The Nicholas Alahverdian Torture Case: Governor Chafee Meeting and Press Conference

Following a meeting with the Governor’s Office, Nicholas Alahverdian will hold a brief press conference on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 3 p.m. at the State House Rotunda to discuss the details of his federal lawsuit against DCYF and take questions about his experiences of abuse and negligence, substantiated by state and federal authorities (see links to news stories), in Rhode Island, Nebraska, and Florida group homes and treatment facilities.

Nicholas Alahverdian was exiled from the State of Rhode Island by the Department of Children, Youth and Families after illuminating the deficiencies at facilities monitored by them to legislators of the Rhode Island General Assembly. At the time, he was an employee of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. When Nicholas was exiled, he began to be tortured in both facilities which had long records of violence and maltreatment against patients, with both facilities undergoing significant state investigations with courts issuing grand jury indictments and orders to halt admissions. Nevertheless, Alahverdian was banished to these facilities.
Nicholas Alahverdian, RI, Lincoln Chafee
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and Nicholas Alahverdian

Nicholas Alahverdian was sent to one facility in Nebraska, the Boys Town Residential Treatment Center; and one in Florida, Manatee Palms Youth Services (owned by Premier Behavioral Solutions, a subsidiary of the nationally troubled Psychiatric Solutions, recently purchased by Universal Health Services). Both were shut down by their respective state regulatory agencies for violations of federal and state regulations, including abuse and negligence.

In Florida, Nicholas Alahverdian was raped by a staff member who admitted to the crime and was later imprisoned (see attached documents). Also, the for-profit Florida facility has been shut down in recent years for hiring convicted felons and retaining them, not providing sufficient staff, and hiring abusive people, most of whom were directly out of high school.

Alahverdian will also discuss legislation going before the House Judiciary Committee on April 12, 2011 to end out-of-state placements and enhance the Rhode Island Children’s Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Michael Marcello and Rep. Bob DaSilva. There will be a large rally on Tuesday the 12th at 3 p.m. (press advisory to be sent later today/Monday) before the bills go before the House Judiciary Committee at the rise of the House (typically around 4:30).

 

EVENT DETAILS
    WHO: NexusGovernment, Nicholas Alahverdian
    WHAT: Press Conference on lawsuit, DCYF reform legislation
    WHEN: Friday, April 8 at 3 p.m.
    WHERE: Rhode Island State House Rotunda
Nicholas Alahverdian in 2010

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.

Nicholas Alahverdian | A Victim of RI State-sponsored Torture

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.

VIDEO: Nicholas Alahverdian – Tortured, Abused, and Exiled for Political Activism

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.

Rhode Island State House
A Providence Journal photo essay from 2002

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.

Nicholas Alahverdian

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.

Nicholas Alahverdian, Rhode Island

“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.

Ron Razza, Rhode Island, Nicholas Alahverdian
Ron Razza

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 Alahverdian, speech, RI, Harvard, DCYF, Ron Razza, Rhonda Smith
Nicholas Alahverdian

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.

Jeremiah S. Jeremiah
Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah

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 Alahverdian, torture, Donald Carcieri
Governor Donald L. Carcieri

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 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, Nicholas Alahverdian
Nicholas Alahverdian

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.

‘the torture of political prisoners’
‘confessions extracted under torture’

1.1 Great physical or mental suffering.

1.2 A cause of great physical or mental suffering.

 
Nicholas Alahverdian is a political prisoner. He was tortured by the direct orders of Rhode Island state officials. These officials are acting under the color of law as a result of Alahverdian’s political activism. They aim to further their own personal and public interests.

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: He knows the Rhode Island DCYF system inside and out

Nicholas Alahverdian, torture

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 seeks permission to sue RI for torture and abuse

Nicholas Alahverdian, who was tortured in state care, wants statute of limitations waived

BY GREGORY SMITH
PROVIDENCE JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
December 10, 2011
Nicholas Alahverdian, torture, RI, DCYF, foster care, torture
Nicholas Alahverdian

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.

Nicholas Alahverdian, Matthew Fabisch
Nicholas Alahverdian and Matthew Fabisch

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.

Matthew Fabisch, Nicholas Alahverdian
Matthew Fabisch Esq.

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.

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