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October 14, 2009 permalink
A Middletown New York family packed five kids and a family friend into their truck to visit another friend. Along the way they were attacked by a carjacker who slashed at the children with a knife. Father Michael Dayton grabbed the carjacker to save his children while mother Barbara Nieves drove to the police station for help. Police thought Dayton was the criminal and pistol-whipped him, aggravating an earlier injury and freeing the carjacker to stab the youngest girl in the head. Local child protectors took all five children. Even a year later, father Dayton is forbidden to see his children except with his sister supervising. The family is now suing the police and child protectors. The lawyer for Middletown calls their story "extremely fanciful".
This is far from the first case of child protection harpies feeding on a family in distress. The mother had to plead guilty to something to get her children back. We predict no compensation for the family from its lawsuit.
Couple's suit makes slew of claims
Middletown asked to pay millions in damages
By Heather Yakin, Times Herald-Record, October 14, 2009 2:00 AM
MIDDLETOWN — The ordeal began with a carjacking, a fast, violent episode that started the night of Nov. 19, 2008, on Middletown's Linden Avenue.
Since then, the victims — Michael Dayton, Barbara Nieves and their five children — have been caught up in the web of Family Court and Child Protective Services.
"We weren't victimized just once," Nieves said. "We were victimized over and over again over the last year."
The couple has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, city police and the Department of Social Services, seeking millions in damages for negligence, false arrest, abuse of process and other claims.
Their lawyers, Stuart Shaw and Jennielena Rubino of New York City, said two of the kids were injured; the whole family was traumatized; and rough handling by cops worsened serious injuries Dayton suffered in a 2007 car accident that left him with a rod in one leg.
Middletown police filed a CPS report against Dayton, and Family Court brought a neglect complaint against Nieves.
Nieves has regained custody of the kids, but Dayton can't live with them, or see them unless his sister supervises.
"They gave these people a very tough time and kept them separate from their kids, which is horrendous," Shaw said.
The attack happened a few minutes before 10:45 p.m. on Linden Avenue. Dayton and Nieves say they were going to help a girl they knew; a male friend was riding in their truck. Nieves drove. They say Robert Pearson waved them over on the street. They knew him slightly; Nieves thought the girl had sent him, so she stopped.
But Pearson forced his way into the truck at knife-point. The male friend fled. Pearson slashed at the kids in the back seat — their three daughters, ages 2, 7 and 10, and two sons, ages 6 and 8 at the time. Dayton grappled with Pearson, trying to protect his kids.
Nieves, panicked, drove to the Middletown police station a few blocks away and screamed for help. Police ordered Dayton to let go of Pearson; Dayton told them to grab Pearson's arms. Dayton said a cop "pistol-whipped" him. Dazed, he let go, and Pearson stabbed the youngest girl in the head.
Dayton says police dragged him from the car, threw him to the ground and cuffed him. When police realized he was a victim and let Dayton up, he was bloody. The 10-year-old was stabbed under an arm, the 2-year-old in the head and leg.
"It was just like the Keystone Kops," Shaw said.
Pearson is doing eight years in prison for attempted robbery.
Middletown Corporation Counsel Alex Smith called the couple's and the suit's story "extremely fanciful."
"As soon as the police realized he was a victim, he was uncuffed," Smith said.
Police filed a CPS report as a matter of policy, because they felt the children were endangered — their parents were driving them late at night in a bad neighborhood, and stopped for a questionable character. Family Court found the complaint justified, Smith said; "the police didn't do anything wrong."
Orange County Attorney David Darwin declined to comment on the lawsuit except to say the county is preparing its response.
Nieves said she was forced to plead guilty to neglect in Family Court. "Any mother would plead guilty to anything as long as their kids were back home."
The kids have nightmares, Nieves said: about their father being beaten, about people breaking into the house.
Dayton is being treated for post-traumatic stress, and may need surgery for injuries to his neck and lower back.
Dayton said this isn't about money.
"I just wanted to let the public know what happened," he said. "I want my family back."
Source: Middletown Times Herald-Record