Georgia court may have given sex predator custody of child victims

Georgia court may have given sex predator custody of child victims

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Photo by Southworth Sailor

ATLANTA, June 26, 2014 — According to court records, throughout 2011-2012, “Jane’s” children (then ages 2 and 7) repeatedly insisted and showed credible evidence to child psychologist Nancy McGarrah, Ph.D and Ann Shannon, LCSW, that that their father made suicidal and homicidal plans with them, that he routinely watched child porn with them and sexually assaulted them during overnight visits.

Court orders show that Cobb County, Georgia Family Court Judge C Latain Kell has repeatedly ordered Jane’s children back into the unsupervised care of their alleged rapist, even after the Walton County Department of Family And Children’s Services (DFCS) issued a report substantiating emotional and sexual abuse allegations against the father.

Perhaps in retrospect, the Atlanta based divorcee would not have cooperated with child protection authorities if she had known from the start that it would cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal industry professional fees, while at the same time, creating a perverse incentive for the Court to order the children to spend even more time with their alleged attacker.

“Custody switching scams involving child sex predators represent a real threat to public safety” says Atlanta based advocate Deborah Beacham, who says she has reviewed dozens of Georgia cases like Jane’s over the years. “Judges should be turning child sex assault cases over to the criminal justice system, not turning them into billable feeding frenzies for family court industry professionals.”

Last year, Judge Kell required the parents to pay for an expensive 4-month long trial, then issued orders last September that required Jane’s children to spend more unsupervised time with the man still under criminal suspicion of raping them.

Jane was financially destroyed after the court held her in contempt for complying with the DCFS safety plan, and ordered her to pay out thousands of dollars to her children’s abuser and his attorney.


The parent’s divorce settled out of court relatively uneventfully in 2010, but not before a guardian ad litem was appointed onto the case to represent the will and best interests of the children.

Despite nearly 50 years of combined professional training and experience, Judge C Latain Kell elected not to hear directly from Jane’s children. Instead, he relied on expensive help to make decisions on the case. Judge Kell ordered the parents to shell hundreds of thousands of dollars to family court industry professionals to evaluate, represent, advocate, treat, and supervise the entire family, then report back to the court their remote observations about the family and each other.

In 2012, Judge Kell decided in favor of a plan to appoint several family court industry professionals onto Jane’s case to “evaluate the evaluators.” Although there was no evidence that Jane had abused the children, Judge Kell effectively sanctioned the victims when he appointed Dr. Howard Drutman to conduct psychological evaluations on both parents, then ordered their mother to pay half of Drutman’s $6,000 fee.

According to their billing invoices, GAL Larry Yarborough and Drutman collectively charged the parents over $40,000 to consult with each other and with other professionals, but never met the children whose interests they testified about. Eventually, Jane would also have to shell out thousands in fees to psychologist Elizabeth King to evaluate Drutman’s evaluation.

It did not help matters that during the spring of 2012, DCFS may have falsely discredited the alleged victims and destroyed the mother’s credibility in the eyes of the court when it issued a safety plan restricting the father’s parenting time to supervised visitation, then dropped the ball on the investigation.

However, the professionals on the case neglected to tell Jane that from May 24-26th, some of them would be off on vacation together at the Ritz Carleton Resort in Amelia Island, Florida.

DCFS records show that when they returned in June, the agency was unable to confirm the children’s reports because Jane’s 3-year-old was too young to participate in a forensic psychological evaluation, and the children did not disclose the sexual assaults to DCFS. DCFS opened a second investigation after the children again disclosed sexual assaults to both psychologists and a Cobb County detective.

DCFS “lost” the reports, then found them in December after McGarrah and Shannon refiled them.


“Safe children don’t generate a lot of billable hours because there are no injuries and no cause for court industry professionals to assess, treat, evaluate, advocate, or supervise the entire family” says Beacham, who founded MyAdvocate Center. Beacham says that whether or not the sexual assaults occurred, Jane’s biggest problem may have been that there was no financial incentive for the professionals appointed to protect her children to rescue the kids or close the case.

Emails show that in October 2012, Drutman sent the parents notice that he had completed the evaluations and would release the reports to the parties once their $14,643.75 bill was paid. Jane was shocked to see that Drutman’s bill was more than twice the original estimate because he took it upon himself to perform a custody evaluation she says the court never authorized him to conduct. Although Jane did question Drutman’s billing, she was too intimidated to press the matter.

“I was afraid that if I protested to loudly about Dr. Drutman’s costs or refused to pay up, Dr. Drutman would paint me as ‘uncooperative’ in his evaluation and testify against my children and I at trial” says Jane.

Jane’s fears about Drutman were well founded. The total tab for his services was almost $18,000.

Drutman’s report was not only favorable to the father, but may have falsely discredited the alleged child victims whom he had never met. According to Dr. King’s trial testimony, Drutman’s report was substandard for many reasons, but mostly because he failed to interview the father’s treating psychiatrist and mental health providers, he botched and misconstrued his own diagnostic tests, then diagnosed the parents with mental impairments they don’t have while ignoring the father’s serious mental health condition.

In January 2013, Judge Kell’s orders cited Drutman’s report and testimony against Jane and her children as the reason why he chose to order the children back into their father’s unsupervised care and reinstate overnight visits while the DCFS and law enforcement investigations were still pending.  A month later, DCFS substantiated sexual and emotional abuse allegations against the father, then issued a safety plan which required Jane not to allow any unsupervised contact with the children’s alleged rapist.

That spring, the alleged perpetrator filed contempt motions against Jane because her compliance with the DCFS safety plan necessarily caused her to violate the Judge Kell’s prior custody order.

After that, Judge Kell, attorney Steele, Drutman, and McGarrah spent a little R&R time together with their friends at the Hilton Sandestin Resort, in Destin Florida.

Upon their return, the legal comrades presided over a $300,000 trial where they debated the contempt action, their own competing evaluations, and motions for colossal legal fees from July until September of 2013.

According to the Cobb County Police, the criminal sexual assault investigation is still pending.

As a mother and legal industry consumer, Jane is horrified and says that even if her ex was accused of murder, there was no excuse for the professional and financial that occurred after Judge Kell lost control of the case.

“I continue to be shocked and appalled at how lacking the system is, and how unethical, unqualified people can blindly send children back into abuse without a second thought.  Further, Drutman and the GAL who is supposed to represent the children hasn’t even met them, and refuses to listen to the therapists who have been working with them, and hasn’t taken any steps to gain additional information that could be important in understanding the risks to the children.”

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, which will explore the role DCFS plays in placing Georgia children into profitably dangerous homes.



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