Some Knuckleheads make you want to get ill. This is one of them. Today's winner is the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. They get it for their colossal blundering involving the case of Robert a 15 year old mentally retarded boy. He was put into state care after his mother's death. At a Tallahassee juvenille center he was housed at the boy was sexually assualted by a 17 year old sex offender. One Dept employees assigned to care for the boy.
A monumental bureaucratic screw-up doesn't do justice to this case. What were these people thinking of? All parties responsible for this should be first fired and then prosecuted.
Open Post- Political Teen
Robert, an orphan with the mind of an infant, was not a typical inmate at the Tallahassee juvenile detention center. The 15-year-old teen wore diapers and played with blocks.
Guards at the lockup found a solution for Robert's care: They assigned Lee Donton, a teenage convicted sex offender, to bathe him, clothe him and change his diaper.
Within weeks, Robert had been sexually assaulted, according to Tallahassee police. Now Donton, 17, is in a Tallahassee jail facing rape charges. And the Department of Juvenile Justice is facing another scandal as the agency's inspector general investigates allegations officers turned a blind eye to Robert's plight.
The story of Robert, considered severely mentally retarded with an IQ of 32, is contained in a 10-page Department of Juvenile Justice report completed last week.
''Clearly, the system has failed this young man,'' said John Hall, statewide director of the Association for Retarded Citizens in Tallahassee. ``Shame on everybody involved.''
Robert's ordeal began in 2000 when his mother became terminally ill. By this summer, Robert had come into contact with officials at three state agencies -- the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Children & Families and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
The juvenile justice report suggests officials at all three agencies blundered, failing repeatedly to find a suitable home for the teen, whose elderly grandmother and great-aunt were too frail to care for him.
Said state Rep. Gustavo A. ''Gus'' Barreiro, a Miami Republican: ``This young man does not have a voice of his own. . . . The No. 1 goal of the system is to protect kids coming into our programs. But we put so little value on a kid.''
Tom Denham, a spokesman for the juvenile justice agency, appeared to dispute his own agency's report Wednesday.
''It is not the department's policy to assign youth to take care of any other youth,'' he said.
``We are going to wait until the investigation is complete.''
Mattie Russ, Robert's 84-year-old great-aunt, said she received a phone call from an official she could not identify, but she still knows little of what happened to her nephew.
''They just said he got hurt and he's all right now,'' she said. ``They didn't tell us nothing.''
At 300 pounds, Robert has the size of a defensive lineman.
FOOD AS AMUSEMENT
For months, his public defender's social worker says, Robert's grandmother and aunt amused the youth by feeding him.
Though Robert attended a special school regularly, the report said he ``just sat in class. . . . He was unable to color or coordinate blocks.''
When his public defender's social worker, Victor Williams, visited Robert at his home, he typically found the boy watching cartoons or soap operas and playing with teddy bears and other stuffed animals.
After his mother's death on Feb. 2, 2004, Robert became increasingly aggressive toward his elderly grandmother and aunt.
He was charged four times between December and May with battery on a person 65 or older.
Disability officials told a Gadsden County judge twice, in May and June, they had no bed for Robert at a group home capable of caring for him.
In May, a frustrated Judge William Gary ordered the youth detained indefinitely at the Tallahassee lockup, the report says.
A mental health counselor said Robert was entirely unable to care for himself, adding: ``His personal care needs are more than our staff are trained to provide.''
''Everything about [Robert] suggested he would be in jeopardy,'' said Nancy Daniels, the Tallahassee-based public defender.
At some point, the report says, Donton was given the responsibility for Robert's daily hygiene.
On June 16, a lockup supervisor, Tony Threatts, sent an e-mail to the superintendent and assistant superintendent of the facility raising alarms about the practice.
''I was made aware by one of my staff yesterday that youth Lee Donton, a sexual offender, is being allowed to shower and/or change [Robert's] diaper during the 7-3 shift and it was common practice and all staff, including the lieutenant, were aware of it,'' Threatts wrote.
``It was reported that the lieutenant was questioned by a staff member and the response was, `We have bigger things to worry about right now.'
''I want this out of my hands,'' Threatts wrote.
Williams, Robert's social worker, said he received private calls from guards at the lockup warning him that Robert ``was in trouble.''
He said he believes Robert was regularly assaulted over a period of months.
On June 23, two lockup detainees, one identified in the Department of Juvenile Justice report as an ''alleged eyewitness,'' complained to Tracy Shelby, a therapist at the lockup, that Robert was being abused.
That same day, the allegations were reported to Tallahassee police and to the Department of Children & Families' child abuse hot line.
Police charged Donton with two counts of sexual battery almost a month later. He was booked into the Leon County Jail on Aug. 5.
The investigation proved difficult.
Although the detention center is equipped with video monitoring equipment throughout, the report says, police said some of the videotape they requested was missing, while other tapes were of ''very poor quality'' because they were being used over and over.