Saturday, January 19, 2008

School director, Randall Hinton, gets 25 days in assault case

School director gets 25 days in assault case


CANON CITY - A former Royal Gorge Academy director convicted of assault and false imprisonment of two students was sentenced Monday to 25 days in jail and one year on probation.

Randall Hinton, 34, was convicted by a jury Aug. 31 of third-degree assault and false imprisonment.

Hinton was found not guilty of four other assault charges and not guilty on one other false imprisonment charge.

The victims on the convictions, both boys, were attending the private, co-ed school for troubled youth during the past year. One boy sustained a bloody nose, while the other experienced vomiting while being detained in Hinton's office.

"In reading the presentence investigative report I noticed the defendant's lack of any accountability. Discipline is a necessary part of dealing with troubled youth but the defendant had crossed the line and the actions of the defendant were not justified or allowable," argued Deputy District Attorney Thom LeDoux.

When asked by the probation officer what he believed the impact was on the victims, Hinton responded, "I believe they finally realize the importance of their choices and realize if they don't change their ways they will have adults making choices for them," LeDoux read from the report.
When asked what he believed the impact of his crime on the community was, Hinton said he believed parts of the community gained from the incident such as, "the newspaper probably sold more copies."

Fremont County Court Judge Norm Cooling said he found Hinton's answer puzzling and told the defendant "You kind of gave Canon City a black eye."

LeDoux said of Hinton: "He could not have demonstrated he missed the point more so. He said, ‘I, Randall Hinton, believe I did a great job considering all the circumstances involved.’ The defendant should be held accountable and sentenced to a period of incarceration."

Defense Attorney Michael Gillick argued that Hinton has only been consistent with his story throughout the incident. He said Hinton is not a candidate for jail because of his stellar record, and the fact that he is sole provider for his family of four small children and wife, Joy.

Gillick also said Hinton has made it clear he never wants to work with troubled children again and has a job due to start Friday in Cortez as the manager of an automotive company.

Hinton told the judge only that, "It's been very educational," just before he was sentenced.
Cooling said, "The black eye is where you really stepped over the line and I believe this calls for a good balance - some jail as a condition of probation is entirely appropriate." Cooling said he could have sentenced Hinton to between a nine-month to three-year jail sentence, but he opted for 25 days jail and one year probation.

Gillick asked for a short stay of the sentence to allow Hinton time to consider whether he will appeal the case. Hinton was ordered to start the jail sentence Jan. 1.

LeDoux said he will file a request for restitution including cost of prosecution. Both attorneys were given 20 days to file the request and a response.

Hawthorne project postponed; Skyview Academy abruptly closed

Hawthorne project postponed
Skyview Academy abruptly closed

December 1, 2007

Due to the nationwide slump in the residential housing market, plans to build a massive industrial, commercial and residential project in Hawthorne have been indefinitely postponed.

The project, which would have included a multi-building plant and distribution center for flooring and building materials, a shopping complex and upwards of 2,000 housing units, has been postponed "because of the plummeting housing market," according to Shelley Hartmann, executive director of the Mineral County Economic Development Authority.

The shelving of the construction project, which will result in substantial financial losses for Mineral County, was preceded by another fiscal casualty, the abrupt closure of a large, private boarding school in Hawthorne, Sky View Academy, which pumped nearly $1.6 million annually into the county's economy.

Hartmann said Bob Conner, chief executive office of Peninsula Floors, Inc., of Livermore, Calif., the company that was to build the project, "is rethinking the project but has put it on hold until the economy gets better."

Conner did not return several telephone calls placed to him by the LVN."Mr. Conner told me that his company's sales volume is about 50 percent off from what it was last year. But he told me he hopes to eventually build the project in Hawthorne, but on a smaller scale," Hartmann added.

Mineral County Commissioner Jerrie Tipton said, "The housing downturn is taking place in Nevada and all over the United States. People are purchasing less flooring and building materials, and Peninsula Floors just doesn't think it is time to start up this big project."

Fallon attorney Mike Mackedon, who has represented Mineral County in its dealings with Conner and Peninsula Floors, said, "There's a crisis in the housing industry, and it has been sudden and reflects a steep decline. Peninsula Floors Company has seen recent layoffs, but we hope the project can go forward if the economy improves."

Groundbreaking for the project was to have begun in January of 2008, and the project's eventual cost was to be between $175 million and $200 million.

Conner told the LVN in July that he hoped the project's initial phase would be completed in the summer of 2008, and that well-paying construction jobs would be offered to workers in Hawthorne and Fallon. When the project was completed, it would have included solar-powered homes, a bowling alley, miniature golf course, shops and a movie theater.

The continuing decline in home construction and sales has affected Nevada's overall economy as well as the state's housing market.The Nevada Department of Taxation reported Thursday that taxable sales in the state fell in September, the six consecutive month showing a decline. A prime reason for the slump was caused by construction-related downturns in the housing sector, the department indicated.

Concerning the closing of Sky View Academy, a nondenominational boarding school for teens, the cause of the shutdown was related to a hazing incident between groups of boys attending the school, which is located between the Hawthorne Army Depot and downtown Hawthorne.

Mineral County Economic Development head Hartmann said because schools officials were confused over what state laws pertained to hazing, the school was abruptly closed and its 120 students returned to their homes across the nation or sent to other institutions."This also has been hard on Hawthorne's economy. Approximately 63 staff and teachers lost their jobs which resulted in a loss of $1.57 million annual payroll."

There also have been substantial local losses for the hospital here and doctors who treated the students and staff," she added. There are no immediate plans to reopen the school, Hartmann said.

Gray blasts use of special ed school

Gray blasts use of special ed. school

Dec 11, 2007
By Bill Myers, The Examiner

Vincent C. Gray

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - District Council Chair Vincent C. Gray expressed anger that the city’s special education system continued to send children to a Massachusetts school that uses electric shocks as a form of discipline.

The Examiner reported Monday that city lawyers and bureaucrats referred two special education students to the Judge Rotenberg Center two weeks after schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee ordered the center cut off. Told of the referrals, Gray said, “It is an outrage.”

“This would not be tolerated in a program in the city,” Gray told The Examiner in an e-mail. “So why is this unethical and inhumane practice allowed to continue?”

At least 11 D.C. children were enrolled in Rotenberg this year. Rhee ordered her staff to stop sending students there, and to work on getting the other students out, after a series of news reports appeared in August detailing “aversive therapy,” like the electric shocks practiced at Rotenberg.

Rotenberg charges D.C. more than $227,000 per student per year for its services.

“This is yet another example of why we must bring our children home so that we know the services they are receiving and can closely monitor these programs,” Gray told The Examiner.
That might be easier said than done: Internal school e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that nine of the city’s students are still enrolled at Rotenberg because D.C. school officials haven’t been able to offer parents alternatives.

Four of the students are at least 18 years old, and most residential programs refuse to accept students that old, the e-mails show.

D.C. spends more than $210 million each year to ship about 2,400 students to “non-public” schools like Rotenberg. Critics have complained for years that the school system hasn’t bothered to check whether the schools are safe or effective.

Got a tip on special education? Call Bill Myers at 202-459-4956 or e-mail

Group pushes to open report on youth ranch amid abuse allegations

Group pushes to open report on youth ranch amid abuse allegations
Tribune Capitol Bureau

HELENA — The former head of a state-licensed military-style boot camp in Montana, which closed amid allegations of abuse, is coming under fire in Maryland, where he was recently promoted to head that state's juvenile corrections programs.

Chris Perkins, 38, left Montana shortly after the Swan Valley Youth Academy, a privately run residential treatment center for teen boys, closed. He has said he didn't tell Maryland authorities about his past because he was cleared by state officials in Montana.

Attorneys with the Montana Advocacy Program don't agree that he was cleared of the allegations and they are hoping a Lewis and Clark County judge will soon unseal a report detailing a confidential investigation into allegations of child abuse and neglect at Swan Valley. Recent news reports indicate that the sealed investigation substantiates the allegations of abuse. Andrée Larose, a staff attorney for MAP, said the nonprofit advocacy organization has a copy of the investigative report but is prohibited by law from disclosing it or discussing its contents.

"We think it's in the public's interest to know how taxpayer dollars are spent and how children are being treated in facilities in this state," Larose said. "We think the contents of the report will provide important information about that."

Officials some 2,000 miles away are taking a closer look at the man at the center of that investigation after a Baltimore newspaper reported on his troubled past late last month.
Perkins was director of the Swan Valley Youth Academy near Condon until the program closed in early 2006.

Perkins, known by juvenile offenders at the military-style facility as "The Colonel," was hired this summer to help reopen a troubled state-run youth correctional facility in Frederick County, Md. He was recently promoted to director of detention for all of the state's juvenile facilities. However, Perkins never told Maryland officials about Swan Valley's closure, the BaltimoreCity Paperreported.

Perkins was out of the office Tuesday and did not immediately return a call for comment; however, he previously told reporters in Baltimore that he didn't disclose his affiliation with Swan Valley to Maryland officials because he was "exonerated."

Larose, the MAP attorney, contends that wasn't the case. She said she believes Montana state regulatory and law enforcement officials failed to follow through on the case.

That's one of the primary reasons MAP hopes to bring details of the abuse investigation to light.
"To me, exonerated means there was a hearing on the merits and the allegations were found to be baseless; that's not what happened here," Larose said after reading recent news reports in which Montana officials divulged details of the case. "What happened here, as I understand it, is that the state failed to appear for a hearing. So the state obviously dropped the ball. That doesn't mean that the allegations are groundless."

Larose first notified authorities of the alleged abuse in an Oct. 27, 2005, letter to then-Lake County Attorney Robert Long. Larose detailed 13 alleged instances of criminal activity and child abuse allegations in a four-page faxed letter and urged Long to take "appropriate and immediate action to protect the children at Swan Valley Youth Academy."

The alleged abuse ranged from locking a child in seclusion while staff left the building for a meal, to slamming a youth against a brick wall. Swan Valley staff also allegedly altered log books that might have documented abuse, neglect and other violations of state law.

Long's office ultimately declined to investigate MAP's allegations for undisclosed reasons. Larose contacted newly elected Lake County Attorney Mitch Young this year with the same information she provided to Long, but Young never responded to her phone calls or letters, she said.
Young did not respond to a request for an interview.

The Quality Assurance and Child and Family Services divisions of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services opened simultaneous investigations into licensing violations and abuse allegations 10 days after Larose first brought the allegations to authorities.

The QAD licensing investigation, which was made public in January 2006, revealed many of the same findings MAP uncovered in its initial investigation. In an 18-page report, QAD outlined 19 rule violations ranging from staffing problems, to failures to report child abuse to the state, to staff using inappropriate seclusion and restraint techniques.

In one instance, Perkins allegedly ordered staff to leave a youth in mechanical restraints overnight, and, in another instance, a boy was kept in seclusion for five days, according to the QAD report.

The CFS investigation into child abuse allegations was not made public.

Perkins told reporters earlier this month that state officials dropped the case against Swan Valley, effectively clearing of him of any wrongdoing.

"All the allegations against me were found to be not true," Perkins told the City Paper on Dec. 3. "There was no evidence or proof to support allegations that were grossly negligent, malicious and manufactured. The state couldn't prove their case in any way, shape or form. If even one of the allegations were true, then the state would have substantiated the allegations. Instead, they dismissed them."

That's not how Joseph Sternhagen, the DPHHS hearings officer who formally dismissed the charges against Perkins in December 2006, characterized the outcome of the case.

Sternhagen told the City Paper that the charges were dismissed on procedural grounds. Sternhagen was out of the office with an illness on Tuesday and could not be reached, but he told the City Paper that state investigators had "substantiated" allegations of child abuse in a 22-page report involving 14 children, and that Perkins was never tried on the merits of the case because DPHHS "dropped the ball."

"It's a 22-page document compiled by a team of investigators," Sternhagen told the newspaper,apparently referring to the contents of the CFS investigative report. "I'm sure they could have proved something had they tried. But we'll never know for sure."

Larose eventually asked the Montana state attorney general's office to investigate the case but was told that the office doesn't have the authority to initiate criminal investigations at the request of private citizens or institutions.

"We can only do so when requested by federal, state or local law enforcement authorities," wrote John Connor, chief criminal counsel for the attorney general's office. Even then, Connor wrote, criminal investigations are conducted by the Department of Justice's Division of Criminal

Connor said Tuesday that he couldn't comment on the case other than to reiterate what he stated in his June 2006 letter to Larose. He did say that DCI was asked to do a criminal investigation. He referred further questions to John Strandell, enforcement program manager for DCI, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Larose says the Lake County attorney's refusal to prosecute the Swan Valley case, combined with DPHHS's absence at a formal appeal hearing that resulted in the case being dropped, constitute colossal failures by state authorities to protect the state's most vulnerable citizens.
"I am appalled that these criminal allegations went unprosecuted," Larose said Tuesday. "I think any minimum investigation of any quality would have yielded corroborating evidence."

Larose said the state has agreed to release the CFS report to the public if a District Court judge, after reviewing the document, is satisfied that the redacted report adequately respects the privacy rights of those involved.

MAP has asked the court to also rule on the constitutionality of the statute that prohibits the organization from releasing similar documents and information in the future.

"I think it's important for policymakers in the state — agency officials and legislators — to know what truly happens to children in these facilities," Larose said, arguing that the public's right to know outweighs the privacy rights of the individuals in the report.

Investigators with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services reportedly are looking into Perkins's past based on the information that's come to light since the City Paper report was published. However, a spokesperson for the department told The Washington Post that the agency's findings have thus far exonerated Perkins of wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Larose said she still holds out hope that justice will be served in Montana.
"We would like to see individuals who use their power to physically assault children to be held accountable in the criminal justice system," Larose said. "We want to see the state held accountable for the follow-through that's necessary to ensure that facilities are safe for people. If this is the kind of system and quality control that we have, then we should be concerned about every facility in Montana."

Larose said she expects the court to rule on the case sometime early next year.

Reach Tribune Capitol Bureau Chief John S. Adams at 442-9493, or

Students sent to troubled Mass. school

Students sent to troubled Mass. school

Dec 10, 2007
The Examiner

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - District of Columbia school officials continued to send students to a troubled Massachusetts special education clinic weeks after schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee ordered her agency to cut ties with the center, documents obtained by The Examiner show.
The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass., specializes in “aversive” therapy for troubled youngsters like electric shock. It has been the home to dozens of District children for more than a decade, charging D.C. more than $227,000 per child per year.
On Aug. 31, after news reports documented allegations of abuse and neglect at Rotenberg, Rhee ordered her staff to stop referring children there. Yet, on Sept. 13, two more children were sent to the center, e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.

“This is crazy,” Rhee e-mailed a subordinate on being given the news. “How can we stop it?”
Rotenberg was still home to at least nine D.C. children as recently as late November, school e-mails confirmed.
The Examiner has written extensively about D.C.’s $210 million-plus special education system, which critics say warehouses children in clinics and schools around the country with little regard for their health or welfare. Rotenberg has been a key exhibit in critics’ briefs against the system. The Examiner reported in September that a 14-year-old D.C. boy had his arm broken by orderlies, another student was hooked up to an electric backpack and D.C. children were lashed to their bus seats.
The e-mails obtained by The Examiner paint a picture of a bureaucracy overwhelmed by the city’s special education crisis. On being told that children were still being packed off to Rotenberg, officials in the various city agencies struggled to explain what was happening.
“Perhaps this [was a] pending placement [that] predated all of this,” George Valentine, one of the city’s top lawyers, wrote to his underlings in the schools’ legal department. “But shouldn’t your attorneys have told you about any new or pending placements at that center?”
The lawyers weren’t the only ones who missed Rhee’s message. On Oct. 4 — more than a month after Rhee’s directive went out — Marla Oakes, the director of the schools’ special education system, told a court-appointed monitor that Rotenberg was still an “approved” vendor, e-mails show.
Neither Oakes nor schools spokeswoman Mafara Hobson responded to requests for comment.
Despite Rhee’s orders to get D.C.’s children out of Rotenberg, most remain there because school officials haven’t found new placements for them, the documents show.
On Friday, Valentine blamed breakdown on the independent school hearing officers — and on the children’s parents.
“We don’t control the placements,” Valentine said. “If a parent wants and consents to it, there’s not much we can do to block it.”
In the Aug. 31 memo that ordered the schools to cut ties with Rotenberg, Rhee said most of the placements there “came about as a result of DCPS’ failure.”
Because special education staff routinely ignored federal guidelines on addressing the children’s needs, the children’s lawyer had an easy time getting the children placed in Rotenberg, the memo states.
Got a tip on special education? Call Bill Myers at 202-459-4956 or e-mail

The Colonel New Details On Report Allege Child Abuse By Head Of Victor Cullen Academy

The Colonel New Details On Report Allege Child Abuse By Head Of Victor Cullen Academy

FOR THE KIDS: The Department Of Juvenile Services' Donald Devore (Pictured) Is Backing Chris Perkins.

December 12, 2007

This document, compiled by the Child and Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in Jan. 2006, was released yesterday by a Montana judge. The report, on the heels of a licensing report made public early in 2006, alleges numerous incidents of physical and psychological abuse of students at the academy. Perkins has confirmed that he is the individual identified as "Staff #2" in this new report.

Scores of juvenile delinquents and teen counselors out in Montana know Chris Perkins, the recently tapped head of Maryland's Victor Cullen Academy for youth offenders, as "the Colonel."
Licensing authorities with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services know him as "Staff #20."

(Editor's Note 12/13/2007: Montana officials also know him as "Staff #2" in the investigative report released Dec. 12.)

Law enforcers out in Big Sky Country know him as a juvenile-detention administrator who was the subject of persistent allegations of child abuse--but one who never had a formal hearing on the merits of such allegations.

Here in Maryland, Perkins, who has been promoted to director of statewide detention facilities, is known as Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) Secretary Donald DeVore's point man for systemic reform.

No matter the perception of Perkins, a couple things are certain: He is a man with a questionable past, and both he and DeVore are out on a limb together in defending it.

In fact, it appears that both Perkins and DeVore have publicly mischaracterized a messy era in Montana's juvenile justice system--one that has Maryland officials looking out to the Wild West and perhaps seeing the Old Line State in the mirror. On the day this issue went to press, Dec. 11, The Washington Post reported that DeVore, who had originally claimed that Perkins was cleared of child-abuse allegations, is now launching an investigation.

On Nov. 28, in a web exclusive ("Juvenile Disservices," Mobtown Beat), City Paper reported that DeVore hired Perkins to head the newly renovated Victor Cullen Academy last summer without looking into Perkins' troubled past at Swan Valley Youth Academy, a military-style juvenile facility in Montana that Perkins headed from 2003 to 2006. Montana licensing authorities there found that Swan Valley staff, including Perkins, "Placed youth at risk of being physically and emotionally harmed."

The facility--the only one of its kind in Montana, and a major source of jobs in rural Lake County--submitted a plan of correction that regulators accepted. But in 2006 a media firestorm led to Perkins' removal for administrative reasons, plummeting enrollment, and huge financial losses for Colorado-based Cornerstone Programs Corp., which closed the facility.

In addition, Montana's Child and Family Services Division investigated allegations of criminal child abuse and neglect at Swan Valley--and by Perkins--and produced a confidential report that the Montana Advocacy Program (MAP), a nonprofit protection and advocacy group, is seeking to unseal based on the public's right to know.

Perkins recently told The Sun that he never told DeVore about either the licensing report or the abuse and neglect report, and DeVore stated that he was unaware of either report. Joseph Newman, the founder of Cornerstone, said that no one from Maryland ever asked him about Perkins. Then both Perkins and DeVore went a step further by insisting that Perkins was cleared of all allegations of child abuse.

"No facts against Mr. Perkins were sustained," DJS spokeswoman Tammy Brown told City Paper. "Secretary DeVore stands by Mr. Perkins." DeVore declined requests to be interviewed for this story.

"All the allegations against me were found to be not true," Perkins said in an interview Dec. 3. "There was no evidence or proof to support allegations that were grossly negligent, malicious, and manufactured. The state couldn't prove their case in any way, shape, or form. If even one of the allegations were true, then the state would have substantiated the allegations. Instead they dismissed them. If I slammed a kid against a wall, don't you think it would have been in a licensing report?"

Perkins said that he provided a copy of the confidential report to DeVore last week, after the City Paper story broke, and added, "I can authorize release of this report to anyone I want." Asked if he would provide City Paper with a copy he at first replied, "I'm not gonna do that. It's unfairly prejudicial." After some discussion in which Perkins elaborated on his successes in expanding the licensing and accreditation at Swan Valley, Perkins finally agreed to let City Paper review the report, pending approval from DeVore's office.

"If I had anything to hide, would I have tried to expand the program and invited regulators to come in to survey the place?" he asked. "I have an impeccable record of 15 years in this business. I have been totally absolved. I never hid anything from DJS. I felt it was a closed matter."

City Paper placed a call to Montana attorney Joseph Sternhagen, the hearing officer who formally dismissed the charges against Perkins of child abuse and neglect in December 2006. Sternhagen called the Perkins matter "bizarre" and said the charges were dismissed on procedural grounds. He said state investigators "substantiated" allegations of child abuse in a 22-page single-spaced report involving 14 kids, and that Perkins has never been tried on the merits of the case because the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services "dropped the ball."

"In my 12 years doing this--and I'm essentially the only person in the state who hears these cases--I've never seen the state go to such lengths to produce such a detailed substantiation of abuse and then quit," Sternhagen says. "This case was huge, and it just slipped through the cracks."

Sternhagen says that Perkins was not exonerated on the merits. He says Perkins hired a lawyer and filed motions to fight the charges, but the state failed to respond, and failed to show up for a hearing. "It's a 22-page document compiled by a team of investigators. I'm sure they could have proved something had they tried. But we'll never know for sure."

According to Judy Beck, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Justice, the Division of Criminal Investigation reviewed the findings of state-licensing authorities, child and family services investigators, and the Lake County sheriff's investigators, but by then the facility had closed. Mike Batista, who supervised the Department of Criminal Investigation's review, says, "we interviewed some children from the facility and some staff, but our investigation was hampered by the fact that the facility had closed." Batista indicates the matter was referred back to the Lake County attorney, who declined to press charges, a decision Batista says his investigator agreed with, given problems with the lack of available witnesses and the state's statute of limitations.

Brenda Wahler, a lawyer for Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services, was less enthusiastic about receiving a call asking why she did not follow through on the report. She declined to discuss the details, citing confidentiality and pending review by a judge. But she confirmed that Perkins never had a hearing on the merits, and said that one reason was lack of resources at the state level to press the matter.

She also confirmed that the report is a "substantiated" document, and read the definition of substantiation from the Administrative Rules of Montana, section 37.47.602: "After investigation, a preponderance of the evidence shows that reported abuse, neglect, or exploitation occurred, based on credible information or facts."

The licensing report, made public in 2006, found 19 violations, including that staff at Swan Valley harmed youth during the intake process, imposed inappropriate seclusion and restraints on children, failed to report abuse and an attempted suicide to state authorities, and failed to "ensure proper care, treatment and safety of the residents."

Throughout the report, an individual identified as "Staff #20" is described as a figure of authority who required subordinates to alter restraint reports, who failed to report serious incidents to authorities, and who told state regulators that the program's philosophy is to "break the kid down to build them up."

"This philosophy is particularly harmful to any child's well being," licensing authorities concluded. Staff # 20 failed to follow up on abuse-reporting concerns to the child abuse hotline in seven separate cases, the report states; required staff to alter reports to indicate that proper restraint techniques were used when they were not; and failed to report a youth's suicide attempt on Sept. 10, 2004.

When asked by City Paper who Staff #20 is, Perkins replied, "I am."

"If abuse occurred, you would think staff would have gone to law enforcement, but they never did," he says. "That means it never happened, or they violated their duties as mandatory reporters of child abuse."

In fact, law enforcement was involved at Swan Valley, but Lake County officials and Montana officials played pass the buck until Swan Valley closed down for financial reasons and Perkins left the state.

According to Wahler, a Lake County sheriff's deputy was involved with the original licensing investigation of allegations of abuse at Swan Valley, and a review of official correspondence obtained by City Paper indicates the sheriff's department did not like what it saw.

After reporting allegations of criminal child abuse to the Lake County attorney's office in October 2005, MAP attorney Andrée Larose referred the matter to the Montana Attorney General's Office and asked for a criminal investigation. On June 22, 2006, John Connor, chief criminal counsel for the state, wrote to Larose and stated his office can only initiate criminal investigations "when requested by federal, state or local law enforcement authorities." Even then, Connor wrote, the Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation conducts such investigations--not the state Attorney General's Office. That same day, Lake County Lieutenant Sheriff Michael Sargeant, head of criminal investigations, wrote DCI: "We are requesting your assistance in investigating the [Swan Valley] Youth Academy . . . after consultation with County Attorney Bob Long, we believe that this investigation should be pursued by the state."
Wahler says the state assigned a criminal investigator to the case, but that "to the best of my knowledge, the state Department of Justice never conducted a thorough investigation of alleged criminal child abuse at Swan Valley."

Connor, current Lake County attorney Mitch Young, and investigators at DCI in Montana all declined to be interviewed for this story.

Montana's failure to go the distance in resolving the substantiated findings of the Child and Family Services Division, which point to child abuse, are not what is bothering Marlana Valdez, Maryland's juvenile justice monitor. "I'm disappointed that Secretary DeVore hasn't announced a full investigation into Chris Perkins' background, and hasn't initiated a public discussion of DJS's vetting process and where it failed in this instance," she says. "Perkins had an ethical duty to disclose his background, and I see no evidence that he did, or that anyone asked him whether he had ever been the subject of child abuse allegations, [or] whether they were resolved or not. All I've seen from [DeVore] is blanket denials and no details."

Valdez is so steamed she took the matter to Gov. Martin O'Malley's office, to Catherine Motz, interim executive director for the Governor's Office for Children and a member of O'Malley's legal staff. "They appear to be taking the matter seriously," Valdez says.

At press time, O'Malley's staff had not returned calls for comment.

For his part, Perkins is laying low. He canceled an appointment to meet on Dec. 6 and declined to share a copy of the Montana abuse and neglect report, though he acknowledges it pertains directly to him. He pointed to a lengthy career in working with youth--one that began with a program called Rite of Passage, in Yerington, Nev., in 1992. From there he says he ran the juvenile justice court in Reno for a year, from 1995 to 1996, and served as a juvenile services director with a now-defunct company called Youth Track, in Colorado and Utah, from 1997 to 2000.

In 2000, Perkins says he left the industry because he wanted a change, joining some friends in his hometown of Seattle in an internet sports information venture called Rivals. He resumed working with children in 2002, Perkins said, when he joined Cornerstone, where he earned his nickname, "The Colonel," in keeping with its military-style regime.

By the time the dust cleared at Swan Valley, Perkins was with a Pennsylvania company called VisionQuest, where he worked for six months before DeVore, with whom Perkins says he has a previous relationship, recruited him to come to Maryland. "My heart is in working with kids," he says.

NEWS: Charges refiled in Ozarks child abuse case

Charges refiled in Ozarks child abuse case

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A high-profile child abuse case in an isolated Ozarks religious community took another sudden turn when the prosecutor who dropped all charges a week ahead of trial last month refiled the case against the church's leader. Court records showed Raymond Lambert, 52, was charged with four counts of second-degree child molestation, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and one count of sexual abuse. The charges were filed Monday with as little fanfare from the prosecutor as when similar counts were dropped a month ago. Lambert had pleaded not guilty to the original counts filed in August 2006. Lambert's attorney did not return a phone call for comment on the renewed charges. Lambert is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 17. Lambert is the pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, a commune founded by his stepfather in the 1970s. At its peak, about 100 people lived on and near the church's 100-acre farm in rural McDonald County, in southwest Missouri.

Two women, now 20 and 29, started the case last year by alleging they were molested and abused by Raymond Lambert from the ages of 12 to 16. The case drew national attention when the original charges were filed in August 2006 alleging that Lambert, his wife, Patty Lambert, and two of her brothers abused girls from the congregation over a period of many years. Lambert's sister-in-law Laura Epling was later charged with helping abuse one girl. All pleaded not guilty, and the charges against the two brothers were dropped due to statute-of-limitation issues.