By Ed Runyan
Though Judge Benita Pearson of Youngstown Federal Court ruled Tuesday that a case involving a child who was raped by her biological parents at the Trumbull County Children Services offices should go forward, one of the attorneys says the case has been settled out of court.
Details of the settlement were not available.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the child and her adoptive Amish West Farmington parents, was filed in federal court in April and sought $3 million.
It named the agency and three employees — caseworker Jessica Watkins and supervisors Robin Moon and Marilyn Pape — as defendants.
Atty. John T. McLandrich of the firm Mazanec, Raskin Ryder & Keller of Solon, who represent CSB, said he believes the suit was settled, so he didn’t “pay much attention” to Judge Pearson’s ruling, released Tuesday. He referred other questions to the lead attorney, Audrey K. Bentz of Cleveland, who did not return a call.
Tim Schaffner, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services, said he would neither confirm nor deny that the suit had been settled.
The lawsuit refers to the child as Baby Girl Doe and her adoptive parents as Jane Doe and John Doe. Adoption records are not public. Atty. Michael Rossi of Warren, who represents the child and her adoptive parents, declined to comment.
Judge Pearson’s 19-page ruling refused to dismiss the lawsuit, describing the suit as an attempt to hold Children Services and the three employees responsible for “reprehensible acts of human depravity inflicted upon” the child by her biological parents.
The biological parents, Cody Beemer and Felicia Beemer, formerly of Warren, eventually were convicted of rape and other offenses, and both were sentenced to life in prison.
Police said the couple raped the child during partially supervised visits at the CSB offices on Reeves Road in 2011 and recorded the acts on cellphone video. The couple had lost custody of the child just after she was born in fall 2010.
CSB was aware that Cody Beemer had been convicted previously of raping his 3-year-old cousin and initially allowed visits only to occur with 100 percent supervision from a CSB worker.
But after several months, agency personnel modified the requirements, allowing the couple to visit the child for two hours with a worker checking in about every 15 minutes.
Judge Pearson ruled that the actions of Children Services is akin to the responsibility the government has to a prison or jail inmate.
The government cannot place an inmate or a child in its custody “in a position of danger, deliberately and without justification,” without violating the inmate’s or child’s rights under the Constitution, she said.
Judge Pearson said CSB’s responsibilities to this child are similar to its responsibilities when assigning a child to a foster home.
“Similar to the risk created when a government [agency] sends a child to an abusive foster home, [this child] was imperiled when [Children Services] and its employees subjected her to a course of visitation that involved placing her in a room, unsupervised, with individuals who were specially dangerous to her.”
Schaffner noted that an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation that was turned over to a Trumbull County grand jury showed “no criminal intent or wrongdoing” by CSB.