How Could You? Hall of Shame/Lawsuit-James Earl Mooney UPDATED
This will be an archive of heinous actions by those involved in child welfare, foster care and adoption. We forewarn you that these are deeply disturbing stories that may involve sex abuse, murder, kidnapping and other horrendous actions.
From Salem, Oregon, foster parent James Earl Mooney was “sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of first-degree sodomy” in 2012. Now a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 11 victims. The Oregon DHS is being sued for $23 Million.
“James Earl Mooney told police he couldn’t remember how many of the 50 babies and toddlers who lived in his Salem foster home fell victim to his sexual abuse from 2007 to 2011.
But attorneys for 11 of those children have filed nearly $23 million in lawsuits against the Oregon Department of Human Services. Investigators may identify more children who were victims and their names could be added to the suits.
The lawsuits represent one of the most sweeping cases against the state child-welfare agency for abuse by a single foster parent. Some of the children were as young as days or weeks old.
“It’s hard to fathom a more dangerous perpetrator,” said David Paul, a Portland attorney who filed suit on behalf of one of the children, who is now 5. “The notion that these kind of crimes can occur serially in a home where the state pays to house children is a tragedy beyond measure.”
A DHS spokesman on Monday referred questions about details of the case to the Oregon Department of Justice, which declined comment.
Last year, Mooney was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of first-degree sodomy. His wife, LaTamra Moody, wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing. She divorced James Mooney later that year.
According to two suits filed Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court and U.S. District Court by Portland attorney Steve Rizzo on behalf of 10 foster children:
Mooney and his wife were 22-year-old newlyweds and didn’t have children when DHS approved them as foster parents. Their application, background checks, home study and training took less than two months. Soon, young children — and money from DHS — were arriving at the Mooneys’ apartment.
Rizzo’s suits fault DHS employees for allegedly ignoring escalating signs of abuse from the children — including complaints of pain while using the toilet, redness on their buttocks and unusual behavior, such as smearing feces on walls.
It wasn’t until April 2011 that the molestations came to light, after one of the foster children moved out of the home and told a prospective adoptive parent that Mooney had sexually abused her in the shower.
Mooney denied the abuse, but nearly two months later, he told police that as a youth he sexually abused babies at his mother’s in-home day care and committed acts of bestiality against cats and dogs, according to the suits. It’s unclear whether Mooney was prosecuted as a juvenile for any of these offenses because juvenile records are protected from the public.
Mooney admitted that he abused many of his foster children. He described one instance when he preyed on a child who was strapped into a car seat in a parking lot while his wife was inside a medical office with another child, Rizzo said.
Although DHS spokesman Gene Evans said he couldn’t talk about the specifics of the pending suits, he addressed department policies that allowed the Mooneys to become foster parents.
People as young as 21 — newlyweds, co-habitating couples or single people, regardless of whether they have children — can apply to be foster parents of children who aren’t relatives.
In 2007, when the Mooneys were approved, a supervisor would have been required to OK a screener’s decision to approve them, but not necessarily in writing. In 2010, the department began requiring supervisors to commit their signatures to paper. The agency also gave supervisors more training emphasizing that they need to review the details of each foster parent application, not just OK it as a mere formality, Evans said.
DHS does a better job of sharing information among caseworkers who supervise children in the same home, Evans said, so now anytime a report of abuse is made against a foster parent, all caseworkers are automatically alerted.
Rizzo’s suits allege DHS failed to give James Mooney a psychological evaluation that might have identified his sexual attraction toward young children. DHS doesn’t require an evaluation for all applicants, but can require a specific applicant to undergo one.
Although James Mooney had an auto repair job when he first became a foster parent, both the Mooneys later became unemployed. DHS policy states that foster parents must be able to financially support themselves independently of money they receive as foster parents. “
[Oregon Live 6/24/13 by Aimee Green]
REFORM Puzzle Pieces
Update: “The families of eleven infants and toddlers placed in foster care with a Salem man are suing Oregon’s Department of Human Services, alleging the agency failed to vet the family and ignored signs of sexual abuse.
Lawsuits filed Friday in Multnomah County and U.S. District Court on behalf of nine victims seek $22 million in damages for negligence, abuse of a vulnerable person and deprivation of civil rights.
The suit also lays the groundwork to add up to 50 additional victims who could have been abused by James Earl Mooney — making it one of the largest abuse cases ever brought against a single foster parent in Oregon.
“Several of the children have memories, bad ones,” attorney Steven Rizzo said. “We view it as an extremely serious injury, and we want DHS to come forward and reveal the identities of the children who passed through the home to find out whether they have been evaluated and tested for disease.”
Mooney, now 29, and his wife were approved as foster parents in February 2007 when they both were 22 years old and living in a “small apartment.” According to the lawsuit, the couple agreed to take “medically fragile newborns, infants and toddlers.” The kids suffered from things such as drug withdrawal and physical disabilities.
The lawsuit alleges DHS didn’t require Mooney to undergo a psychological evaluation that might have revealed his troubled upbringing.
“Defendant Mooney watched a parent engage in the sexual abuse of this sibling, and he sexually abused and molested infants in his mother’s in-home day care,” according to the lawsuit. “In addition, defendant Mooney regularly engaged in acts of bestiality with dogs and cats and was involved repeatedly in acts of theft. He also committed arson.”
The Statesman Journal couldn’t verify these claims because juvenile records are sealed.
The lawsuit accuses multiple named and unnamed DHS employees of ignoring symptoms of abuse in Mooney’s foster children, including complaints of pain while using the bathroom, redness around their bottoms and self-harming behaviors such as biting, hair-pulling and smearing feces on the walls.
Although Mooney repaired cars when DHS approved the couple, the lawsuit alleges that Mooney and his wife were later unemployed. DHS policy requires foster parents to support themselves independently of the money DHS supplies as compensation.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice, which will represent DHS, declined to comment.
The abuse allegedly continued until April 2011 when a child’s adoptive parents told DHS and Salem police that Mooney forced his genitalia into their child’s mouth while the two were in a shower.
Mooney initially denied the allegations.
He confessed in June 2011, providing explicit details about his abuse of multiple foster children.
In January 2012, Mooney was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of first-degree sodomy against one female victim whose name the Statesman Journal is withholding.
His wife did not face any criminal charges and divorced Mooney soon after.
No victims’ families came to the sentencing. The lawsuit alleges that could be by design.
Specifically, it notes that the adoptive parents of one child were ignored when they asked the Marion County District Attorney’s office in writing to be told when Mooney would be sentenced.
“I think all of the families wanted a chance to be involved and be heard,” Rizzo said.
The suit also claims DHS and the DA’s office repeatedly rescheduled Mooney’s sentencing and didn’t issue a public statement to avoid media exposure.
“We were not able to find any media on James Mooney or the Mooney prosecution at all,” Rizzo said. “I can’t say whether it’s intentional … We will know more once we get into discovery in this case.”
Deputy District Attorney Nicole Theobald petitioned the court during Mooney’s sentencing to close the room to media and seal the case file. Circuit Judge Jamese Rhodes denied both motions, according to court documents.
Jean Kunkle, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office, said Tuesday she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
She did say that the female victim and her family were notified of all of Mooney’s appearances, and Theobald asked to close the courtroom to media at the request of the girl’s family.
DHS has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit or ask for an extension. Once the agency responds, the case will move into discovery.”
[Statesman Journal 6/26/13 by Anna Staver]