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Felony Excused

January 9, 2006 permalink

A Florida social worker committing felonious record falsification is is let off by a judge.



Judge shows mercy to ex-DCF worker who falsified reports

A finding of guilt was withheld so she could try to become an elementary school teacher

STUART -- A case worker fired from the Department of Children & Families in May for falsifying records convinced a judge Thursday not to find her guilty of the felony charge to which she pleaded no contest.

The judge's action means Angela Christine Edgerton, 32, could one day work as a public school teacher.

Edgerton, of Stuart, a pre-school teacher at a day care center, was ordered to serve two years of probation followed by 200 hours of community service.

In November, Edgerton pleaded no contest to falsifying records related to several cases she'd been assigned to investigate while employed by the DCF. She was arrested in August after Stuart police investigators uncovered 13 cases with "some type of falsification," including home visits that never occurred, court records show.

In court Thursday, Edgerton, a single mother, pleaded with Circuit Judge Robert Belanger to withhold a finding of guilt so she could realize her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.

"I've never been arrested before; this is my first time in trouble," she said. "I would greatly appreciate another chance in life, not just for me but for my child."

Defense attorney Michael Kessler, who noted that no child was "actually hurt by her conduct," nonetheless called her behavior "a tremendous mistake in judgment."

"She had a caseload she simply couldn't keep up with," Kessler said.

He was critical of the DCF.

"They're under-funded; there are people who are frequently under-trained and under-supervised and assigned too much work," Kessler said.

Assistant State Attorney David Lustgarten, who urged that Edgerton be adjudicated guilty, said the state only agreed to a plea deal because he was convinced no children in her charge were harmed by her actions.

"There's no greater responsibility than protecting our children in our society," Lustgarten said. "This defendant, not only did she fail that but she lied."

Stuart police investigators, who tracked the case for months, noted Edgerton got away with the fake reports because they were so detailed, right down to describing posters in children's rooms. But a fellow DCF case worker following up on one of Edgerton's cases became suspicious after the family involved said they'd never met her.