Nicholas Alahverdian | Testimony on House Bill 5855

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.

Nicholas Alahverdian, Rhode Island, State House

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.

Nicholas Alahverdian and Bob DaSilva – A winning team for DCYF reform

Nicholas Alahverdian, Bob DaSilva, Roberto DaSilva
Former Rep. Bob DaSilva and Nicholas Alahverdian

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.

Judge Jeremiah’s record should be probed

Judge Jeremiah
Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah

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.

Commentary

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 Alahverdian, RI
Nicholas Alahverdian

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 suppresses corrupt judge’s emeritus plate attempt

Nicholas Alahverdian suffered torture imposed upon him by Rhode Island state officials, of which Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah was a main perpetrator

Amended bill would make Jeremiah pay for plate

Original bill would have given the retired judge an emeritus license plate at no charge

BY TRACY BRETON

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

PROVIDENCE — If retired Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr. gets a special emeritus license plate for his private passenger car, it’s not going to be for free.
Thursday afternoon, before the House Committee on Municipal Gover

Jeremiah S. Jeremiah
Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah

nment convened a hearing on a bill sponsored by Rep. Helio Melo, D-East Providence, to give Jeremiah a “chief judge emeritus” plate “without an additional registration charge,” Melo submitted an amendment. The bill now calls for Jeremiah to pay for the plate, the same charge that currently applies to vanity plates. Vanity plates, depending on design, can cost a driver up to $86.50 in addition to whatever they pay as an annual registration fee to drive a specific vehicle.

The only person who came to speak on the bill was lobbyist and Harvard student Nicholas Alahverdian, who told the members of the committee that he felt “this [bill] is currently against the best interests of the state.” Nicholas Alahverdian identified himself as a former ward of the state. Among other things, he faulted Jeremiah for the way he ran the Truancy Court he created — a court now the subject of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. “He is not deserving of this honor,” he said of the emeritus plate.

Nicholas Alahverdian tortured
Nicholas Alahverdian

Nicholas Alahverdian is a former State House page and House legislative aide who spent his youth as a ward of the state. He is suing the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, Jeremiah and others in United States District Court alleging that he suffered years of abuse while in state care. Nicholas Alahverdian alleges that beginning in 2002, he was put in a series of “night-to-night placements” at temporary shelters in Rhode Island where he says he was repeatedly assaulted, physically and sexually, by employees and clients. He was 14 at the time.

Nicholas Alahverdian says he testified before legislative committees about the alleged abuse and afterward was transferred to residential facilities in Florida and Nebraska where he claims he was further abused and neglected. He was eventually returned to Rhode Island and treated for two weeks at Bradley Hospital, the suit says, before being released to independent living.

Nicholas Alahverdian told the committee members Thursday night that since Jeremiah left the helm of the Family Court, there have been fewer out-of-state placements of children.
Melo’s original bill would have given the emeritus plate to Jeremiah at no additional registration charge. But now, if he gets an emeritus plate, he’d have to pay for it under the newly submitted amendment.

Others who currently have emeritus plates may find themselves in the same boat.

Larry Berman, spokesman for the House, told The Providence Journal that Melo would introduce a bill next Tuesday that would require anyone with a free emeritus plate to start paying the vanity-plate rate whenever it’s renewed. Currently, three retired judges have such plates, as do some former political leaders, a few former police chiefs, former Adjutant Gen. Reginald A. Centracchio and two widows of former police officers.

The House Committee on Municipal Government took testimony on the Jeremiah bill — which Melo says he sponsored as a favor to the Jeremiah family, in honor of the judge’s long service to the court — but held the bill for further study. It could choose to vote on it at a later date or take no action on it at all.

A bill was submitted last year to give Jeremiah a free emeritus plate “without any registration fee or service charge.” It was introduced on the last day of the session by Representatives Stephen R. Ucci, D-Cranston, and Melo. It passed in the House by a 62-to-4 vote, but was never voted on in the Senate, Berman said.

 

Nicholas Alahverdian v. State of Rhode Island

Nicholas Alahverdian, RI, State of Rhode Island
RI State House

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND

NICHOLAS ALAHVERDIAN V. RHODE ISLAND DCYF

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian resides in Rhode Island.

Click here for the PDF version

DEFENDANTS

Defendant Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families (hereinafter referred to as “DCYF”) was intrinsically and constitutionally responsible for ensuring the protection, safety, and well-being of Plaintiff at all times relevant to this complaint. DCYF is responsible for all child protective services, child welfare services, and child placement services in the State of Rhode Island. Pursuant to section 42-72-1 of the Rhode Island General Laws, DCYF and its director are to assure that all programs and services operate in conformity with constitutional, statutory, and regulatory requirements. The main office is located at 101 Friendship Street Providence, Rhode Island 02903.

Defendant State of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was responsible for the protection, safety, and well-being of Plaintiff while he was at Boys Town and Boys Town Residential Treatment Center. DHHS maintains its main office at 301 Centennial Mall South Lincoln, Nebraska.

Defendant Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, d/b/a Boys Town, also known as Boys Town Residential Treatment Center, is a Nebraska-based organization located in Boys Town, Nebraska.

Defendant Family Resources Community Action is a Woonsocket-based organization with its main office located at 245 Main Street Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Defendant Jammat Housing and Community Development Corp. d/b/a Turning the Corner a.k.a Muslim Boys Management is a Providence-based organization located at 801 Elmwood Avenue Providence, Rhode Island.

Defendant Communities for People, Inc. is an organization based in Boston with its main office located at 418 Commonwealth Avenue Boston, Massachusetts.

Defendant Community Solutions, Inc. is an organization based in Connecticut with its main office located at 4 Griffin Road North Suite 1008 Windsor, Connecticut.

Defendant Donald L. Carcieri was Governor of Rhode Island at all times relative to incidents in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Jeremiah S. Jeremiah was Chief Judge of the Family Court at all times relative to incidents in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Jay G. Lindgren was Director of DCYF for a portion of the time relative to incidents in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Thomas L. Dwyer was the assistant director of DCYF for a portion of the time relative to incidents in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Jorge Garcia was the assistant director of DCYF for a portion of the time relative to incidents in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Patricia Martinez was Director of DCYF for a portion of the time relative to incidents in this complaint. She is sued individually and in her official capacity.

Defendant Kevin Aucoin, JD, was chief legal counsel for DCYF at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Michael S. Burk (a/k/a Mike Burk of Tiverton, RI) was legislative liaison and assistant to the director of DCYF at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Linda Essex was an administrator at DCYF at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint. She is sued individually and in her official capacity.

Defendant Kathleen A. Letourneau was an administrator at DCYF at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint. She is sued individually and in her official capacity.

Defendant Ronald Razza was a supervisor at DCYF at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint. He is sued individually and in his official capacity.

Defendant Ellen Balasco, JD, was a staff attorney in the Rhode Island office of the Court Appointed Special Advocate at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint. She is sued individually and in her official capacity.

Defendant Rev. Valentine J. Peter (a/k/a Val J. Peter) (a/k/a Val Peter) was chief executive officer at Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint.

Defendant Matthew Peter (a/k/a Matt Peter) was a therapist at Boys Town Residential Treatment Center at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint.

Defendant Katherine Dinges was director of the Boys Town Residential Treatment Center at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint.

Defendant Daniel L. Daly, PhD was assistant director at Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint.

Defendant Douglas Spellman, MD, was medical director at Boys Town Residential Treatment Center at all times relevant to incidents listed in this complaint.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

This Honorable Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. This action is also brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress violations of the United States Constitution, the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island, federal statuary entitlements, state statuary entitlements, and common law.

Venue is proper here pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). The claims arise in this district.

In addition, this Honorable Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367 over any claims based upon state law.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

In the year 2002, Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian was employed by the Rhode Island House of Representatives as a Page and a Legislative Aide.

Simultaneously, Plaintiff was in the care of Defendant Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (hereinafter referred to as “DCYF”) due to his inept and alcoholic parents.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian began to be placed in different temporary shelters under DCYF’s night-to-night program. DCYF had institutionalized a practice of placing children in its custody in night-to-night placement in violation of the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights to be free from harm and enjoy equal protection of the law. Night-to-night placement is the practice of placing a child, for any length of time, in a DCYF placement facility; congregate care facility; or foster home, which is utilized as an “emergency shelter equivalent placement” as defined by DCYF policy Number 700.0140; or any other facility and/or placement for a reason other than its intended purpose. Defendant’s failure to provide the preventive services mandated by Sections 627 and 671(a)(15) of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act deprived Plaintiff of the privileges and immunities secured by United States laws.

From March 2002 through June 2003, Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian constantly and repetitively experienced physical and sexual assault upon his person at temporary shelters operated by Defendants Family Resources, Jammat, Communities for People, and Community Solutions. These assaults were perpetrated by employees and clients of the temporary shelters under DCYF’s night-to-night program.

State legislators Speaker John Harwood, Rep. William Murphy, Rep. Gordon Fox, Rep. Paul Moura, Rep. Anastasia Williams, Rep. René Menard, Rep. Joanne Giannini, Rep. Eileen Naughton, Rep. Paul V. Sherlock, Rep. David N. Cicilline, Rep. Thomas Slater, Rep. Scott Guthrie, Rep. Carol Mumford, Rep. Peter Kilmartin, Rep. Peter Palumbo, Rep. Brian Coogan, and Rep. Frank Montanaro, among others, and legislative staff including Frank Anzeveno and Nadine Frazier noticed the wounds and heard the stories of the nightly terror that ensued in the night-to-night shelters.

Plaintiff took a leave of absence from his employment with the Rhode Island House of Representatives and began to lobby for safer DCYF placements and other issues.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian appeared in a Providence Journal photo essay with Rep. Paul Moura, Sen. John Tassoni, and Rep. Frank Montanaro, at which point Defendant Lindgren sent emails that ridiculed the appearance. Emails were seen by Rep. Gordon Fox and Rep. Steven Costantino.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian appeared in an article in The Providence Journal published in 2002 that unfavorably reviewed Defendant DCYF’s night-to-night program.

Defendant Burk unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the House Majority Whip Rep. René Menard to instruct Plaintiff to stay away from the State House because the negative publicity being directed at DCYF as a result of Plaintiff’s lobbying efforts was detrimental to the acquisition of the discovery of a safe placement for the Plaintiff.

Several emails blasting the lobbying activities of Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian were sent from Defendant Lindgren. These emails were reviewed by state legislators Rep. Gordon Fox, Rep. Paul Moura, and Rep. Steven Costantino.

Defendant Carcieri was approached by plaintiff at a campaign event at Providence College when Defendant Carcieri was running for Governor. Defendant Carcieri was made aware of the torture and assaults occurring in DCYF placements. Defendant Carcieri committed to eliminating abuse and negligence if elected Governor. Defendant Carcieri reported no abuse and/or neglect to any state agencies.

Defendants Lindgren, Dwyer, Aucoin, Burk, and Garcia were approached by Plaintiff, who advised that DCYF shelters and group homes were unsafe and that assaultive behavior and torture was a regularity. Defendants Lindgren, Dwyer, Aucoin, Burk, and Garcia failed to report any abuse and/or neglect, repetitively placed Plaintiff in facilities previously indicated as abusive and/or negligent, and failed to correct the situation.

Defendant Balasco was approached by Plaintiff with regards to the abuse and negligence ensuing in DCYF placements. Defendant Balasco did not report torture, abuse and/or negligence, nor did she advocate for a safer placement for Plaintiff. Defendant failed to advocate for or act in the best interests of her client, the Plaintiff.

Defendants Lindgren, Dwyer, Aucoin, Burk, Garcia, Family Resources, Jammat, Jeremiah, Communities for People, and Community Solutions were repetitively asked by Plaintiff to allow Plaintiff to receive a free and appropriate education. Plaintiff was denied access to receive a free and appropriate education.

Defendants Jeremiah, Lindgren, Dwyer, and Carcieri were continually approached by Plaintiff, who requested a safe, permanent placement, free of assault, negligence, negligent hiring, and any other unethical or unlawful conduct. Defendants failed to report torture, abuse and/or negligence, and failed to ensure a safe, permanent placement free of torture, assault, negligence, negligent hiring, and any other unethical or unlawful conduct.

Defendant Jeremiah instructs Defendant DCYF to send Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian to an out-of-state placement as soon as possible.

Defendants Essex and Letourneau had the responsibility of researching placements. Defendants Essex and Letourneau knew that Defendant Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home had a record of abuse and/or negligence. Plaintiff was sent to be under the care of Defendant Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, who was supervised by Defendant State of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Employees and clients of Defendant Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home torture, beat, assault, and neglect Plaintiff constantly, maliciously, and knowingly. Defendant Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home prohibited Plaintiff from access to the courts, or contact with anyone outside the facility.

Defendant State of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services knew of the torture, abuse, unlawful restraints, and negligence; and does nothing to stop said torture; nor do Defendants Rhode Island Department of Children Youth, and Families, Essex, Letourneau, Carcieri, Jeremiah, Dwyer, Aucoin, Martinez, Razza, Balasco, Burk, Lindgren, V. Peter, M. Peter, Dinges, Daly, or Spellman lawfully report the abuse, torture, and negligence to law enforcement or otherwise any person who could help Plaintiff.

As a direct and proximate result of said acts of defendants, Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian suffered (and suffers) from violations of federal and state entitlements, violations of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island, depression, physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma and suffering, and loss of life.

COUNT 1

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Plaintiff claims damages for the injuries set forth above under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all defendants for violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.

COUNT 2

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

All defendants had a duty under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to protect Plaintiff from harm when they took Plaintiff into custody.

The foregoing actions and inactions of Defendants deprived Plaintiff of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, and denied Plaintiff the equal protection of the law.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian claims damages for the injuries set forth above.

COUNT 3

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, all of the Defendants were responsible to train their employees. Defendants recklessly and with indifference to constitutional rights, failed to adequately train their employees who were involved in the care of the Plaintiff, in various matters including but not limited to how to deal with disabled persons.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 4

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, Defendants Jeremiah and Balasco had the authority yet failed to issue a warrant for any offense by any person against the Plaintiff as set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws 14-1-15.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 5

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, Defendants Lindgren and Jeremiah had the responsibility yet failed to authorize the provision of suitable treatment… and care for the Plaintiff in the least restrictive and community-based setting pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 14-1-36.2.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 6

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, Defendant Jeremiah had the responsibility yet failed to deny approval for the out-of-state placements of the Plaintiff because there were (1) suitable in-state facilities available for the placement of the Plaintiff; and (2) the proposed placement was not in the best interest of the Plaintiff pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 14-1-65.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendant.

COUNT 7

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, Defendants Essex and Letourneau had the responsibility yet failed to deny approval of the inappropriate out-of-state placements that had records of abuse and/or negligence pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 40-15-1 et seq.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 8

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, all defendants had the responsibility yet failed to protect the Plaintiff who was affected through injury and neglect. All defendants had the responsibility yet failed to provide a nurturing and safe environment for the Plaintiff. All defendants had the requirement, yet failed to report known or suspected child abuse and neglect for the investigation of those reports, and provisions of service to the Plaintiff, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 40-11-1 et seq.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 9

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, defendants DCYF, Lindgren, Aucoin, Dwyer, Garcia, Burk, Essex, Letourneau, Razza and Martinez had the responsibility yet failed to examine programs and services for the purpose of identifying program inefficiencies and unmet needs of the Plaintiff pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 40-72-1 et seq. Further, defendants had an obligation yet failed to meet the needs of the Plaintiff, provide the Plaintiff a safe environment, and set the standards for social services and facilities, pursuant to R.I. Gen Laws 42-72-2.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 10

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, each and every defendant had the responsibility yet failed to protect the the personal property and civil rights of the Plaintiff, provide humane and dignified treatment to the Plaintiff with full respect for the Plaintiff’s personal dignity and right to privacy, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 42-72-15.

Further, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 42-72-15, each and every defendant had the responsibility yet failed to ensure that the Plaintiff was permitted to communicate with any individual, group, or agency consistent with the Plaintiff’s treatment objectives; provide the Plaintiff with writing materials and postage, and allow the Plaintiff to make or receive telephone calls to or from the Plaintiff’s attorneys, guardians ad litem, special advocates or the child advocate at any reasonable time.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by the defendants.

COUNT 11

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Defendants DCYF, Lindgren, Aucoin, Dwyer, Garcia, Burk, Essex, Letourneau, Razza and Martinez had the responsibility yet failed to protect the health, safety and well being of the Plaintiff, by not appropriately monitoring and licensing child care providers to that end.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by the defendants.

COUNT 12

Plaintiff incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian claims damages for negligence.

At all relevant times, all defendants and their employees and agents had the duty to prevent abuse and negligence upon the Plaintiff.

Defendants and their employees and agents are and were obliged to insure they comply with laws regarding reporting and preventing abuse and neglect.

Defendants and their employees and agents have a duty to exercise reasonable care in supervising the care of the Plaintiff, to insure that it was not abusive or negligent.

Defendants and their employees and agents breached that duty by failing to prevent the abusive and/or negligent care; as well as failing to remove Plaintiff from abusive facilities.

As a direct and proximate result of the actions and inactions of each defendant, Plaintiff suffered injuries as aforesaid.

COUNT 13

Plaintiff incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Plaintiff claims damages for the injuries set forth above under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 against each Defendant for the violation of conspiring to interfere with Plaintiff’s civil rights.

COUNT 14

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Plaintiff claims damages for the injuries set forth above under 42 U.S.C. § 1986 against each defendant for having knowledge of the wrongs conspired to be committed.

COUNT 15

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Defendants DCYF, Jeremiah, Lindgren, Carcieri, Dwyer, Garcia, Martinez, Aucoin, Burk, Essex, Letourneau, and Razza acted in a manner that deprived Plaintiff of constitutionally protected interests, entitlements arising from R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 42-72-4(b)(14) to suitable treatment and care in the least restrictive placement within the Plaintiff’s community; 42-72-5(b)(7) to placement in a home or facility that is licensed, approved, monitored and evaluated by DCYF; 42-72-5(b)(22) and 42-72-15(o) to receive a free and appropriate education in accordance with state and federal laws and to be enrolled in a school program; 42-72.9-1 to freedom from abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, or any physical or chemical restraints that are not medically necessary or used as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience or retaliation.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 16

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, all defendants and their employees and agents had the responsibility yet failed to ensure that Plaintiff had access to the courts. All defendants maliciously denied Plaintiff the benefit of court proceedings. All defendants denied Plaintiff the benefit of counsel who truly would advocate for Plaintiff rather than advocating for interests of defendants.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 17

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all relevant times, Defendant Balasco was the appointed CASA attorney for Plaintiff. Defendant Balasco had a high duty to investigate the laws and facts surrounding Plaintiff’s situation and to advocate positions in court that furthered Plaintiff’s interests and welfare. At all times relevant, Defendant Balasco was fully aware of the tortious acts being committed against Plaintiff by Defendants DCYF, Nebraska DHHS, Boys Town, Family Resources, Jammat, Communities for People, and Community Solutions, as Plaintiff repeatedly told Defendant Balasco of the abuses and begged Balasco to take the necessary steps to protect him.

Contrary to her duty to properly and competently represent Plaintiff’s interests, Defendant Balasco advocated solely for the interests of Defendants, successfully convincing the court to place Plaintiff in the custody of those she had been made aware were abusive and to send him and keep him away from Rhode Island. Defendant did everything possible to ensure Plaintiff’s continued vulnerability at the hands of Defendants, and did absolutely nothing to protect her client. Defendant Balasco was only interested in furthering her standing with other Defendants, and thereby undermined any potential for Plaintiff’s protection in the court.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ negligence, Plaintiff suffered all of the damages set forth herein, supra.

COUNT 18

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

At all times relevant herein, all Defendants were acting with authority from the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). Defendant Rev. Peter financially benefited from Defendant Nebraska DHHS negligently failing to evaluate either of their facilities for abuse and neglect. At all times relevant herein, Defendant Nebraska DHHS had a duty to properly supervise the facilities owned and/or operated by Defendant Peter and ensure that Plaintiff was not being abused or tortured by the employees of Defendant Peter. Thus, Nebraska DHHS breached that duty and allowed Defendant Peter to conduct his tortious activity uninterrupted. Defendant Peter was more concerned with increasing profits and preventing disclosure of abuse or torture than he was with ensuring that their victim, the Plaintiff, was adequately cared for. Defendants DHHS shut down facilities attended by Plaintiff a few years after Plaintiff departed because the abuse and negligence, identical to what he experienced, was finally discovered.

Defendants Peter and Nebraska DHHS are vicariously liable for the torts of its employees as set forth herein under the doctrine of respondeat superior, and is thus liable for all damages suffered by Plaintiff as a result of Defendants’ acts and omissions set forth herein.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ negligence, Plaintiff suffered all of the damages set forth herein, supra.

COUNT 19

Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

Plaintiff was/is at all times relevant to this matter, a qualified individual with a disability as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiff had impairments such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that substantially limited one or more major life activities, including but not limited to thinking, concentrating, and interacting with others, and controlling his behavior.

All Defendants knowingly and consistently discriminated against Plaintiff, who is considered mentally disabled, and failed to provide him with reasonable accommodations.

By failing to provide an individualized assessment of his mental health needs and treatment requirements as an individual with mental illness, and by placing Plaintiff in two locked facilities in two different states, Defendants have denied Plaintiff the benefits of services, programs, and activities, including school, recreation, exercise, and mental health services, thus discriminating against Plaintiff on the basis of his disability in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Discrimination resulted in Plaintiff not receiving mental health services sufficient to counteract the effects that abusive and negligent facilities had on him which is distinct from the impact it had on DCYF youth who are not mentally ill.

In placing Plaintiff, a youth with mental illness, in a disciplinarily, psychologically, and logistically isolating situation with little-to-no real world relevancy and prohibiting him from contacting the outside world and thus segregating him from even already segregated DCYF youth, Defendants have failed to furnish a reasonable accommodation to Plaintiff as a person with disabilities. Defendants punished Plaintiff, a person with mental illness, for disability related conduct. Defendants deprived Plaintiff, an individual with mental illness of access to adequate mental health services by placing him in inappropriate facilities in segregation.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ negligence, Plaintiff suffered all of the damages set forth herein, supra.

COUNT 20

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

All Defendants violated Plaintiff’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq., by failing to provide Plaintiff with access to a free and appropriate public education. See 20 U.S.C., § 20 U.S.C. § 1400(1)(A), 1401(a)(18). See 20 U.S.C. § 1401(8) and 20 U.S.C. § 1451(b)(6).

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ negligence, Plaintiff suffered all of the damages set forth herein, supra.

COUNT 21

Plaintiff hereby incorporates foregoing paragraphs.

All Defendants violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause because of their failure to plan for the Plaintiff’s transition from DCYF custody to independent living as required by Sections 675(1) and 677 of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ negligence, Plaintiff suffered all of the damages set forth herein, supra.

COUNT 22

Defendants DCYF, State of Nebraska DHHS, and their employees and agents; including Defendants Lindgren, Burk, Dwyer, Garcia, Essex, Letourneau, and Martinez failed to adequately assess facilities that the Plaintiff was placed in. Defendants failed to acknowledge the failure to provide adequate staffing, supervision of employees, background screening of employees, the performance of safety evaluations, termination of staff with criminal records, and conduct competency evaluations to meet the needs of the Plaintiff.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failure by defendants.

COUNT 23

Defendants Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, Nebraska DHHS, DCYF, Lindgren, Garcia, Martinez, Burk, Dwyer, Essex, Letourneau, and Razza had the duty to assess facilities for their compliance with and enforce 42 C.F.R. § 483.356 et seq, Protection of Residents; 42 C.F.R. § 483.358(g) Orders for the Use of Restraint or Seclusion; 42 C.F.R. § 483.368 Application of Time Out; 42 C.F.R. § 483.374(b) Facility Reporting; and 42 C.F.R. 483.376(f) Education and Training. Employees were not trained  with respect to the interest of the plaintiff in the aforesaid federal regulations. Further, employees that had criminal records were negligently hired and retained.

Plaintiff was deprived of his constitutional rights and injured as a direct and proximate result of said failures by defendants.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Nicholas Alahverdian requests an order and judgment from the court:

  • awarding plaintiff full compensatory damages on his claims in an amount to be determined at trial;
  • assessing appropriate punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish defendants for their conduct and to set an example to deter others from similar conduct;
  • awarding plaintiff pre- and post-judgment interest;
  • awarding plaintiff the costs and expenses of suit and attorney’s fees; and
  • granting such other relief as may be just and appropriate.

JURY DEMAND

Plaintiff demands trial by jury of his claims, as well as of all issues presented in this complaint.

Dated: Providence, Rhode Island

       April 7, 2011

Respectfully submitted, 

Nicholas Alahverdian

Plaintiff 

Nicholas Alahverdian | A hard lesson in what a state can do to a kid

By Bob Kerr
The Providence Journal

It’s hard to understand why my friend Nicholas Alahverdian’s story hasn’t resonated with more people and led to more needed changes. Perhaps it’s because he has been too much his own advocate, worked the Rhode Island State House too diligently, been too articulate in defining the state’s failures.

Dickensian brutality

One thing is certain: What happened to Nicholas Alahverdian in the name of child protection should never happen to any kid ever. He was denied a substantial chunk of his childhood. He was put in night-to-night placement by the RI Department of Children, Youth and Families, a practice so hideously abusive and stifling that it would seem better fit to a Charles Dickens novel than to 21st century Rhode Island. Continue reading Nicholas Alahverdian | A hard lesson in what a state can do to a kid