Thursday, October 28, 2010

Michael Smith Settlement

A case settled recently - Michael Smith v. Department of Social and Health Services. It was a case of a child in need of supervision, whose care was given to our state's government, and who ended up in the hands of a convicted pedophile. I wasn't Michael's lawyer - Bill Gilbert and Garth Dano are - but I helped on his case. Ultimately the case settled for $1.925 million (with a value of $2.25 million, since some costs to the state were waived).

It is a heartbreaking case, that the State fought vigorously. It was embarrassing for the State to be so litigious and aggressive in a case about a boy, now man, who was raped repeatedly by his foster dad (and gang raped by that man's friends). Here was a child most at risk, and the State chose - negligently or otherwise - to have him in harm's way. This is the kind of child that we ask our State to protect. And look what it did instead, in our names.

Michael is a brilliant writer - poetry, prose. I see him defining his life according to who he is, regardless of what the State did - or tried to do - to him. It has been a long road for Michael. No one would wish to go through what he went through. For all the tragedies related to child sexual abuse, having those tragedies imposed on a child by the State itself is just horrifying. Good for Michael, that he has survived. Not too many people would have.

Bill Gilbert, Michael's primary lawyer, did stunning work in the morass of this matter. This does not surprise me. Bill is just that way. And beyond money, beyond litigation - Bill got one more thing. An apology. The State will be issuing an apology to Michael Smith, for all that was done. I hope they say, "on behalf of the State and all its citizens..."


superiorfan said...

What about the foster father and his friends? Were they convicted of crimes? I would hope so, too often we see the blame passed around but the real bottom line these individuals cannot be cured. That's not to say they cannot learn to resist but in many cases they choose not to and will offend again given opportunity.

Beth Bollinger said...

The foster father died in the 1980s (?) or thereabouts. He was prosecuted multiple times - had three convictions, I believe, on his record - but was not prosecuted for abusing Michael. The "friends" are untraceable by us. Yes, re-offense is a major problem. It is both a crime and a sickness. That is why it is so disheartening for me when those in authority over the pedophiles look the other way.