Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
March 11, 2007 permalink
James Nord, an Arizona man in a business where he could make enemies, is anonymously accused of molesting a ten-year-old boy living in his home. When child protectors find the man lives alone, the accusation changes to molesting at the home of the boy's mother. When they can't find her, he is accused of molesting his own sister and son. The caseworker tells the man his file has been closed, but continues to question his friends. He is on a list of low-risk sexual predators, but cannot find the name of his accuser. The caseworker continues because she collects a bounty for her investigation. Child protection is too important to stop for mere innocence, or even absurdity.
Man upset over probe for alleged child molestation
Sunday, March 11, 2007, By Shar Porier, Herald/Review
SIERRA VISTA — “They don’t care who they screw up.”
The frustration of 66-year-old paralegal James Nord over an alleged incident of child molestation, which he claims landed his name in a file at Child Protective Services as a “low risk” sexual predator, continues as he tries to clear his name.
It all started more than a year ago on Feb. 28 when he got a call from CPS investigator Marilyn Piduch at his home in Sierra Vista. She asked if she could meet with him. He agreed, and Piduch and Marde Closson, local CPS supervisor, came to his home and told him a complaint had been filed. They had been told a woman and her 10-year-old son were living with him, and that he had molested the boy. After an inspection of his home, they found no evidence of anyone living with Nord.
“I’ve lived alone for 18 years, with the exception of my son and his family when they first moved here,” he said.
Wondering who could have made such an accusation, he asked for the name of his accuser and was told the identity could not be revealed.
He filed a complaint with the Cochise County’s Sheriff’s Office for false reporting and harassment against the CPS.
Deputy Cpl. John Filippelli took the complaint and called CPS in an attempt to confirm a name given by Nord as the possible informant. The deputy states in a report that CPS told him the caller wished to remain anonymous but that it was definitely not the person suspected. He then went to Nord’s residence and advised him of the findings.
“Nord advised when CPS completes their investigation he will file a petition to disclose the name of the person reporting. I advised Nord if/when he finds out the subject’s name to contact me, and I will continue the investigation,” he writes in the report.
Though Nord said Filippelli met with him the morning of March 2 and told him CPS had closed the case, there is no such statement in the deputy’s official report. Filippelli’s investigation is listed as active/dead file pending further information from Nord on the identity of the person who called CPS with the complaint.
Part of Nord’s complaint of CPS’ actions involves the continuing investigation involving friends and family after the case had supposedly been closed.
Piduch interviewed Nord’s son, Carl, on the same day and questioned him about the woman and her son.
Nothing further was done until May 17, when Nord requested a copy of the complaint. On June 8, he received the CPS summary report, which gave a different scenario. In the report, Nord was accused of molesting the 10-year-old daughter of a woman while living with her at her residence. The report also states he violently molested and assaulted his sister for four years and molested his son.
Nord and his son were upset over the new allegations listed in the summary report.
“I don’t understand. First it was a boy. Now it’s a girl, my sister and my son. It’s absurd,” Nord said.
Carl Nord says there wasn’t an incident involving him.
“Nothing ever happened to me or my aunt. I checked,” he said. “There are no people living with Dad or he with them. It’s a crock. Somebody’s made up the complaint. They investigated and found no evidence, but, yet, they continued. If the case was opened and closed on the same day, as they said, why did they call me in March?”
Nord decided he was going to get to the bottom of it and tried to get a judge to allow the identity of his accuser to be revealed and his name cleared. The case went before Cochise County Superior Court Judge James L. Conlogue.
Assistant Attorney General Roger Perry Jr. argued against releasing the name. According to documentation on file at the courthouse concerning the case, Perry stated, “There can be no justification for a request that all records concerning the petitioner be expunged from CPS files,” he said, “Arizona maintains a record of the report as it must, according to law.”
Conlogue ruled against Nord’s request and ordered the file sealed.
Nord suspects he was the subject of retribution of someone, but he hasn’t a clue who that may be.
His friend Betty Madrid believes she knows who filed the complaint. Nord was helping her on a legal matter involving fraud. According to her affidavit, Madrid called Piduch on March 1 and said she “was positive that the report was made for vindictive reasons. I told her that because of my accusation, I was being followed … She asked me who I thought would do this.”
Madrid gave four names, but was interrupted by Piduch, who asked how Madrid knew of one of the people mentioned. That made Madrid suspicious, and she told Nord of the conversation.
In December, Nord filed a lawsuit against the county, the state and all the agencies and people involved in December. His lawsuit claims that Closson and Piduch “… acted with reckless disregard” and failed to determine whether probable cause existed before taking action. He claims violation of his civil rights to due process, loss of reputation and infliction of emotional distress among other charges.
He is seeking $50 million in his suit.
“I suffer from headaches, nausea and nervousness. This whole thing has distracted me from being able to my job. It interferes with my work,” he says in the court paperwork.
“One’s reputation is a significant, intensely personal possession that one strives to protect,” Nord continued. “The CPS takes everything some mystery party says as factual and does not need any corroboration of any sort. They closed the case without any substantiation and put my name in their files.”
He sought help from an Arizona ombudsman, Ellen Stenson, who wrote in a letter the case was closed “as neither substantiated nor unsubstantiated, but rather noted they were unable to locate (the woman and her child).
“We do not have any evidence that the CPS investigation was inappropriate or that CPS has inappropriately shared information about you …,” Stenson said in her response.
Stenson’s findings seem to bolster the stand of the Attorney General’s Office, which is handling the federal lawsuit.
The state, on behalf of all the agencies and parties listed in Nord’s suit, is represented by Assistant Attorney General Perry, who has entered a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Nord has a “lack of cognizable legal theory” and “the absence of sufficient facts.” He states in the motion that CPS, as an agency of the state, is immune from private damages or injunctive relief.
As for Nord’s worry of being classified as a sexual predator in a central registry, Perry says this “is an example of an unwarranted deduction of fact. (Nord) was investigated by the CPS; therefore, he reasons, he has been placed on such a list … it appears (from the complaint) this claim was not substantiated. There was no child living in his home to be concerned about. He is not a convicted sex-offender, subject to registration.”
Perry writes that CPS is required to maintain a record of the report, but this record in no sense is considered a predator list. Therefore, Nord’s deduction that since he was investigated his name exists on a CPS list is unrealistic.
He states in a court document, “… Criminal investigations — even if CPS conducted criminal investigations — can be conducted on no more than a hunch; they can be conducted on a whim …”
Due to the serious nature of the information included in the CPS summary report, the agency had the right to investigate the tip, he argues in the court document.
Perry has tried to have that CPS summary report rejected as evidence. In a phone conversation, Perry said Nord had not authenticated the CPS report. Therefore, it should be disallowed, as should the affidavits Nord gathered.
“I am asking the court to look at facts alleged in the complaint. Nord does not state a cause of action against these people. I have moved to strike things that are not properly brought before the court,” Perry said. “I cannot find a cause that would allow for action against these people. I have to move to strike things that are not properly brought before the court. Even if you were to pretend that all the facts as he presents them are true, he still does not have a case.”
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer did not respond to calls for comment on the lawsuit.
Liz Barker, public information officer for CPS, said she could not comment on the pending litigation. However, she answered questions about procedure and policy of CPS. She said when someone calls the statewide hotline phone number, a series of questions is asked. If the answers meet the criteria, a report is forwarded to the proper district office, and staff proceed to investigate.
Barker confirmed that a person’s name remains on file with CPS even if allegations have not been substantiated. If the case is substantiated and a conviction obtained, the name is added to the statewide registry of sex offenders by the department of public safety.
One other irregularity, as Nord sees it, is a provision that provides a monetary incentive to CPS staff to investigate cases. If six cases of abuse or neglect are investigated per month, the employee receives 10 percent of the monthly salary.
Barker confirmed that case workers are paid “a stipend” on the number of cases they investigate. The sum is paid whether the investigations pan out or not.
That makes Nord wonder if such financial gains are ethical and if that policy is part of the problem.
“Was I investigated to make more money? Who thought of this stipend?” he asked. “All I’m trying to do is clear my name. I had a background check run on myself and it came back clean,” he added. “But CPS has my name in a file somewhere, unsubstantiated or not.”
Nord, who claims he is still distressed over the incident, waits for the lawsuit to be heard. “Can you imagine waking up one day to find you’re being looked at as a child molester? And I’m just supposed to take that and roll over and play dead? I don’t think so.”
REPORTER Shar Porier can be reached at 515-4692 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Source: Sierra Vista Herald