was not released, had pleaded guilty last month to similar charges, prosecutors said.

A previous report by the New York City’s Department of Investigation mentioned that one nurse, identified only as “Gonzalo,” admitted to making false entries on Green’s progress notes after she died.

“All those who are in any way responsible for this wrongful death and cover-up should be brought to justice,” said Sanford Rubenstein, the lawyer who represented Green’s daughter in reaching a two million US dollar settlement with the city.

The city’s Medical Examiner’s Office said the Jamaican immigrant, who waited some 24 hours in the hospital’s psychiatric waiting room, died of blood clots.

Source: “Two charged in US over death of Jamaican patient,” Jamaica Observer, March 18, 2011.

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