Criminal charges dismissed on the motion of the prosecution [*check*]. Maltreatment and Negligence finding by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) amended from indicated to unfounded [*check*]. Article 10 Negligence Petition filed by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) withdrawn [*check*]. A Criminal Court and Family Court “hat trick” by Saland Law PC’s defense team? Check yet again.
While Saland Law PC’s family law attorneys and criminal defense lawyers secured yet another successful disposition, and more importantly fair and just one, above cases demonstrate once again that when accused of wrongdoing, one often has many battles ahead on one’s way to vindication. After being targeted by the mother of his child with fictitious allegations as a likely means to pry custody away from our client, the mother’s attempts ultimately backfired in spectacular fashion. The exoneration of our client aside, now it is she who appears to be the subject of an ACS investigation.
Ranging from claims that our client intentionally hurt the child to accidentally doing the same, the mother’s 911 call to the police after a non-incident landed our client in front of a judge for arraignment on a slew of criminal charges and saddled with an Order of Protection. Pressing the District Attorney’s Office respectfully but quite aggressively, the People moved to dismiss the case in relative short order and longer than approximately a month from our client’s arraignment. Unfortunately, dealing with ACS was a far more arduous endeavor.
Prior to the dismissal of the criminal allegations, ACS filed a Maltreatment and Neglect Petition based on the same substantive claims in the Family Court. Hauled in front of a second judge, albeit in a new forum, our client was given a second Order of Protection in favor of his ex-partner and child. After months of disappointing unresponsiveness from both supervisors and the immediate attorney handling the case for ACS, our client received notification that OCFS “indicated” him for negligence. Appealing that finding, based almost in its entirety on evidence provided by ACS during discovery proceedings, OCFS fairly quickly amended the indication to “unfounded” and sealed the record days before the scheduled fact-finding hearing (trial).
Turning back to ACS, Saland Law PC confronted their counsel with the amended OCFS resolution and additional information that within the past couple of days the mother allegedly had an incident at the child’s school resulting in the child being expelled. In fact, our client learned of this allegation from an ACS caseworker after the mother of the child missed her fifth appointment to bring the child to our client for an unnecessary but mandated supervised visit. Upon asking for materials related to that allegation for our fact-finding hearing ACS refused to provide the documents. Without diving too deep into what transpired, upon pressing ACS that they lacked a provable case even with the low standard of a preponderance of the evidence, the undeniable fact that that the two other actions – criminal prosecution and the OCFS administrative determination – ended favorably for our client, their failure to provide us with discovery, and lack of preparation to call certain witness for the hearing, ACS finally relented only hours before the scheduled fact-finding “trial.” Ultimately, after demanding to speak with a senior supervising attorney and to answer whether it wasthe policy of ACS to continue negligence and maltreatment actions where OCFS amended their finding, ACS did what they should had done months before and withdrew their petition.
Another example of perseverance and preparation paying off for a deserving client, this unnecessary fiasco was nonetheless avoidable if ACS took the time to vet the case, the evidence, and the mother’s clear misrepresentations months earlier. No parent should be forced to endure malicious, false and self-serving allegations of abuse, neglect and Domestic Violence by a spouse or former partner. Even if we understand that law enforcement and ACS must investigate allegations, when the evidence and facts are wholly inconsistent with the claims that led to the initial arrest (despite it being dismissed on the motion of the People) and negligence petition, the best interest of the child and justice should not be relegated to the back of the line.
Saland Law PC is a New York law firm founded by former Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys.