Thursday, December 22, 2011

Was Brizzi's Decision to Drop Investigation of DCS Following Infant's Death Connected to His Becoming DCS's Landlord Months Later?

The legendary news  commentator Paul Harvey used to conclude his daily show in a segment called "The Rest of the Story."  In the segment, Harvey would provide interesting, unknown background to an event that happened.   This is my version of the rest of the story on the purchase/lease of the Elkhart Building to the Department of Child Services (DCS) which has led to the indictment of a politically-connected real estate broker and two attorneys.
Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi

Let's turn the clock back to late November 2007, to review a portion of an Indianapolis Star article talking about the tragic events involving the Tijuana Bailey:
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi wants to know why the state Department of Child Services did not notify police after a caseworker determined TaJanay Bailey was physically abused in 2006.

A hospital emergency room visit documented bruises on the toddler’s body after a May 2006 visit with her mother, Charity Bailey, and Bailey’s boyfriend, Lawrence Green.
Bailey and Green now face charges of murder and neglect in the death of the 3-year-old Tuesday.

Brizzi said the abuse was among the worst he’d seen in a criminal case, and he planned to try the case himself. He said prosecutors could use the victim’s age and the use of torture as statutory aggravators when they press for a life sentence.
About 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Bailey woke TaJanay and saw she “had boo-booed and peed herself,” Bailey told police. She said she took the girl to the bathroom to clean her off, the affidavit says, and Green then began “whipping TaJanay with his black leather belt.”

In his statement, Green told police he did hit the girl, but Bailey was already screaming at her and striking her, too. Bailey hit the girl in the head with her knee, knocking TaJanay’s head against the wall, Green told police. Police called to investigate TaJanay’s death were appalled at the condition of the apartment, in the 4100 block of Edgemere Court.

Police say Bailey and Green abused TaJanay over the past two weeks, including hanging her on a coat hook by her T-shirt, beating her with a belt and knocking her in the chest for wetting her pants. While hanging from the hook, the girl’s shirt left marks under her arms and on the back of her neck, said a probable cause affidavit that Brizzi filed Wednesday.

James W. Payne, director of the state Department of Child Services, said Wednesday that he is prohibited by law from talking about specifics of the case, including whether police were notified. But he pledged an aggressive review of the way TaJanay’s case was handled to determine whether the agency or its workers did anything wrong, and what could be done to prevent similar tragedies.
At this point, he said, nothing indicates a system breakdown or individual misconduct contributing to the death. He said the review will take about two weeks. “These tragic events will, unfortunately, occur,” he said. “We know we can’t protect and prevent everything.”

Brizzi said his office had not been able to find a police report resulting from the 2006 hospital visit. The injuries should have prompted a police investigation because even the doctor noted physical abuse, he said.
“Someone from the government . . . went in and said it was OK for her to return to the home,” he said. “I’m not sure where the blame lies, but we have a dead 3-year-old little girl.”
DCS Director James Payne
In December of 2007, Prosecutor Brizzi announced he intended to do a thorough investigation of DCS and how state officials dropped the ball on protecting Tijuana Bailey.  This is how Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana described that followup article now no longer available for free on-line:
According to a story in the Indianapolis Star, Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi expressed deep concern about DCS's handling of the case and promised a complete and full investigation. Specifically, Brizzi wanted to know why DCS officials had failed to notify police after they learned Tajanay had been physically abused in the home in 2006 and why she had been returned to that same home. At the time Brizzi made those comments, Tajanay's tragic killing was all over the news. As time passed, we never heard from Brizzi again about DCS.
According to my sources, Prosecutor Brizzi's decision to investigate DCS was met with fierce resistance by officials in state government, including Governor Daniels himself who reportedly was furious with Brizzi's public announcement that the intended to investigate DCS and its head, former Marion County Judge Jim Payne.  The planned investigation went nowhere.

Three months later, in February of 2008, Brizzi became a 50% silent owner of a building in Elkhart, an ownership acquired without putting any money up for purchase.  Five months later, Brizzi and Attorney Paul Page became landlord of DCS as the agency rented the Elkhart space for an office.  Issues behind that deal has led Page, another attorney, and real estate developer John Bales to be indicted last week by a federal jury.

Was there a connection between the decision by Brizzi to drop the investigation of DCS and his later becoming the landlord for tenant DCS in a deal in which he did not have to put up any ownership of the building?   If so, the people involved could well be charged with obstruction of justice.

It is possible that Brizzi decided to not press forward with the investigation because of a lack of evidence DCS did anything wrong, at least criminally.  However, a later investigation by the Indianapolis Star, reported in May of 2010, suggests DCS almost certainly failed in its responsibility to protect Bailey:
The Indianapolis Star has obtained documents that reveal the Department of Child Services placed 11-week-old Destiny Linden with a foster family even after an advocate warned the agency about the care and safety of other foster children in the home. 
A week later, Destiny was dead.
She was placed with the family in April, five months after DCS was accused of ignoring warnings prior to the death of TaJanay Bailey -- a 3-year-old fatally beaten in November after DCS returned the toddler to her mother and the woman's boyfriend.
In both cases, it was an advocate who watches out for the best interests of children in state care who raised the red flags.
According to a report written by the advocate, Destiny's foster parents, Everett and Kimberly Coleman, did little to supervise children in their care, including leaving them to prepare their own meals and failing to treat a child burned while ironing clothes. The advocate specifically recommended that all children be removed from the home. But DCS continued placing children, including Destiny, in the foster home and even increased the number of children the couple were licensed to care for in early April.
The advocate who raised concerns about the Colemans -- just like the advocate in TaJanay's case -- was so unsatisfied with DCS' response that she turned to the courts in hopes of persuading a judge to order the removal of the children.
In both cases, the child died before the courts could act -- and in each instance, DCS workers insisted after the children's deaths that they were not made aware of the full extent of the advocates' concerns.
One other fact the cases share: There has been no independent investigation of the agency's actions.
Was that "independent investigation" of DCS that Brizzi promised diverted by the Elkhart lease deal with DCS?

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