”Good Ol’ Boys” have put C in Legal and Mental Limbo in Lawrence County PA
A preliminary hearing was held in Central Court, Lawrence County PA, on Monday of this week. (As I understand it, Central Court is overseen by locally-elected magistrates or attorneys—Masters of the Court—rotating their turns and attempting to unclog the Common Pleas Courts of lesser matters such as pleadings, etc.).
C was temporarily placed in CYS custody until the next hearing, scheduled for April 27th.
Normally the proceedings must be concluded within ten days. A Guardian ad Litem, Larry Puntureri, was assigned to represent C. Mr. Puntureri stated he needed more time to familiarize himself with the case and provide adequate representation for C.
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney hired by the Judge or Master of the Court and appointed to represent the interests of the child. This can be a deceiving thing to those unfamiliar with the system. While the GAL is obligated to state the wishes of the child, the GAL is also expected to provide his/her own opinion as to what is in the best interest of the child. In a closed and abusive system like the one in Lawrence County, this arrangement can give an abusive official the opportunity to control the GAL’s statements to support the outcome desired by the Judge or Master of the Court.
GAL Puntureri was apparently appointed Monday. He refused to permit C to attend the hearing and after five days has yet to speak to C. I understand he plans to talk to C via phone this coming Monday; and at present has no plans for future conferences. All the while, C languishes in juvenile detention—prison—as opposed to a shelter for abused/neglected children, a foster care setting, or in the care of his father. All the while, Mr. Puntureri relaxes in his comfortable home.
The “Master of the Court” presiding over this hearing is Sue Papa, who was an attorney who had previously advised Debra Shaw, a co-defendant in the father’s Federal law suit against Judge Hodge for civil rights violation of the father’s rights to due process under the 4th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. Debra Shaw is involved in that suit because of certain inappropriate relationships in which she participated while she served as C’s previous GAL for a period of approximately 2 years ending in 2011. Her tenure in that role ended after she refused to administer random drug testing for C’s mother, and it was subsequently disclosed by the mother’s then-attorney that Debra Shaw’s law partner in their two-person firm was, and for some undisclosed duration, had been in the direct employ of C’s mother and her parents. During the next six weeks, the mother subsequently fired her then-attorney. Attorney Shaw’s law partner, Norman Barilla, then officially became mother’s attorney-of-record rather than continuing to pulling strings from behind the scenes. Several days later, attorney Shaw withdrew as C’s GAL. It took more than a year to have Norman Barilla disqualified as mother’s attorney because of the inappropriate relationships.
Sue Papa advised Attorney Shaw during her deposition in the federal court matter addressing these inappropriate relationships. Debra Shaw’s excuse for her behavior in the matter was that she was “incompetent” and had no experience in such matters. That was indeed an interesting explanation, given that Debra Shaw had served as Lawrence County’s attorney for CYS and had appeared before Sue Papa countless times over a 5-7 year period prior to “serving” as C’s GAL. At the start of these proceedings, the Master of the Court (Sue Papa) stated that she wanted to disclose that she had represented Debra Shaw in the deposition, but that she had already determined that it had no bearing on the current proceedings.
Remember, this travesty has gone on for more than 10 years in the Lawrence County PA courts for this one child. Are there others?
Education at Krause Youth Center
Classes began for C this week. C is an 8th grade, top-honors student at Middle School in Greensburg PA with high grade averages of 97% and above. He has consistently made the Distinguished Honor Roll every grading period since arriving in Greensburg. He is taking classes in honors algebra, honors Science (elementary robotics and elementary physics), honors English, honors history, Spanish, as well as classes in consumer education, band, and shop. The environment at his middle school in Greensburg has been outstanding, and he has flourished there.
In stark contrast, the tutor provided by the Krause Youth Center provides what is essentially a “one-room schoolhouse.” The rudimentary classes consist of: math (fractions, which C learned in 3rd grade), science (learning about vitamins A, C, D, etc., which is 5th grade subject matter); English (the assignment was “You are getting off a plane. In four paragraphs, describe what you see”). Apparently, his geography class is the closest to his grade level, covering topics from C’s 7th grade curriculum. Despite college requirements for four years of foreign language, and the fact that he was taking 8th grade Spanish, no language education exists outside of his English class. Nor are any of the other disciplines typically provided by most middle schools.
CYS interface personnel indicated the level of education should change for C “soon.” Since he has been in Krause’s care for a week already, we are left to wonder when (or what) that might be. To date, they have not identified a school in the area, nor to my knowledge have they contacted the school which C has been attending in Greensburg for the last ¾ of the academic year so that C’s education can be coordinated.
Pennsylvania law dictates that children not charged with criminal acts (like C) are not to be housed with children who have been charged with criminal behavior. The reasoning for this is obvious.
Krause “Shelter” is a dual-accredited facility and so needs to be able to segregate the criminal from the non-criminal populations. Krause does not do this. It is impossible to do so because the facility is physically tiny. As a result, the staff (who do in fact appear to be genuinely good people) are forced to administer every child in their care as if they were “criminals.”
C has been given “privileges” that are normally earned after 30 days of good behavior, as the Kraus staff realize C is not in the proper environment. Earned “privileges” are video games on weekends, playing cards with other inmates, and watching movies (which was quickly withdrawn for all because someone talked during the movie). C has no watch, no shoes, no laces, no belt, no phone, no computer. He has access to books in the common areas only, because books can be used as weapons by the other children. He can only mail out one letter per week. He’s in prison, after all.
Yet C says he is safe and not being abused by his mother as long as he’s at Krause; so he feels it is better to continue at Krause rather than live with his mother. It is an unfair and outrageous situation, but C knows his mind and has good judgement.
A side note—the mother did appear for her allotted one-hour weekly visit, after refusing to have any contact with C for more than a year. Not surprisingly, the visit ended early—and stressfully.
Dave Thomas is a retired electric utility operations manager, has been married for over 50 years to a woman who has served as a church secretary for over two decades. They presently live in Florida after living in same Pennsylvania community for 33 years. He is a former member of the Rotary International, Chamber of Commerce, and various state and national professional organizations.
My side note—during the six years that I have been following the Jordan Brown outrage, someone once told me that Judge Motto sent his own son to the University of Notre Dame. I checked the student directory and tried checking the alumni directory (unsuccessfully) to verify that this is true. Notre Dame is no slouch school, and whether or not Motto’s son graduated from there, it can be assumed that Motto knows the importance of a good education… for his own kid, that is. But what about other people’s kids? Apparently their welfare is not so important.
Groove of the Day
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