Mattiello and Raimondo need to go. Here’s why.
I have, in collaboration with current and former Representatives Bob DaSilva, Raymond Hull, Michael Marcello, Anastasia Williams and multitudinous others, drafted and submitted bills to ameliorate the seemingly irremediable Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). We have introduced this legislation year after year. Each bill, year after year, has been held for further study.
Interestingly enough, when I was actively lobbying for this legislation in my 2011 DCYF reform blitz, we had over 40 co-sponsors in the House. Think about that for a second. The House of Representatives has 75 members. There were forty co-sponsors. If those bills were transmitted from committee to the floor for a vote, they would have passed with flying colors. Continue reading DCYF Report: Recurrent, vile and ominous abuse findings. Again.
By Nicholas Alahverdian
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss this important legislation that will furnish to the honorable House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island crucial oversight of the agency that is charged with protecting our state’s most vulnerable children, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.
I want to begin my brief remarks by paying tribute to the DCYF social workers, who, in the face of being overburdened with excessive cases and long hours, have acted with incredible strength and determination. My message to them: this legislation will compel the Department to treat you more fairly, give you the resources that you need to protect children, and keep alive the dreams of those you honorably serve.
Meanwhile, even as we speak, children are victimized in DCYF group homes, foster homes, and shelters. Not unlike the exportation of commodities, children, like products, are exiled to for- profit, out-of-state facilities that have extensive histories of abuse and neglect.
This brief story of mine is just one of many, however, I would ask that this honorable committee consider it among the hundreds of horror stories that we have all heard over the years. It actually began happily in 2002 in the grand chamber just outside this room. I was merely a high school freshman, working for the honorable House of Representatives as a page, hired first by Sen. Lanzi while she honorably served in the House, and then in 2003 by Speaker Gordon D. Fox, who was Chairman of the House Finance Committee at the time. Needless to say, my mother was not as excited as I, most aptly characterized by the fact that she refused to purchase the blue blazer required for all pages, and instead, decided to purchase a case of white Zinfandel to cater to her alcoholism. In the end, it was a state rep who graciously provided to me the blazer.
Yet I involved myself in DCYF because I had finally come to the determination that my mother was inept, negligent, manipulative, and not unlike a bad role model. In short, she could no longer provide the necessary parental care.
This decision later led to my devastating detriment. In the care of the department, one abusive situation morphed into several thousand spanning nearly three years. I was placed in numerous shelters in DCYF’s night-to-night program. Often, I was not provided with meals due to the lack of communication between shelter employees and DCYF staff concerning the allocation of responsibilities.
I spent my days here at the state house and my nights fighting for a bed, looking for food, trying to make sure my belongings weren’t stolen. Most of all, I had to fear constant physical assaults and dangerous situations. The bruises, lacerations, and other visible injuries were noticed by concerned members of the honorable chamber to my left. There were many breathtakingly compassionate acts of kindness by representatives of that honorable chamber who refused to see me go hungry, who refused to let the bruises and cuts from the abuse go unnoticed, and who refused to let my voice be unheard. These representatives were my lifeline, and to them, I am eternally indebted.
As I tendered my resignation as an employee of the RI House of Representatives nearly a decade ago, at the age of 15, I began to lobby for fair treatment for individuals in state care. The media attention, calls from the legislators, and pressure from the Office of the Child Advocate all motivated DCYF to rid themselves of a publicity threat. I engaged in hostile conflicts with DCYF administration due to violations of basic constitutional rights, the inability to remain in one school district, the constant beatings inflicted upon me and corroborated by medical records, the humiliating practice of night-to-night placement, and the discouragement of civic participation. The department is fundamentally flawed, not only for the reasons heretofore stated, but for the children that have died in their care, for the assaults, beatings, and rapes that continue to this very day, and for the inability of the department to provide a free and appropriate education in accordance with state law.
Additionally, It is truly tragic to think that an employee of DCYF would sit in the sanctified office of the majority whip and attempt to illicitly coerce a state official to admonish a young legislative aide that his presence at the state house is unwelcome and his advocacy for DCYF reform is hindering the agency’s ability to provide an appropriate placement free of abuse and negligence. They may have won battles early on, but the war is still waging.
Consequently, I was sent to two different states and placed in inappropriately restrictive facilities where contact with the outside world was prohibited and the infrastructure and mentality of the population was tantamount to a maximum security prison. Staff and youth formed rival gangs. I was beaten nearly every hour of every day. A staff person admitted to raping me in Florida.
Both facilities were closed by their states before and after my placement in those facilities for the rampant abuse and negligence that ensued on a daily basis. And, of most concern to the taxpayer, the State of RI expended over a quarter of a million dollars on this corrupt, for-profit corporation that cut staff and services, increased the population, reaped in the profits, and sipped martinis and watched the sun rise as the children they were responsible for wept from the pain of the punch and the constant, piercing screaming that ensued as a result of the unmanageable population juxtaposed with assaultive, unprofessional, ill-equipped staff.
Furthermore, each request to communicate with the outside world was denied. Contact was prohibited even with lawfully entitled agencies with whom children are always guaranteed contact: the Office of the Child Advocate, the Court Appointed Special Advocate, law enforcement, and the Courts.
According to court records, DCYF and the RI Family Court were aware that the abuse was ensuing in both Nebraska and Florida and they left me there, even after my social worker demanded that I be removed from this corner of the earth comparable only to my nightmarish imagined description of hell’s hottest fire.
In the face of seemingly innumerable decades of the State’s condemnation, DCYF has monotonously issued trumped-up news releases, exaggerated plans, and arbitrary reports, but no amount of bureaucratic paperwork that this entity can issue will stop the horrific abuse and negligence that kids experience at the hands of unqualified, untrained employees, many of whom have criminal records.
DCYF has proven that they consistently fail to manage themselves and that theirs is a fundamentally flawed department. DCYF’s past four directors have not been innovative at all. DCYF has unceasingly demonstrated its inability to keep kids safe. I will never, ever be able to experience childhood or adolescence; and the same goes for countless of Rhode Island citizens. Today, I stand strong. I am a student at Harvard University. I have started an effective non-profit advocacy organization. My hope is that each and every child will be able to have the same chance for self-determined success. This legislation is conducive to ensuring that same chance of success for every young Rhode Islander.
As a young and zealous high school student, I walked through the halls of the Rhode Island State House. I saw passionate lawmakers and fervent activists push for what they believed in. I saw heated debates and ceremonies of recognition. I have now returned to the State House nearly a decade later, where the impassioned debate continues. There are new issues and new leaders. But one issue still remains, and we can unanimously agree that it must be addressed – child abuse. This is the year that it stops. NexusGovernment is on the front lines in the battle against child abuse and neglect.
Over the past few weeks, I have spoken with many Rhode Islanders. They have told me about raising their children in poverty. They have told me about losing their jobs and not being able to take care of their families. They speak of witnessing youth in DCYF care being deprived of education, suffering hunger, and lacking medical care. They feel helpless when they hear of children being abused by careless, untrained employees. I’ve heard the cries for justice, and I’ve seen the tears fall for the terror they witness. We need your support to confront these misdeeds and save these kids.I grew up in Rhode Island, where our motto, “hope,” is engrained in our state flag. We have never lost that hope since Roger Williams first established this great state in 1636 after being banished by the Massachusetts Bay Colonists.
As a young man, I saw resilient Rhode Islanders every day. Rhode Islanders who faced hardship and poverty. I know many Rhode Islanders are feeling that way today. I know that feeling; I lived it. We know that our children deserve an education because they are dreamers. They have a bright future. We need to tackle those who abuse our most vulnerable children with the taxpayer dollar in hand. We need to encourage their dreams and aspirations. These children have never asked for more than to not be abused. Almost a decade ago, I fought relentlessly against those who were willing to sit back and let the abuse and neglect run its course.
Now, I have returned. This time, I have your support. Rhode Islanders have never lost hope. We have proved that hope is always necessary to get us through every fight. We will take back our state – and our children. This is our state. Roger Williams created it and the responsibility is ours to kindle the flame of hope that drove him to establish this marvelous home of ours. Together we can prevent that flame from being extinguished – and extend that hope to every child in our great, resilient state. We will stand courageously to protect our children. I promise you wholeheartedly that should this legislation pass, together, we will give them hope.
HEARING ON H5855 – CREATING THE RHODE ISLAND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES EMERGENCY OVERSIGHT COMMISSION ON THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES given by Nicholas Alahverdian on March 30, 2011 at the Rhode Island State House, Providence, Rhode Island.
By MATTHEW FABISCH
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian files this Supplemental Brief in response to Defendant’s Responses to Plaintiff’s Objection.
For reasons set forth in detail below, Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian submits this supplemental brief to demonstrate that several new arguments were raised by Defendants by the Defendants in support of their initial Motion to Dismiss. The Defendant’s Reply Briefs also contain several factual misrepresentations relating to the Plaintiff.
II. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS AND ACCRUAL
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian was in the custody of the Defendant DCYF from 2002 through 2005. However, Plaintiff remained within the scope of services of DCYF in that he received funds under the John. H. Chafee Foster Care Independence and Educational and Training Voucher Program until December of 2010. Defendants Michael S. Burk and Jorge Garcia administrated the funds of these programs.
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian hereby represents that assaults, abuse and negligence was perpetrated from 2002 through December of 2010. Defendants continued their tortious and assaultive conduct unabated upon Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian up to and including December 2010. Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian asserts that this Court should consider the continuing violations doctrine, which tolls the statute of limitations in situations where a continuing pattern forms due to discriminatory acts occurring over a period of time, as long as at least one incident of discrimination occurred within the limitations period.
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian believes that the situation involving DCYF agents visiting the home deserves further anatomical description. Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian married [[name redacted]] in November 2010. [[Name redacted]] has a child from a previous relationship, who was 15 months at the time of their marriage. Upon the marriage of the Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian and [[name redacted]], they decided that the minor child, who was living with [[name redacted]]’s mother and stepfather in South Kingstown, would be living with the newlyweds at home. Unfortunately, [[name redacted]]’s mother and stepfather became jealous, irrational, and threatened Plaintiff and [[name redacted]] that they would call Defendant DCYF to report “abuse and neglect.”
Plaintiff and [[name redacted]] had their lives threatened by [[name redacted]]’s stepfather, who has a lengthy criminal record of assault and battery upon multiple persons, including [[name redacted]]’s mother. Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian and [[name redacted]] requested a restraining order against [[name redacted]]’s stepfather, which was denied by the Rhode Island Family Court. Days later, Defendant agents from Defendant DCYF appeared at Plaintiff’s home, where the Plaintiff was watching the minor child. The agents were DCYF child protective investigators Bridget Crooke and Jennifer Silva, two agents who Plaintiff knew from 2003.
Immediately upon seeing Crooke and Silva, Plaintiff suffered flashbacks and painful memories of the last time he saw Crooke and Silva. Following the publication of Bob Kerr’s 2002 Providence Journal article where Kerr mentions two foster parents, namely [[names redacted]], where Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian was placed for a short time from 2002–2003, they indicated that they would be willing to be the foster parents for the Plaintiff again. Plaintiff, then an employee of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, arranged for the [[name redacted]] to be honored with a citation and an introduction to the House of Representatives for their service to the State of Rhode Island as foster parents.
Shortly following the honor by Representative Aubin in the House of Representatives Chamber, Crooke and Silva appeared at Plaintiff’s high school to apprise him of the foster family’s inability to care for him. The visit in 2010 triggered the Plaintiff’s painful memories of specific instances of abuse and negligence from 2002–2005. Plaintiff at the Rhode Island Plaintiff was at the [[name redacted]] home for approximately two weeks and saw his family situation destroyed, after his biological family was destroyed. Following Crooke and Silva’s visit, he realized that the his new family was at risk of being destroyed.
Crooke and Silva waited for Plaintiff’s wife to return home while Plaintiff remained in a state of shock and fear. Plaintiff’s wife returned, and Crooke and Silva informed Plaintiff and wife that the Plaintiff was not being investigated yet there were allegations that [[name redacted]] was “smoking pot and living out of her car.” Obviously, that wasn’t the case. However, Crooke and Silva immediately requested a letter from the Plaintiff’s physicians outlining his “current state of mental health” and whether “[[Plaintiff was]] able to adequately care for a child.” Crooke and Silva had no objectively legal reason to ask for the confidential medical documents. Further, they determined that the minor child was not at risk, nor did they have to remove the child when they saw that the home was safe.
Plaintiff was discriminated against (violating RIGL 42–112–1) when state agents asked for confidential medical information from the Plaintiff even though he was not under investigation, nor did he give investigators any cause to request said information. Plaintiff believes and hereby alleges that Defendants are under civil liability for discrimination against disability under RIGL 42–112–2.
Furthermore, Defendants caused Plaintiff to be in fear for his life, continued to harass him upon receipt of his physician’s approval, intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Plaintiff and his wife, assigned state cars to conduct surveillance outside Plaintiff’s home and activities, and exhibited conduct consisting of misjudgment, invasion of privacy, discrimination, and a deliberate conspiracy to disrupt Plaintiff’s life.
Plaintiff was under such pressure and tension that he began to have daily flashbacks and nightmares, and an eventual loss of consortium with his wife. Defendant DCYF even encouraged [[name redacted]] to get a restraining order against Plaintiff, which was granted by the Family Court, lest she have her child removed from her custody.
Plaintiff began to recover memories that were repressed or lost because of a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder and toxic levels of Thorazine proscribed by Defendant’s contractors from 2003 to 2005, in violation of the freedom from restraint act. Upon the visit of Crooke and Silva, Plaintiff began to be able to connect the dots from 2002 until 2010.
In December 2010, Plaintiff had another experience that caused him to recover further memories when he saw Defendant Ellen Balasco at a restaurant in Narragansett with her husband. Defendant, who did not recognize Plaintiff, began to recall in the days to come that Defendant Balasco refused to file litigation based on the torture he was experiencing. Defendant Balasco was responsible for filing litigation regarding causes of action that occurred until 2007 when he was released from State care.
Unfortunately, Plaintiff already repressed the memories of abuse and neglect until 2010 when he saw her again. Plaintiff asserts that he continuously asked Defendant Balasco to file suit against perpetrators of abuse from 2002 until 2005, but she repeatedly refused to do so, thus resulting in the gradual repression or loss of memories of abusive or negligent incidents, yet the unsubstantiated theme of abuse remained.
Plaintiff experienced incidents that represented a continuing course of conduct constituting a breach of duty, such that the limitations period does not begin to run, or is tolled, until that conduct terminates, which, in the instant case, was December 2010 (and can also be considered to be continuing based on the loss of consortium and the disruption and dismantling of his family).
The abuse and negligence suffered by the Plaintiff transcended many years and across state lines (the Nebraska Supreme Court has held that the application of a discovery rule is determined by focusing on when the discovery of the injury occurs and not on when the injured party recognizes whose conduct is responsible for the injury), even when a letter recommending in-home services was written by a contractor of Defendant DCYF.
The claims presented in the Plaintiff’s complaint are not stale because of the continued involvement with the department and the continuing abuse and negligence by Defendants Michael S. Burk, Garcia, Aucoin, and others. The statute of limitations was tolled because of fraudulent concealment of a conspiracy and prejudice, as well as the Plaintiff’s repressed memories that came roaring back upon the onset of worsened PTSD. Plaintiff realized that the causes of his many injuries in November of 2010, and also recognized that the defendants caused the injuries.
Defendants gained an advantage by wrongfully concealing his injuries, plaintiff was not aware of his injuries until after the statute of limitations had run. When plaintiff discovered the recovered memories, plaintiff established that the concealment of fraud was of such character as to prevent inquiry, or to elude investigation, or to mislead the plaintiff claiming the cause of action. Defendants concealed acts, breaches of duty, and engaged in wrongful conduct which caused plaintiff to repress memories of the abuse, thereby preventing discovery of the cause of action within the statutory period. Plaintiff suffered emotional distress and a mental breakdown following the events of November 2010.
In Treanor v. MCI, the justices ruled that:
“The MHRA’s statute of limitations may be avoided by a legal theory known as the continuing violations doctrine. See Giuliani v. Stuart Corp., 512 N.W.2d 589, 595 (Minn.Ct.App. 1994). This doctrine tolls the statute of limitations in situations where a continuing pattern forms due to discriminatory acts occurring over a period of time, as long as at least one incident of discrimination occurred within the limitations period. See id. The doctrine is available when “the unlawful employment practice manifests itself over time, rather than as a series of discrete acts.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). This manifestation, however, must be more than the mere consequences of past discrimination — “the proper focus is upon the time of the discriminatory acts, not upon the time at which the consequences of the acts became most painful.” Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 448 N.W.2d 62, 67 (Minn. 574*5741989).”
Thus, because DCYF and co-defendants committed a series of illegal and discriminatory acts against Plaintiff, the period of limitation may begin to run from the last act of the series. In short, actions from 2005 through 2010 when DCYF’s acts of harassment and emotional abuse following the initial call to the DCYF abuse hotline [[name redacted]]’s mother, and other acts including the unjustified request for letters from medical professionals vouching for his ability to take care of a baby, continuing to harass and emotionally abuse Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian even after the letters were received, not disbursing funds to the school of Plaintiff’s choice (Harvard University), the verbal abuse from DCYF administrators, etc. all amounted to continuing, unending acts that exhibited a continuity of purpose. It should also be noted that in Gillette v. Tucker, the court held that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the relationship of physician-patient (professional and client) is terminated. Interpreting that through the lens of this case, the relationship with DCYF ended in August 2010 when the educational funding — controlled by Defendant Mike Burk — was last disbursed, or in December 2010, when the funding was used up. This was used as bait to make Plaintiff respect DCYF and allow the abuse and neglect to be further shrouded by the fact that they were giving him money for school.
In the First Circuit case Genereux v. American Beryllia, the justices noted that “the limitations period commences after the cause of action accrues.” Normally, a cause of action for personal injury will accrue at the time of injury. Koe v. Mercer, 450 Mass. 97, 876 N.E.2d 831, 836 (2007); Riley v. Presnell, 409 Mass. 239, 565 N.E.2d 780, 784 (1991). However, under the discovery rule, “a cause of action does not accrue until the plaintiffs know or reasonably should have known that they were injured as a result of the defendant’s conduct.” Cornell v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., 841 F.2d 23, 24 (1st Cir.1988) (citing Olsen, 445 N.E.2d at 611–12). Actual knowledge is not the standard, but “what a reasonable person in [the plaintiff’s] position would have known or on inquiry would have discovered.” Bowen v. Eli Lilly & Co., 408 360*360 Mass. 204, 557 N.E.2d 739, 743 (1990). The Supreme Judicial Court has analyzed this rule as having two components: “a plaintiff [must] have (1) knowledge or sufficient notice that he was harmed and (2) knowledge or sufficient notice of what the cause of harm was.” Bowen, 557 N.E.2d at 742; see also Fidler, 714 F.2d at 198 (“Such notice [to start the statute of limitations] includes not only knowledge that one has been injured but knowledge of its cause — that plaintiff `has been harmed as a result of the defendant’s conduct.’” (quoting Olsen, 445 N.E.2d at 611)); Riley, 565 N.E.2d at 784–85.
Further in the Genereux case, it is ruled that application of the discovery rule ordinarily involves questions of fact and therefore “`in most instances will be decided by the trier of fact.’” In re Mass. Diet Drug Litig., 338 F.Supp.2d 198, 204 (D.Mass. 2004) (quoting Riley, 565 N.E.2d at 783); see also Wolinetz v. Berkshire Life Ins. Co., 361 F.3d 44, 49 (1st Cir.2004) (same). In particular, application of the discovery rule involves determining “what the plaintiff knew or should have known [, which] is a factual question that is appropriate for the trier of fact.” Koe, 876 N.E.2d at 836; see also Borden v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 935 F.2d 370, 376 (1st Cir.1991) (characterizing the determination of whether the plaintiff should have known of an injury as “a fact-dominated enterprise”); Castillo v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 38 Mass.App.Ct. 513, 649 N.E.2d 788, 790 (1995). Determining when a plaintiff had notice of the likely cause of her injury is one example of such a determination. See Riley, 565 N.E.2d at 786 (“A reasonable fact finder… could find that Riley did not make the causal link….”).
Onward, they state: “Instead, we hold that, on this record, a reasonable juror could conclude that Genereux first had sufficient notice of the cause of her injury after June 22, 2001. In light of Genereux’s asthma diagnosis and the low probability of developing chronic beryllium disease, deciding when Genereux had notice that her symptoms were likely caused by beryllium “involves a decisional process fraught with resolution of factual issues,” Castillo, 649 N.E.2d at 790, such as how confident a reasonable person would have been during June 2001 of Genereux’s previous asthma diagnosis, see Bowen, 557 N.E.2d at 743. Resolution of such factual issues is “peculiarly within the province of the trier of fact.” Castillo, 649 N.E.2d at 790. The district court should not have resolved the statute of limitations issue against Genereux on this summary judgment record.”
Most importantly, the court ruled that “knowledge that she had sustained substantial physical harm” is not at issue. See Bowen, 557 N.E.2d at 741. Rather, the question is when Genereux had sufficient notice that her lung disease was caused by the appellees’ conduct.” In Bowen, the question before the court was when the plaintiff had sufficient notice that her tumor was caused by diethylstilbestrol to trigger the statute of limitations. Id. at 741. Citing the plaintiff’s possession of materials suggesting “the prospect of a significant causal connection” between diethylstilbestrol and her “exceedingly rare” condition, the court concluded that the plaintiff acquired sufficient notice of the cause of her injury outside the limitations period. Id. at 743. Yet it was argued that Genereux’s asthma diagnosis is relevant to determining when she had sufficient notice that her lung disease was “related” to beryllium exposure.
The district court did not mention asthma in its analysis of the limitations issue. Nor have appellees addressed the matter, outside a footnote, in their briefing to this court. We agree with the appellants that Genereux’s asthma diagnosis is significant. At the time Genereux first learned of chronic beryllium disease, she had long suffered from asthma symptoms. In fact, Genereux was diagnosed with asthma as a child, years before she was exposed to beryllium. This diagnosis was confirmed on repeated occasions when Genereux was an adult. She was treated for asthma during her employment at Raytheon and afterwards, at times by a specialist. No reasonable jury could conclude that Genereux lacked notice, even after June 19, 2001, that her symptoms were “likely caused” not by asthma, but by another disease. A reasonable jury could conclude that Genereux’s common-law claims were timely. Thus there exists a genuine issue of material fact about the timeliness of those claims.”
Similar to the Genereux case, the acknowledgement that Plaintiff has post traumatic stress disorder and depression is significant because he was diagnosed in ~1993, long before DCYF involved themselves in his life in 1999. The diagnoses were confirmed on repeated occasions. Plaintiff was treated for these disorders during DCYF care and after DCYF care, and to this very day. The cause of worsening, continuing, and increase of symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, and depression was unclear until the visit of November of 2010. Thus, Plaintiff lacked notice that his symptoms were likely caused by the abuse and negligence of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and its co-defendants.
Additionally, in Depetrillo v. Dow Chemical, the court found that because the plaintiff did not suspect dangerous consequences from exposure to toxic chemicals between certain years, the argument that the causes of action accrued before Plaintiff became ill was rejected, relying on the Anthony ruling. Similarly, in Wilkinson v. Harrington, the court ruled that “a person should have reasonable opportunity to become cognizant of an injury and its cause before the statute of limitations begins to run.” The day the DCYF investigators came to Plaintiff’s house was the day that he finally discovered the cause of the injury — DCYF was the cause of the abuse and negligence due to their lack of vigilance and blatant ignorance while in their care — and this was later confirmed to Plaintiff by flashbacks and nightmares. They were needlessly involving themselves in his life at a time that he needed them the least, a time when there was in fact no abuse or neglect taking place (which they acknowledged); they were only there because of the false call by [[name redacted]]’s mother to the DCYF abuse hotline.
Thus, the bona fide injury manifested itself to the plaintiff in November 2010. In Wilkinson v. Harrington, the court cited Silvertooth v. Shallenberger where that court ruled that the statute of limitations should be deemed to have begun to run at the point in time when the injury became apparent — in the Plaintiff’s case, the injury became apparent when, in November of 2010, he began questioning Defendant’s practices, and also the increased amount of flashbacks, nightmares, and episodes of depression that he was suffering.
The emotional trauma and toxic levels of Thorazine had suppressed all memory and/or recollection of specific conduct until November of 2010. Plaintiff argues that discovery of incidents of abuse and negligence were delayed due to impaired cognition and memory loss generated by the trauma as well as the toxic levels of Thorazine. The causes of action did not accrue until plaintiff discovered that he would never be able to have a normal life and would always be a product of intense and illegal DCYF scrutiny. Factual issues should be determined at trial. The causes of action accrued and the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knew or, in the exercise of ordinary diligence, should have discovered that an injury had been sustained as a result of the tortious acts of the defendants.
To quote further from Anthony v. Abbott Laboratories, 490 A. 2d 43 — RI: Supreme Court 1985: “This court has, in certain cases and circumstances in the past, rejected the general rule that a cause of action accrues at the time of the injury.” “To require a man to seek a remedy before he knows of his rights, is palpably unjust.” “Thus the present petitioner should have her day in court to show, if she can, that her suit was timely brought and that she is entitled to relief. Whether or not she will prevail must await a hearing on the merits in the superior court.” “In defining the word “accrue,” we noted that three possible interpretations existed. Strict construction would find the statute running from the time the negligent action occurred.
A more liberal interpretation would define “accrue” as the time the injury first became apparent. Finally, a third possibility suggests that the statute would start running when the plaintiff discovered the injury or, through the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered it. Id. at 231, 243 A.2d at 749–50.”
“On the contrary, we believe the rule is compatible with the statute of repose. It would, in our opinion, be manifestly unjust to bar the enforcement of injury claims brought by a plaintiff who was not, nor could not have known that he was, the victim of tortious conduct because the consequent harm was unknowable within two years of the negligent act.” Wilkinson v. Harrington, 243 A. 2d 745 — RI: Supreme Court 1968
“This court has, in certain cases and circumstances in the past, rejected the general rule that a cause of action accrues at the time of the injury.” See Lee v. Morin, R.I., 469 A.2d 358 (1983); Romano v. Westinghouse Electric Co., 114 R.I. 451, 336 A.2d 555 (1975); Wilkinson v. Harrington, 104 R.I. 224, 243 A.2d 745 (1968).
“The reasoning behind Wilkinson and Lee is that a person should have reasonable opportunity to become cognizant of an injury and its cause before the statute of limitations begins to run.” Id., 469 A.2d at 361. See Kennedy v. Cumberland Engineering Company Inc., R.I., 471 A.2d 195 (1984). CitingAnthony v. Abbott Laboratories, 490 A. 2d 43 — RI: Supreme Court 1985.
“To construe the statute narrowly so as to preclude a person from obtaining a remedy simply because the wrong of which he was the victim did not manifest itself for at least two years from the time of the negligent conduct, is clearly inconsistent with the concept of fundamental justice. To require a man to seek a remedy before he knows of his rights, is palpably unjust.” in Wilkinson v. Harrington, 243 A. 2d 745 — RI: Supreme Court 1968
“A person should have reasonable opportunity to become cognizant of an injury and its cause before the statute of limitations begins to run,” Therefore, we reject defendant’s contention that any causes of action accrued before Terry became ill and could have discovered Dow’s allegedly wrongful conduct.” DiPetrillo v. Dow Chemical Co., 729 A. 2d 677 — RI: Supreme Court 1999.
III. FRAUDULENT CONCEALMENT
Plaintiff hereby alleges that the Defendants fraudulently concealed that there were placements available of a less restrictive nature, in violation of RI Gen. Laws 14–1–36.2. Further, Defendants concealed the departmental conspiracy to disrupt and dismantle Plaintiff’s family and living situations across many years. Defendants have and had a clear prejudice against Plaintiff, which they also concealed. Plaintiff discovered that he was in the crosshairs of a conspiracy due to the abuse and neglect perpetrated by the Defendants Burk and Garcia from 2005–2010 and ultimately upon the revelatory events of late 2010. Defendants concealed an abuse of discretion in the events from 2002 to 2010. Defendants also concealed a conspiracy to prevent Plaintiff from his right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as well as a conspiracy to intrude into his life at any time, exhibiting abuse of discretion and prejudice. Plaintiff also discovered the course of action exhibited a continuity of purpose that had existed since 2002. Defendants also acted under color of law throughout each conspiratorial act. When Plaintiff was forced to confront the cause of the conspiracy, he realized that the encroachment of his daily life activities, blatant disregard for privacy, mass prejudice, and discrimination had been perpetrated by Defendants and existed in some form or another since 2002.
In order to demonstrate that there has been fraudulent concealment on the part of a defendant, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the defendant made an actual misrepresentation of fact; and (2) that, in making such misrepresentation, the defendant fraudulently concealed the existence of plaintiffs causes of action. Kelly, 187 F.3d at 200 (applying Rhode. Island law); see also Renaud v. Sigma-Aldrich Corp., 662 A.2d 711, 714 (R.I.1995)
Rather, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant made an “express representation or [engaged in] other affirmative conduct. amounting in fact to such a representation which could reasonably deceive another and induce him [or her] to rely thereon to his [or her] disadvantage.” Caianiello, 78 R.I. at 476–77, 82 A.2d at 829; see also State v. Wilkins, 267 Kan. 355, 985 F.2d 690, 696 (1999) (“In order to constitute concealment of the fact of a crime, there must be a positive act done by the accused calculated to prevent the discovery that the offense has been committed. Mere silence, inaction, or nondisclosure does not constitute concealment.”). The key consideration is whether or not the defendant fraudulently misrepresented material facts, thereby misleading the plaintiff into believing that no cause of action existed. See Kelly, 187 F.3d at 200.
Legislative inaction as to malpractice should not be ignored in determining legislative intent but such inaction is not necessarily determinative in the face of the ordinary meaning of “accrued” as it is used in relation to a cause of action. The word “accrue” is derived from the Latin “ad” and “creso” to grow to. When applied to independent or original demands it means to arise, to happen, to come into force or existence.*312 When used with reference to a cause of action it means when an action may be maintained thereon. It accrues whenever one person may sue another. Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th ed and cases cited therein. The cause of action must necessarily accrue to some person or legal entity. To say that a cause of action accrues to a person when she may maintain an action thereon and, at the same time, that it accrues before she has or can reasonably be expected to have knowledge of any wrong inflicted upon her is patently inconsistent and unrealistic. She cannot maintain an action before she knows she has one. To say to one who has been wronged, “You had a remedy, but before the wrong was ascertainable to you, the law stripped you of your remedy,” makes a mockery of the law. Rosane v. Senger, 112 Colo 363, 149 P2d 372, 375 (1944). In the absence of an expressed statutory direction to that effect, to ascribe to the legislature any such intention by their use of the word “accrue” seems to us unreasonable. Berry v. Branner, 421 P. 2d 996 — Or: Supreme Court 1966
“In order to demonstrate that there has been fraudulent concealment on the part of a defendant, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the defendant made an actual misrepresentation of fact; and (2) that, in making such misrepresentation, the defendant fraudulently concealed the existence of plaintiff’s causes of action.” Ryan v. Roman Catholic Bishop, 941 A.2d 174, 182 (R.I. 2008). Here, Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged actual misrepresentation and concealment on the part of the Defendants. See Renaud v. Sigma-Aldrich Corp., 662 A.2d 711, 714 (R.I. 1995) (finding that “[i]n order to toll the running of the statute of limitations . . . there would have to be a showing that . . . the party asserting the statute-of-limitations defense attempted by fraud or misrepresentation to conceal the existence of the cause of action”) (citing Benner v. J.H. Lynch & Sons, Inc., 641 A.2d 332, 337–38 (R.I. 1994)). Plaintiffs have alleged fraud and have indicated facts that, if proven, would support their claim. See Bragg, 102 R.I. at 12, 227 A.2d at 584. If taken as true, Plaintiffs’ allegations would result in a tolling of the statute of limitations under § 9–1–20. See Renaud, 662 A.2d at 714. Therefore, the statute of limitations does not present an insuperable bar to Plaintiffs’ recovery. Hulslander, 633 A.2d 263 (R.I. 1993). citing Blouin v. SURGICAL SENSE, INC., RI: Superior Court 2008)
It should be noted that the fraudulent concealment exception does not establish a new date for the commencement of the statute of limitations, but rather creates an equitable exception. Burks, 534 N.E.2d at 1104–05; Spoljaric, 466 N.E.2d at 45. Under this exception, instead of a full statutory limitations period within which to act, a plaintiff must exercise due diligence in commencing her action after the equitable grounds cease to operate [**14] as a valid basis for causing delay. Burks, 534 N.E.2d at 1105. When the fraudulent concealment exception applies, the equitable grounds cease when a person, once becoming an adult, knows or should have discovered that a childhood injury was sustained as a result of the defendant’s tortious conduct (statute of limitations should be deemed to have begun to run at the point in time when the injury first became apparent. Silvertooth v. Shallenberger, 49 Ga. App. 133, 174 S.E. 365. adopted the view that in these cases the statute of limitations should not begin to run until the patient has discovered that he has suffered an injury or, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered it. Johnson v. St. Patrick’s Hosp., 148 Mont. 125, 417 P.2d 469; Ayers v. Morgan, 397 Pa. 282, 154 A.2d 788.)
IV. UNSOUND MIND
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian also has several mental incapacities, including severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, incurred as a result of the conduct of the Defendants, perpetrated from from 2002 through 2010. Plaintiffs urges the Court that this should serve to equitably toll the three year statute of limitations. See Johnson v. Newport County Chapter for Retarded Citizens, 700 A.2d 289, 291 (RI 2002).
Statute of limitations were also suspended due to Plaintiff’s loss and/or repression of memory from Thorazine and PTSD.
Further, in the 2011 Kerr article, DCYF administrator Stephanie Terry notes that “[DCYF is] in the midst of trying to get away from residential care […] It doesn’t normalize; it makes things more difficult. If you tell a child when to eat, when to go to bed, how can they come out of that and know how to deal with life?”
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian, as he was in night-to-night placement, was implicitly unable to “manage his day-to-day affairs,” especially when the defendants continuously interrupted his inherent desire to lead a stable lifestyle as a teenaged student, as evidenced by his employment at the State House, participation in the Providence Urban Debate League, relentless effort to remain in one school, and many other talents conceded by the Defendants and referenced by the Plaintiff. His day-to-day affairs were interrupted at a crucial time when he was exhibiting his ability to manage them. Every success was thwarted by Defendants, who relentlessly sought to portray him as unstable, even when Plaintiff was leading a stable lifestyle. Moreover, Plaintiff even took a leave of absence from his State House job to lobby for a stable day to day lifestyle, something the Defendants were unwilling to provide. Plaintiff could not be responsible for his day to day affairs because that power was usurped by defendants upon execution of the beginning elements of a conspiracy to disrupt his life and lobbying activities. Evidence of this is the Defendant’s act of sending him to out of state facilities where he was refused contact with anyone.
Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian also asserts that he never made an umbrella statement of unconsciousness — he remembered the underlying theme of abuse throughout his life — but remembered piercing facts, times, and places of abuse upon the tragic resurgence of pain in November 2010. The grace period for those of unsound mind, age of minority, etc. allow a reasonable opportunity to assess and assert his legal rights. This opportunity was never afforded to Plaintiff who lacked knowledge the trauma and injuries, and the causes thereof… due to fraudulent concealment of abusive treatment. Defendants represented to plaintiff that they protected him from abuse, saved him from abusive out of state placements, etc. disadvantaged plaintiff because of their convincing.
The actions for injuries to plaintiff was to be maintained by his CASA attorney (guardian ad litem). Plaintiff asserts that because of the legal obligations of defendants to protect and care for plaintiff, discovery of a cause of action by defendants, even absent actual cognition or memory of the plaintiff, shall be imputed to the plaintiff and conclusively constitute the accrual of an action within the meaning of the age of majority (or unsound mind) statute, thus allowing plaintiff two years after reaching majority within which to commence suit. However, this general rule must be subject to an exception when, as in the present case, the plaintiff’s claim asserts childhood/adolescent injury from the intentional, conspiratorial, abusive, and negligent acts of those who were required by law to care for him.
Under such circumstances, the Court must not presume that defendants informed plaintiff of childhood events, but the doctrine of fraudulent concealment should be available to estop defendants from asserting the statute of limitations when defendants were, either by deception, or by violations of duty, concealed from the plaintiff material facts thereby preventing the plaintiff from discovering a potential cause of action. Burks, 534 N.E.2d at 1104;
In 2010, RI Representative Bob DaSilva, current Pawtucket Police Captain and East Providence Mayoral candidate, introduced legislation that would make it nearly impossible for the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to ship children and adolescents in state care to out-of-state residential treatment facilities far from home and their families and friends.
Representative DaSilva was inspired to introduce the legislation by torture victim Nicholas Alahverdian, a political activist, whistleblower, and former House of Representatives employee who has been the subject of extensive news coverage including several columns by Bob Kerr, formerly of The Providence Journal.
Nicholas Alahverdian suffered torture, abuse, and neglect in Florida and Nebraska when he was sent there by DCYF after his political activism and employment with the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 2002-2003. Nicholas Alahverdian later formed a nonprofit to advocate for legislative changes to ensure that children in DCYF care are kept safe.
Representative DaSilva said in a press release that Rhode Island has numerous resources and services to provide children and adolescents with the treatment they need in Rhode Island. Rep DaSilva noted his concern about the welfare of children and adolescents in DCYF care.
After Nicholas Alahverdian teamed up with Bob DaSilva, out-of-state placements drastically decreased and DCYF has shifted toward an emphasis on home-based care as opposed to the arbitrary institutionalization that was heavily relied upon in the past.
Nicholas Alahverdian was hired at the tender age of 14 as a legislative aide for the House of Representatives in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He wanted nothing more than to go to school and work at his State House job. Nicholas loved working in the House Chamber and serving the members of the RI General Assembly.
A dysfunctional family
Alahverdian had a problem. His mother and stepfather drank heavily. This worsened after they split and Nicholas lived with his alcoholic mother. Her drinking became worse when Alahverdian’s grandfather died.
She did not bring him to school. Instead, he spent his days at the library and then went to the Capitol in the afternoon. Nicholas Alavherdian made his way to the Rhode Island State House on the RIPTA bus. He traveled to downtown Providence on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays when the House and Senate met for legislative business and committee hearings.
Life at the State House
Some people would find working in the labyrinth that is the Rhode Island State House to be daunting and harrowing. Ever the quick learner, Nicholas didn’t feel that way. He swiftly learned how a bill became a law, who the power players were, which clerk had the best chance of putting a bill first on the committee docket, and other details that most lobbyists take years to learn. Alahverdian learned from the best.
Alahverdian charmed the legislators he worked with. He was invited to fundraisers and the representatives and senators enjoyed his presence. Knowing that he was often left hungry because of his mother’s alcohol addiction, the state legislators even gave him money or invited him to their homes for meals. They wanted to make sure he would have the basic necessities of life.
Nicholas was being abused and neglected at home, and this was common knowledge. But what happened next would spark the most heinous case of torture and abuse that the child welfare system has ever seen. Alahverdian began to demand that he be given a normal and consistent school placement. This occurred after he was taken from his mother due to her parental incompetence.
“A waste of taxpayer money”
The officials in charge of his case, among them a corrupt social worker named Ron Razza, called Nicholas Alahverdian a “waste of taxpayer money.” Other DCYF staff including Mike Burk (the same Michael S. Burk of the Tiverton, RI Democratic party and longtime assistant to the Executive Director of DCYF) even lobbied state representatives to get him fired from his job with the House of Representatives.
Nicholas Alahverdian took matters into his own hands and left the Rhode Island House of Representatives Legislative Aide position on his own accord. He thought it would be a temporary leave of absence.
The youngest lobbyist in history
Nicholas became a registered lobbyist in 2002 and advocated for foster care reform and a permanent school placement. This was not just for him — it was a mission to improve care for all children and adolescents in DCYF care. When Alahverdian registered as a lobbyist, he became the youngest lobbyist in the history of the State of Rhode Island.
Nicholas testified before committees and commissions. He issued detailed briefs on the pitfalls and failures of the state agency charged with caring for neglected and abused children. Alahverdian exposed the wrongdoings of staff and the criminal records of employees and contractors. He made a concerted effort to illuminate the inconsistencies in providing education. This was mainly due to the inherent instability provided by the cruel and abhorrent practice of night-to-night placement.
Alahverdian continued his advocacy work while in the night-to-night program where he was denied a permanent home and academic placement. Nicholas began to draw attention from more representatives and senators who demanded that Judge Jeremiah order a permanent home to be found for him. But Judge Jeremiah and Governor Carcieri had other plans for Alahverdian.
Nicholas Alahverdian began to get more and more attention. His case was covered by The Providence Journal, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and Cumulus Broadcasting, among others. Nicholas was even scheduled to appear on The O’Reilly Factor and the Today show on NBC.
Enough is enough
However, Rhode Island officials had enough of the embarrassment. The corrupt officials, namely Judge Jeremiah, Governor Donald L. Carcieri, DCYF Director Jay Lindgren, and others worked to snuff Alahverdian and his story out of the press to protect their reputation.
Alahverdian was sent far from home where he was allowed to contact no one at all. He was refused communication with the legislators who had fought on his behalf. He was refused contact with lawyers. Alahverdian was refused to file a lawsuit or contact the courts to contest the lockdown placements where he was unlawfully held.
The torture of Nicholas Alahverdian
When Nicholas Alahverdian was sent to Nebraska and Florida, the state officials knew these facilities were dangerous. This knowledge was supplied to the state officials in the form of grand jury reports issued by the respective states through what is called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.
Nicholas was sent far from home in violation of Rhode Island General Laws as well as U.S. federal law. Rhode Island law holds that a child be placed in the least restrictive setting possible. Instead, Alahverdian was placed hundreds of miles from home in places where he was allowed to contact no one and where he was beaten on a daily basis.
Nicholas was also raped on multiple occasions at the facility in Florida, and news articles covering the crime exist to support the claim made in Alahverdian’s lawsuit. The rapist, Rhonda Smith, pleaded guilty in a Florida court.
The Bradenton Herald reported on October 23, 2004:
A technician at Manatee Palms Youth Services was arrested Thursday on a charge she sexually battered a 17-year-old male at the facility.
Rhonda A. Smith, 23, of Bradenton was accused of molesting the teen on three separate occasions, according to an arrest report filed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Smith admitted to the battery, the report said, and she was arrested on a charge of sexual battery.
According to the report, Smith was a clinical health technician at Manatee Palms Youth Services, placed there by Advance Personnel Services Inc. Advance Personnel Services officials said the woman is no longer employed by the company and that she was applying to the sheriff’s office the day the teen told authorities about the battery. She is free on bond.
Officials at Manatee Palms Youth Services directed questions to a corporate office. An official at its corporate office said the company is cooperating with authorities but had no further comment.
The Bradenton Herald also reported on another abusive individual hired by the Florida facility and published it in the same article:
In August 2003, an off-duty Manatee Palms Youth Services mental health technician was arrested for asking a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him on camera, an arrest report said at the time. The case against Jaimie Rivera, 43, is still pending.
Alahverdian was left at the Florida facility even as his RI DCYF social worker demanded that he be removed due to the torture he was enduring when she visited. The social worker remarked in official reports that Alahverdian was chemically sedated beyond recognition. Nicholas was covered in contusions, scars, fresh bruises, broken teeth, fingerprints around his neck, and black eyes.
Nicholas remained in the facility for six more months as the torture, beatings, and abuse continued.
When Nicholas Alahverdian was finally released and flown back to Rhode Island in June 2005, he was a shell of his former self. No longer was he the auspicious young man who carried loads of books in his briefcase on his way to the State House with stacks of legislative bills in the other arm. Nicholas was reduced to a zombie. His cognitive functions and motor skills were impaired. Alahverdian was a vegetable.
Alahverdian was unable to read or write. Nicholas was exactly where Judge Jeremiah and Governor Carcieri wanted him: first, in a place where he could not physically or verbally expose the truth. Second, in a mental state that rendered him incapable of expressing what the hell happened to him in these facilities that were absolute hell holes.
What happened to Nicholas Alahverdian should never happen to any other kid — anywhere — ever again.
Nicholas Alahverdian endured torture as a 15-year-old political prisoner
torture (noun) The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.
1.1 Great physical or mental suffering.
1.2 A cause of great physical or mental suffering.
The Journal’s Tracy Breton reports that two Rhode Island lawyer-legislators have introduced a bill to honor retired Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr. with his own vanity plate (“Bill would create special license plate for retired R.I. Family Court Judge Jeremiah,” March 27).
Rhode Island taxpayers are already paying extravagantly for the license that Jeremiah took at the court he controlled for more than two decades.
Lawyer William Holt scolded me for criticizing the chief judge in the July 18, 1993, Journal (“R.I. court system further victimizes battered families”). Holt seethed: He seemed to say that it is called Family Court not just because it deals with family issues but because the court runs like a family, with then-Chief Judge Jeremiah like a father to the lawyers, who always came to his defense.
I was executive director of a shelter for battered mothers and their children. Many mistakenly think that mothers always win custody of children at court, but evidence shows that those parents with money to litigate and influential connections are far more likely to get the children — even those who have already punished their families with physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Adversarial litigation often traumatizes families, subjecting them to the terrors of aggressive lawyers, manipulative psychologists and coercive court orders. When one of our clients delivered her children to their father for a court-ordered visit, he stabbed her to death.
We began to recognize a group at Family Court that we called the Cranston Cabal. They emerged from Cranston City Hall during the years Edward DiPrete was mayor, from 1978 to 1984. Bill Holt proved his value as DiPrete’s administrative assistant during a liquor-licensing imbroglio in the early 1980s.
Judge Jeremiah cared about politics and money — not kids
Jeremiah paid his political dues as Republican chairman in Cranston. He spent 15 years as assistant city solicitor and six more as solicitor when DiPrete was mayor.
When DiPrete became governor, in 1985, Jeremiah advanced to the State House as executive counsel. Two years later, DiPrete’s turn came to fill a vacancy on Family Court, and he rewarded Jeremiah. Barely a year later, in1987, DiPrete called Judge Jeremiah his “closest friend” and made him chief of Family Court.
The Cranston Cabal also produced Family Court Judge Kathleen A. Voccola. Mayor DiPrete named her to fill Jeremiah’s former position as assistant city solicitor in 1979. Then she became the first woman to be the state’s liquor control administrator. Governor DiPrete said the appointment was in line with his “continuing efforts to place qualified women in positions of authority and responsibility.”
Voccola was not the first woman that Republicans invited to fill out the GOP ticket with DiPrete in 1988. She was sacrificial lamb against popular Atty. Gen. James O’Neil. A year later, DiPrete made her a judge on Family Court.
In 1989, the Ethics Commission began investigating charges that DiPrete had steered state contracts to campaign contributors. In 1991, a grand jury began hearing evidence of DiPrete’s pay-to-play extortion. In 1998, DiPrete made a plea deal to protect his son from prosecution and went to prison himself for bribery, extortion and racketeering. Without a public trial, the whole truth didn’t get out, and DiPrete’s friends on Family Court escaped unscathed.
Judge Jeremiah escapes the RI Ethics Commission
Judge Jeremiah skated away from his own brush with the Ethics Commission. He and Voccola sat on the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission, where she made, and he seconded, a 1997 motion that awarded $56,000 in federal money to a police organization that sublet space from Holt in Jeremiah’s Cranston office building and paid some of that rent directly to Jeremiah.
By the time a grievance against him reached the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline in 1998, Voccola had been named to that body, and the commission found no basis for the complaint.
In 1999, the Ethics Commission also exonerated Judge Jeremiah, rejecting a staff recommendation that had urged a full-blown ethics trial and provided 64 pages of findings and exhibits.
His unpretentious Cranston office building at 995 Park Avenue gave no clue to the power he wielded. His tenants seemed to gain preferential treatment and prominence at RI Family Court, where lawyers jockey for rich litigants in custody cases that can be dragged out for hundreds of billable hours until children turn 18.
Rhode Island had a time-honored tradition of letting the House speaker, Senate majority leader and governor take turns appointing their cronies as judges. In 1994, voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) to recommend only highly qualified candidates for judgeships.
The General Assembly evaded the JNC process by letting chief judges appoint a vastly increased number of politically connected magistrates, and Jeremiah rewarded several with powers and salaries comparable to judges’.
In1997, he brought David Tassoni to court as a law clerk intern. Tassoni had neither the college nor law-school degrees he claimed, but he rose quickly to a top administrative post, reporting directly to Jeremiah. He seemed ubiquitous, moving from courtroom to courtroom, making recommendations to judges that harmed children. In 2011, after the new chief judge, Haiganush Bedrosian, called in state police to investigate him, Tassoni left.
Instead of awarding Jeremiah an honorary license plate, the General Assembly should investigate the license he took: the exorbitant waste of public funds and the damages still done by the cabals of Rhode Island Family Court.
Anne Grant writes about research into Family Court custody cases.
How Nicholas Alahverdian could survive the Judge Jeremiah years is astounding. Sadly, many of the kids in Jeremiah’s care ended up becoming severely disabled or mentally impaired. This led to them becoming unproductive and unsuccessful in society.
Nicholas, however, eventually overcame all odds and made it to Harvard University where he studied literature and history. Alahverdian, when he was victimized by Jeremiah’s court, was not even allowed to attend public school when he was in the infamous night-to-night program operated by the state of RI with impunity.
Alahverdian wanted nothing more than a public school education. He wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by books, academic journals, and scholars with whom he could plan his future studies and college and graduate coursework.
Nicholas Alahverdian’s contemporaries remark that his employment at the Rhode Island House of Representatives made him an easy target for Judge Jeremiah. As Nicholas began to speak to the media and the elected officials at the State House, Judge Jeremiah had to do everything he could to exile Nicholas. And unfortunately, Alahverdian was tortured in those circumstances in Florida and Nebraska.
Nicholas never regained his childhood. But just because Alahverdian never made it to high school doesn’t mean any other kid should have to go through the same thing. For one thing, Judge Jeremiah is dead. The RI Family Court is making improvements. The DCYF is making improvements. And this is because they are finally implementing the changes that Nicholas Alahverdian has spent nearly two decades fighting for.
No child will ever have to be tortured and exiled for her or his political activism ever again.
Nicholas Alahverdian sat down with Bob Kerr of The Providence Journal in March 2010 to talk about how he was tortured and abused as an adolescent under the direction of Rhode Island state officials as a result of his political activism following his work as a legislative aide for the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
The question is: How does Nicholas Alahverdian, a smart kid from Rhode Island who wants desperately to go to school, end up instead in a place in Florida that features barbed wire, lockdowns and limited access to the outside world — all at a cost of $330 a day to the state he came from?
It might seem a crime would have to be involved, but there is no crime. There’s just a guy, now 23, who got caught up in Rhode Island’s child welfare system and ended up in places far from home where he couldn’t plead his case. The misery, Nicholas Alahverdian says, was compounded by beatings by other young residents of the deceptively named Manatee Palms Youth Services.
The story is one seldom heard, at least not as clearly and eloquently as Nicholas Alahverdian tells it. We hear little of those kids in state care who end up hundreds, even thousands of miles away in facilities that sometimes have complete control over their every move.
Nicholas Alahverdian is a friend of mine, and I’ve always been impressed by the mere fact of his survival. He has been stuck in a cruel system that could have left him one of the lost boys of Rhode Island. He has had brief tastes of normalcy mixed with hard stretches of pointless, spirit-sapping supervision. Now, he is going to college, trying to claim all those things denied him when his life was not his own.
Like many before him, Nicholas Alahverdian ended up in state care because his family couldn’t take care of him. He lists depression and posttraumatic stress disorder as his biggest problems. And once in the system, he found it is very hard to get out. He had some almost happy periods. There was a pretty good group home in Providence where he lived while attending Hope High School. There was a foster home that looked like it could be a long-term place to live until the foster parents decided they couldn’t make the commitment.
We met in November 2002. These are some quotes from the first column I wrote about Nicholas Alahverdian. They are in reference to the night-to-night placement he endured while under the control of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).
“It’s scary, ridiculously scary. There are punks in there; they took my sneakers, my clothing. I was threatened, assaulted. I saw kids hit each other with hockey sticks.
“You wake up in the morning at 5:30 and you go to the DCYF building and wait to see where you’re going to go the next night.
“You’re not in school and I love school. You’re not associating with friends. You’re not treated decently. And how can your parents know where you are.”
Night-to-night placement was, by anybody’s standards, a disaster. It was kid-dumping on the move. Long empty days would begin at a DCYF building in Pawtucket and end in one of the shelters scattered throughout the state — Woonsocket, Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Narragansett.
“I never learned how to be a kid,” said Nicholas Alahverdian.
The incredible and frightening thing about Nicholas Alahverdian’s story is that once he was past night-tonight placement, he was subjected to something even worse. At our first meeting, he was enthused about his work as a page and an aide at the State House. He seemed to have the worst behind him. But he didn’t.
“Night-to-night was like Disney-land compared to Manatee Palms,” he said.
On Tuesday at noon, he is planning to hold a news conference in the State House Rotunda to talk about what has happened to him and what he is doing to try to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. He will discuss the legislation he has been working on.
The bill he has worked on for a long time is basically his response to the horror story he had to live for too long. It would put safeguards in place to prevent kids from being sent to places far harsher and more restrictive than they need to be.
“Kids need school, not confinement,” Nicholas Alahverdian said.
He calls for a compliance officer to be put in place to protect the right of children in state care to be placed in the least restrictive environment possible. And thorough research would have to be conducted into all facilities being considered for out-of-state placements to make sure they comply with Rhode Island law.
The right to contact a lawyer, call a help line, or contact a family member would be guaranteed. While DCYF officials stress that such contact is always guaranteed, Nicholas Alahverdian says he was denied outside contact at Manatee Palms and Boys Town in Nebraska, where he was sent earlier.
Every kid in the system would get a copy of the Children’s Bill of Rights.
The decision to come out now and tell the story, to put classes at Harvard on hold for a semester so that he can lobby for the legislation, means there will be a smart public voice asking the questions seldom asked about the way DCYF deals with kids.
Stephanie Terry, associate director of Child Welfare Services for DCYF, says Nicholas Alahverdian makes some legitimate points.
“We’re in the midst of trying to get away from residential care,” said Terry. “It doesn’t normalize; it makes things more difficult. If you tell a child when to eat, when to go to bed, how can they come out of that and know how to deal with life?”
She has a simple explanation for why kids are sent out of state. They are sent out of state because their needs cannot be met in state. But Rep. Roberto DaSilva, who represents East Providence and Pawtucket, said that he will introduce legislation by the March 3 deadline to end all out-of-state placements. He says there are resources here to provide the necessary treatment and he has talked with providers willing to do that.
While she said she can’t comment directly on Alahverdian’s case, Terry said that DCYF stopped using Manatee Palms, a 60-bed psychiatric facility in Bradenton, in 2005.
“There were concerns we had with the way they were treating our kids,” she said.
In 2004, the state paid Manatee Palms $49,468. In 2005, it paid $274,002. Since then, the facility has twice been closed by the State of Florida because of “hurtful behavior” by staff.
Nicholas Alahverdian got there on Sept. 9, 2004, and stayed for eight months. He figures his tab at about $85,000.
He remembers the lobby was beautiful. Once inside, he saw holes punched in the walls and heard constant screaming.
“I was a geek nerd who wanted to read.”
He said he was assaulted almost every day. He finally got out, he said, after Pat Chabot, a DCYF social worker, visited and realized how bad the situation was. Rhode Island Family Court finally intervened.
Nicholas Alahverdian has “aged out” of the system. His resilience is stunning. He has been through two out-of-state placements — Boys Town in Nebraska, which was a bust, and Manatee Palms, which was a nightmare. He thinks part of the reason he was sent far away is because he kept challenging the system here at home.
“The problem here was, I was consistently informative, a source of information on DCYF.”
He just wanted to go to school, he said, and he can’t understand why that couldn’t have been arranged in the state he grew up in. He will probably never get a real explanation.
We can only hope that Nicholas Alahverdian is one of the last of the Rhode Island kids sent away and cut off from home. DCYF is changing, Terry says. For one thing, night-tonight placement is never, ever coming back. And while there are currently 27 kids in out-of-state placement, more than half are in Massachusetts and Connecticut. And some placements are made with the knowledge of family members living close to facilities in other states.
“You can’t make behavioral changes in children and not work with the family at the same time,” said Terry.
Nicholas Alahverdian, who was tortured in state care, wants statute of limitations waived
PROVIDENCE — A former General Assembly page who was a ward of the state because he had an abusive upbringing is trying to persuade a federal court judge to declare that it is not too late for him to sue the state, some officials and some private youth shelters.
At issue is the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit and other kinds of claims. In Rhode Island, a personal injury case cannot be brought more than three years after the injury became apparent.
Nicholas Alahverdian, 24, who now attends Harvard University, charges in a suit filed in February that he suffered years of abuse while in state care as a youth. He wants financial damages and improvements in the care of youths by the state Department of Children, Youth and Families and the private agencies to which the DCYF sends them.
“It really is a moral issue,” Nicholas Alahverdian said outside U.S. District Court Friday.
“It’s a question of justice.”
“America can’t be America,” he said, unless the requirements of a state law called the Children’s Bill of Rights are met and individual freedom and independence prevail.
The DCYF has said that it won’t comment on pending litigation.
His challenge, according to U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr., is to show that he is entitled to an exception to the statute of limitations.
I am, Nicholas Alahverdian said through his lawyer, Matthew H. Fabisch, at a hearing in McConnell’s downtown court Friday. For one thing, Alahverdian said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder arising from the abuse he suffered in state care and that the PTSD made it impossible for him to manage his daily activities. His condition left him incapable of complying with the statute, Alahverdian argues in his court pleadings.
The statutory clock arguably did not start ticking, he contends, until his repressed memories of the abuse bubbled up when two DCYF workers visited him in November 2010.
The DCYF and other defendants have asked Judge McConnell to dismiss the suit because, they say, it was submitted too late under the statute. McConnell said Friday that he might convert the dismissal motion to a motion for summary judgment, but he made no decision on whether the suit may go forward.
Nicholas Alahverdian is excused from having to meet the statute for the years that he was a minor, so the period in dispute is right after he turned 18, from July 13, 2005, to approximately early 2007, the judge said. He must show that he was suffering from “an unsound mind” during that period and that the clock would not have started to run then.
Assistant Attorney General Brenda Baum, who represents the DCYF and other defendants, and other lawyers for the defendants scoffed at Alahverdian’s contention that he was of unsound mind, and they complained that Alahverdian has shown no link between the alleged abuse and his PTSD.
During the period that McConnell framed, Nicholas Alahverdian worked as a page and legislative aide, held down two full-time jobs, registered himself as a lobbyist, addressed the Rhode Island House of Representatives Finance Committee, attended college, filed suit in Florida and founded a special-interest nonprofit organization called NexusGovernment.
So how can he claim that he was incapable of managing his daily activities in that time span, the defendants’ lawyers wondered aloud.
Fabisch countered that Alahverdian “bounced” from college to college and could not keep his jobs due to his mental state.
McConnell Friday removed from the case some of the out-of-state defendants, including one or more youth residential facilities in Florida where Nicholas Alahverdian alleged he was neglected and abused. He dropped them after having been informed by Fabisch that a separate suit filed by Alahverdian in Florida no longer is pending. Outside court, Fabisch refused to say what happened to the Florida litigation.
Over the course of past decades, many people have fought for systemic changes that would substantially improve or overhaul the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. I have never seen the agency so thoroughly scrutinized as it is today.
The overhaul and examination haven’t come a moment too soon.
The agency’s turmoil is seemingly never-ending. Harvard Kennedy School professor Jeffrey Liebman called it the “most messed up agency ever” (“Auditors find history of chaos at R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families,” Providence Journal, July 30, 2015).
A short look at the past decade shows that the problems plaguing DCYF are endemic. The Journal headlines remain unchanged.
An August 2007 headline reads: “Panel hears DCYF horror stories: As the agency’s director looks on, witnesses present a long list of deficiencies.”
A November 2004 headline: “Child’s death prompts review of DCYF actions”
Last month: “Warnings failed to save four babies.”
There has been a pattern over the past two decades of media coverage and legislative inquiry followed by abrupt radio silence.
House and Senate leadership seem to be breaking that trend.
Over the past 15 years, I have worked with four DCYF directors and spent hours in General Assembly committee hearings. I had a marathon strategy session last year with Lt. Gov. Dan McKee. I have met with dozens of hardworking front-line staff, and listened to countless parents, experts, and advocates, all of whom echo the same refrain: the system is beyond repair.
At a hearing before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, Child Advocate Jennifer Griffith indicated that the majority of calls she receives are from DCYF employees asking for help or seeking investigations, a fact she described as “telling.” If the front line staff aren’t equipped with the tools and resources to tailor services to the children under their supervision, why not? It’s within the purview of the department and its employees to be the first line of defense and preventative measures — not the Office of the Child Advocate.
The legislative intent upon creating OCA was to protect the rights of children in state care, not micromanage overburdened and underpaid DCYF social workers. Social workers, if treated fairly and given an appropriate array of services and educational opportunities to provide to their clients, would not need OCA to check what should be routine departmental work.
DCYF social workers are beyond capable of providing first-class care to the youth they serve — if DCYF administration reduces caseloads and strengthens licensing and auditing processes. To allow the high case rate and lax licensing standards to remain in place is to condone longstanding abuse and negligence.
Problems plaguing DCYF have ranged from high social worker burnout rates to antiquated case management software. The 47 workers to be hired by May 31 certainly provides a boost, but not as much as necessary (and what is to say they will not be burned out if the number of cases reaches new highs?). Investing in our social workers is an absolute necessity. Disallowing reasonable case assignment ratios at the expense of budget cuts is tantamount to inviting in the wolf at the door.
DCYF also needs to audit the expenditures for unnecessary or redundant services. As House Oversight Chairwoman Patricia Serpa so memorably put it, “we’re saving money but we’re losing babies.” We should encourage solutions conducive to child safety and financially prudent service delivery.
Furthermore, we should respect the collective intellect of our legislators. Resolutions to create a special House Oversight Committee on DCYF have been introduced, always being held for further study. Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, reintroduced the resolution in 2017 only for it to be tabled last month. We grossly underestimate this great brain trust.
Social workers deserve the resources and tools necessary to ensure that the state’s most vulnerable population is afforded a fair shot at life, being cared for in a safe environment where they are provided with education, health care and the basic necessities of life.
Is that too much to ask?
Nicholas Alahverdian (email@example.com) is a lobbyist and managing partner at Rhode Island Government Solutions.