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Press Conference to Announce Second Suit Against Henderson Mental Health

Jeff Herman: Good afternoon, my name is Jeff Herman, with the law firm of Herman, Mermelstein, and Horowitz. We called this press conference today to announce the filing of a lawsuit against the city of Ojalaca {SP}. This is a very disturbing case. This case is about a man, named Victor Howard, who is a known violent man. He battered his girlfriend for years. He has a long rap sheet for felony violent crimes. Last September, this woman sitting next to me finally told this man to leave her house.

He said that if he had to leave, he would cause harm to her and her children. So, she went and got a restraining order. The judge issued the restraining order, and then she went to the Ojalaca police to have the restraining order served on him. The police served the restraining order on Victor Howard, who was very angry and in a rage. Instead of making him leave the home, like they were supposed to do, the police allowed this man to stay in the home. As we allege in the lawsuit, he was given 24 hours to stay. And so, my client said she would leave, and she would take her kids with her.

Unfortunately, the police did not let her take her 10 year old, disabled son with her. This boy was not even a child of Victor Howard. She protested with the police, and said she’s not leaving her disabled son with this man who’s not even his father, and the police threatened her that if she didn’t leave, they were going to put her in jail. So, she was forced to leave her son, and then this man, as we allege in the lawsuit, brutally beat and raped this boy that evening. It’s a very unfortunate case, and we have filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of this boy and his mother against the city of Ojalaca.

And what we allege in there is, first of all, that there’s, at the very least, a failure to train these officers properly. In our estimation, this completely violates all procedures in serving a restraining order. You’re serving on someone who is, by definition, not safe and violent, and to leave him in the home, and to leave him with a child who is not even his own, and he has already violent is just, unfortunately, serving up this boy to this violent man in a rage. We also allege that they just acted with total reckless disregard for the health and safety of this boy, which led to this brutal rape.

My client is here, and she’s not using her name, but she is appearing on TV and so you can use her likeness. She’s going to make just a brief statement about how this has sorta devastated her and her son.

Mother: It just devastated me. I mean, I realize… They just didn’t know what I’ve been through. I tried to get my son. I mean, I went to the door, and was calling out his name. And the officer told me to stand back, and he would lose his patience, that he was going to take me to jail. I tried. I mean, I tried so hard. I mean, so, so hard. I mean, I’m very heartbroken. My heart is so torn.

Jeff Herman: For this boy, you know, life is confusing enough. He’s pretty severely mentally disabled, which is readily apparent. And for him, it’s difficult. But now, to go through this brutal beating and a rape, it’s just so much more confusing for him. And so, he’s going to need, really, a lifetime of care and help and guidance and assistance. So, she’s forced to file this lawsuit to get him this help.

Woman 1: How is he doing right now?

Mother: He has therapy. He has counseling at the school. And he was, like, very angry, you know, and…

Jeff Herman: Talk about the bathing afterwards…

Mother: And he tell me he wanted to take baths often, because he said that his scent was on him.

Woman 2: How did you find out he had been sexually assaulted?

Mother: My car had broke, and I tried to go fix my car. I had went to the store, and tried to get some coolant for my car, but that didn’t work. Then I went to go try to get a battery, that didn’t work. So, I went home, and when I walked in the house, I was in the kitchen, and he stood behind me. He had opened the refrigerator, he grabbed my hand, and he had pushed my room door open, he set me on my bed, and that’s when he had unbuckled his pants, and pulled his underwear down, and was moving his body back and forth.

Woman 2: Verbally he didn’t tell you this, it was more like a physical signalling to what had happened?

Mother: He was, like, showing me. He showed me. When he took me in the room and set me on the bed, then when he stood in front of me, and he unbuckled his pants, and he pulled his underwear down, and he was moving his body back and forth.

Jeff Herman: What did he say?

Mother: He said, “Mama, Victor did this to me.”

Woman 2: And this is not the biological father of this child, right?

Mother: No. No, and I tried to tell them. I tried to tell them. I tried to. I tried to tell them.

Jeff Herman: She told the police that day this was not his son. And even the restraining order for their children they do have together said that the children go with the mother.

Woman 2: Why won’t they would not allow her to stay with her children, or take her children, and leave them with the man who allegedly is an abuser and a person who has problems with the law?

Jeff Herman: Right, well, even on the face of their own police report, what they say, their excuse is that they said, “We gave the kids a choice with who they wanted to stay with.”

Woman 2: They’re minors. How can they give a choice to a minor?

Jeff Herman: They can’t, number one. Number two, the restraining order did not give the police to give the authority to give the kids a choice. The restraining order said their children together go with the mother. Number three, the other child wasn’t his son, who was also mentally disabled, and so even to put that he was asked a question and was able to answer that question is just…it’s just ridiculous.

Woman 2: Did he at some point, then, said that he would stay with this man?

Mother: No.

Jeff Herman: This boy is mentally disabled. He was in this house, he was not even able… The mother was trying to take him out, and the police were sending her out of the house, making her leave him there.

Woman 2: But the logical thing would have been to, you know, have her go with all her children, right?

Jeff Herman: Of course.

Mother: I tried to, because he was in the room. I called him out the room, and he had told him to go back in the room. I went towards the door to get him. But the off…he wouldn’t let me. But I tried. I mean, I kept saying, “Come on, come on, come on.” I tried, and I told them. I said, “That’s not his son.” And he asked, he said, “Why they name wasn’t on the restraining order.” And I said, “Because, that wasn’t his…that’s not his children.” So, I had the restraining order. I flipped it open, and I told them, I said, “These two right here, the judge gave me custody.” And then when the officer had asked my two other kids, “Do you want to stay, do you want to go?” So, my 10 year old, she wants to stay because she wants to play with the neighbor’s daughter. So, they let her get off the couch and walk outside.

Woman 2: So, she stayed with…

Mother: They let her go outside, but they didn’t know that I had took her with me, because she was already at the door. They let her get off the couch, and go outside next door, because he asked.

Jeff Herman: She was able to save that daughter. When she went outside, and the police made her leave, she was able to grab that daughter and bring her with her.

Woman 2: So, you took three with you in total, right?

Mother: Yes, three [inaudible 00:09:12]

Woman 2: And you left the other one behind. You did explain to them, the police officers, you know who this man is, right?

Mother: Yes. When we got outside I tried to explain to the other officer, and he was…the other officer, when he was outside I said, “He’s going to damage my property.” So the officer said, “If he do, we going to come back, and arrest him of vandalism.” So, he had pulled off. He left. The other officer, he was there waiting for me to leave, I begged out my driveway. I looked at him, and I told him, I said, “My son is disabled,” and he was like, “Go on, go on, go on.” So, I went on. Then I had stopped my car, and called my daughter off my neighbor’s porch.

Woman 2: Let me understand it. This is your house, right?

Mother: Mm-hmm.

Woman 2: Why was you ex-boyfriend there?

Mother: We was living together.

Woman 2: At the time? And you had a restraining order against him at that time?

Mother: No, I had went and got a restraining order, because I had left my house Friday night. I had left everybody at home who was…

Jeff Herman: Yeah, let me explain this part.

Woman 2: Can you explain?

Jeff Herman: Yeah. They were living together. They had two kids together. And then she has two kids not from this man. He was violent with her on Friday, threatened her, hurt her, and threatened to hurt her kids. She went to court on Saturday and got a restraining order. The restraining order gave her sole possession of the house, and what’s supposed to happen is they serve him with the restraining order, and they stay there until he leaves. They make him leave. That’s the whole point. The first thing they did wrong was they let him stay at the house. After serving him with the restraining order, they said he could stay for a period of time to get his things together. They told her 24 hours. So, she said, “Then I’m not staying. I’m taking my kids. I’ll leave with my kids.” And when she went to leave with her kids, that’s when the police made the next mistake, is they said, “No, you can’t take your kids. Let’s see where the kids want to stay.” In vie of number one, with the two kids on the restraining order said that she got sole custody, and then the other kids were not his kids. And that’s became the next problem. And so, ultimately, they forced her to leave under threat of going to jail, and leave her 10 year old mentally disabled son with this man, violent man, who is now in a rage, who they just served with a restraining order.

Woman 2: Where is this man right now?

Jeff Herman: In jail.

Woman 2: And why is he in jail?

Jeff Herman: For raping this boy.

Woman 2: For that.

Woman 1: Has he been convicted yet?

Jeff Herman: No, he has not been… Trial has not taken place yet. He’s been arrested and pending trial.

Woman 1: And what do you guys hope to get out of the lawsuit?

Jeff Herman: Well, it’s a civil lawsuit, and all we can do now is hold the city accountable. And what she’s seeking is money damages to take care of her son. You know, he is going to need extremely costly medical care the rest of his life, and he was 10 years old. To be sexually exploited and raped in that way will cause him problems for the rest of his life.

Woman 2: How has this changed your life as a mother, and the life of your children?

Mother: It’s like, hard, you know. It just… hard. I was stressed, I had a nervous breakdown, but I had to get myself together.

Jeff Herman: She tried to do the right thing. She did what a woman’s supposed to do who’s being battered, get a restraining order.

Woman 2: Had she been battered before by this same man?

Jeff Herman: Yes.

Woman 2: And you went back with him. How many times did this happen, that he abused you?

Mother: Like, off then on.

Woman 2: And you complained about him a few times before that?

Mother: Yeah.

Woman 2: Was this the one first time that he…

Mother: This was the one first time I was, like, really, really, like, you know, fed up. It was the fir…

Jeff Herman: She was scared to get the restraining order. She snuck out to get the restraining order, and didn’t let him know.

Woman 2: Why do you think that he raped your son? Why?

Mother: To get back at me.

Jeff Herman: I believe the rape was an act of violence to hurt this mother.

Woman 2: Have you contacted the police department? I know there’s this lawsuit filed, but have you done…

Jeff Herman: We sent them a notice before we filed the lawsuit, and…

Woman 2: When was that?

Jeff Herman: I don’t know exactly when. It’s called a notice of claim.

Woman 1: How much money are you seeking?

Jeff Herman: There’s no specific amount. Ultimately, a jury will determine that. We will be seeking money to pay for the medical care that he’ll need.

Woman 1: So, he’s getting counseling right now as we speak?

Mother: Yes, yes.

Woman 1: How many times a week?

Mother: I think every… I think a week or two weeks then they go…that she goes to the school.

Woman 1: Oh, oh, it’s a boy, but sh…

Mother: No, it’s a lady. She goes to the…

Woman 1: …the counselor.

Jeff Herman: The counselor, the woman, comes to his school and counsels him there.

Woman 1: What grade is he in?

Mother: Sixth grade.

Woman 1: And he’s 11?

Jeff Herman: Yes.

Mother: Yes.

Woman 2: Where are your other children now?

Mother: They in school.

Woman 2: They’re with you? Under your custody?

Mother: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Woman 2: Can you tell me their ages, please?

Mother: One two, one six, and one ten, and my son’s twelve.

Woman 2: I’m sorry, one is one year old?

Mother: One is two.

Woman 2: Oh, okay, two years old.

Mother: One is six, and one is ten, and one is twelve.

Woman 2: The 10 year old… the 12 year old is the one who was allegedly raped? Okay.

Man: When was the attack?

Jeff Herman: Last September.

Woman 2: Last September.

Jeff Herman: September 11th.

Woman 2: This is one time that this happened, when she left the boy in the house with this man. [inaudible 00:15:29]

Jeff Herman: That evening. All night. One night, but it happened throughout the night. I mean, just horrible things, and he was interviewed by the Christi House, and was able to articulate a pretty gruesome and detailed statement about it.

Woman 2: He actually confessed to the police?

Jeff Herman: No, no, I’m sorry, the victim.

Woman 2: The victim.

Jeff Herman: The victim at Christi House was interviewed, and was able to give, I believe, a pretty articulate statement about the details of the beating and the rape.

Woman 2: Did your ex-boyfriend confess to the crime, or not?

Mother: No. He’s, like, in denial, but… I believe my son. I believed him. I believe him.

Jeff Herman: Okay.

Woman 2: Okay.

Jeff Herman: Thank you.

Woman 2: Thank you. You did give us your name, right?