Tag Archives: Child Sexual Abuse

‘OPERATION BAD APPLE’ NETS 56 SEXUAL PREDATORS

.jpg photo of Child Predators arrested in Florida
Source: Osceola County Sheriff’s Office

Sexual Predator Sweep In Florida Results In 56 Arrests In ‘Operation Bad Apple’

OSCEOLA COUNTY, FL  –  The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that dozens of arrests have been made in “Operation Bad Apple.”

One such recent victory was won in Florida, where the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office worked with U.S. Marshals in “Operation Bad Apple” to round up and lock up a massive number of sexual predators, arresting 56 in the sweep.

The Sheriff’s Office said in a press release, “The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the United States Marshals conducted Operation Bad Apple, which took place from March 28, 2022 through June 10, 2022.  The operation had a primary focus, but was not limited to; sexual offenders and sexual predators who have prior state or federal convictions for productions, transmission, and/or possession of child pornography/sexual performance of a child; transmission of harmful material to a minor; or video voyeurism.”

The press release concluded, “Operation Bad Apple resulted in 56 arrests of sexual offenders and predators in reference to violations of their statutory sex offense restrictions and or new law violations.  All arrestees were booked and transported to the Osceola County Jail.”

So, we are thankful their office was able to lock up a number of creeps and deviants, particularly those involved in horrific sexual crimes or activity involving children.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to serving our community and increasing public safety.  Anyone with information related to similar incidents, please contact the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at (407) 348-2222.

SOLD FOR DRUGS, WOMAN DOES EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO HELP TRAFFICKING VICTIMS

.jpg photo of Tonya Stafford and the neighbor who helped her break free from abuser.
Tonya Stafford and the neighbor who helped her break free from her abuser.

Her mother sold her for drugs when she was 14. Now, she spends her life rescuing fellow trafficking victims

DALLAS, TX  –  It took Tonya Stafford years to return to Bradshaw Street in southern Dallas.

When she finally did, about eight years ago, she felt afraid.

“It was a lot of emotions that came back,” she said.  “Because I thought of everything that had happened.”

Stafford lived in two separate houses on this street  –  although “lived” is a generous term.

She survived.  That’s a better way to put it.

Located just feet apart, those Bradshaw Street houses are the first and second homes Stafford lived in with the man who purchased her from her mother when she was 14 years old.  They’re the first two homes in which she was held captive, raped and abused for years.

“I was sold from the projects… the Turner Courts Projects,” Stafford said.

She’d been living their with her siblings, her mother and her mother’s husband.  Stafford’s mother had been in an out of their lives, while living with addiction.  She regained custody of Stafford and her siblings when Stafford was eight years old.  Up until then, they’d been living with their grandmother.

“It wasn’t something that was hidden from us,” Stafford said of her mother’s troubles. “Big Momma always just told us to respect her.  If we saw her walking down the street in South Dallas, we respected our mom.”

Stafford said her mother had started to do better when she regained custody, but the man she married was an addict and abusive.

“He immediately started raping us and molesting us,” Stafford said.  “So, that’s how our life took a turn for the worse.”

When Stafford and her siblings told her mother about the abuse, she said her mother’s husband claimed the children were trying to break them up.  She believed him.

Stafford said the family was also homeless for months at a time and bounced from hotel to hotel.

“He would get a room for them and a room for us,” Stafford said.  “Then he would get a room to take us into.”

Even then, Stafford still had hope.

“I wasn’t pregnant,” she said.  “I was an A student.  I was really smart.  My mentality was to make it out and never come back.”

Eventually, her family ended up at the Turner Courts housing project in southern Dallas, where Stafford said she and her siblings were allowed to freely come and go as they pleased, as long as they were home by dark.

She said she remembered she’d hang out with a neighbor, a women in her early 20s who was married and had kids.  Around that time, Stafford also remembered, she started noticing the man who’d become her abuser hanging around the neighborhood.

“I remember seeing him but not really paying attention cause I was playing with [my neighbor’s’] kids,” Stafford said.  “I didn’t know he had already started inquiring about us. Who was I?  ‘Who’s her momma?  What does that look like?’  They told him, ‘Her mom’s on drugs, and they don’t really care about them.’  He found his prey.  I was his prey.”

One night, when she was 13, Stafford said she was at her neighbor’s house, drinking what she thought was soda.  The man was there too.  Once she’d had a bit of what she later realized were wine coolers, she said she didn’t feel good.  She remembered the man telling her she couldn’t go home drunk.

She said he raped her that night.

“I got up,  I put my clothes on,  I went back to our apartment,” Stafford said.  “I didn’t say anything.”

A few weeks later, Stafford started feeling sick  –  and quickly realized she was pregnant.

“My daughter was born in 1988 in Mesquite Community Hospital,” she said.

Stafford was 14.  The father of her new baby was more than 10 years older.

Court documents provided to WFAA showed that Tonya was interviewed by a case worker who was investigating her mother and stepfather for child abuse involving another sibling.  The report detailed that Tonya was pregnant and that the father of her child was substantially older than she was.  The case worker noted that she asked Tonya if her mother had anything to do with what she referred to as her “relationship” with an older man, but never probed into any questions about abuse or the situation being troublesome.

“I knew then that we weren’t going to be saved,” Stafford said.

A few months after her daughter was born, Stafford said she was playing outside with other kids and had come back in to her house for some water when she noticed her belongings and her baby’s things had been packed up and placed by the door.

“She [her mother] said, ‘You got to go,'” Stafford said.  “I asked why: ‘Did I do something wrong?  Did I not clean up good enough?  What did I do?’  She just said again,  ‘You got to go.’  She pointed outside, and I saw his car waiting.  So, I took a deep breath, and I got in the car.”

Stafford said she went to live with with her abuser in his grandmother’s house  –  one of the homes on Bradshaw Street  –  where she was repeatedly raped and beaten.  After a year, she said they moved a few houses down on the same street.  A couple of years later, they moved to Pleasant Grove.

Stafford said she’d continuously tried calling her mother during this time, but never got an answer.  Eventually, she learned that her mother had changed phone numbers.  While she lived on Bradshaw Street, Stafford was just a few blocks from her family and the school she would have attended had she been able to leave the house.

“I really only left to go to church,” Stafford said.

She said her abuser took her to church every Sunday and Wednesday.

“I remember telling someone he was raping me, and they told me not to say that,” Stafford said.  “The first lady told me I should be glad someone bought me.”

Stafford said she lived with her abuser for 10 years.  During that stretch, she gave birth to two more children of his children.  She said no one at any of the hospitals ever questioned their situation.

“I don’t think they wanted to get involved,” Stafford said.

She was 24 when her life changed.  She has her neighbor to thank for that.

“She was the nosey neighbor,” Stafford said.  “She’d seen something.  She said something. And she did something.”

Stafford said her neighbor had noticed abuse in the home, and had spoken to her about it.
“Our cue was, if it gets bad, throw something out the window  –  or just come out and she’ll call the police,” Stafford said.

On the day she was rescued, Stafford said the abuse was particularly bad.

“He was angry,” Stafford said of her abuser.  “He was angry.  He just kept saying, I’m going to kill you.'”

Stafford said she’d gone to the bathroom, flushed the toilet and threw some things out of the window.  She said she tried to climb out of the window, too, but her abuser heard her, kicked down to the door, pulled her back into the house and threw her into the hallway.
“I asked him if I could go put my kids up, and I could come back and he could kill me,” Stafford said. “He said no, and he started choking me unconscious.  And that’s all I remembered.  I woke up.  My neighbor was kneeling next to me, and she was crying.”

Stafford said her neighbor heard the commotion and called the police.  By the time officers arrived, her abuser had run away.  Stafford and her children were taken to a shelter for domestic violence survivors in Irving.

“I got to be safe, and then I started therapy,” Stafford said.  “I love therapy.”

She still goes to therapy every Tuesday.

“It’s the first time I couldn’t lie,” Stafford said.  “I had to be honest about everything.   My kids got therapy too.  I think that’s ultimately what saved me.  I had never just been around a bunch of women.”

These women affirmed Stafford’s beauty, value and purpose.

When she finally was able to take her attacker to court,  Stafford said the judge apologized to her for a healthcare system and an education system that “failed” her.

“Then he said, “And I’m sorry, I have to fail you too,'” Stafford said.  “The statute of limitations had been reached.”

She was able to get a protection order  –  one that’s still in place  –  because of the domestic violence, but her attacker was never charged for the sexual abuse.  In fact, he was granted visitation with her children.

Stafford’s story is a hard one to hear, but it laid the foundation for the life-saving work she does now.

In 2014, Stafford started It’s Going to Be Okay Inc, an organization that helps rescue, house and heal survivors of human trafficking.  She now operates four safe houses for survivors across Dallas-Fort Worth.

“We’re providing direct services to human trafficking victims of all races and colors, but particularly Black girls,” Stafford said.

These are girls, Stafford said, that often go missing without extensive media coverage or resources devoted to finding them.

They’re girls like her.

Her story, Stafford said, is not entirely the same as the cases she deals with now.  But the foundations of trauma and abuse are the same.

“When you’re dealing with past trauma, it effects your post-trauma,” Stafford said.  “It’s how [these girls] are so susceptible to trafficking.  It’s the cycle of trauma, the generational trauma.”

Stafford’s work has been recognized around the country.  She works with local, state and federal law enforcement to help rescue trafficking victims and offer services to help them rebuild their lives.

She was recently recognized by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for her efforts, and even received an honorary doctorate for her work.

“When I come across girls who look like me  –  the forgotten girls  –  and they say, ‘Ms. Tonya, thank you for coming, and thank you for providing what probably wouldn’t have been provided,’ that is my why,” Stafford said.

So, now, when Stafford finds herself on Bradshaw Street, she sees survival.

“I survived for them,” she said.  “I survived for me.  I survived for my children.  And not only am I surviving, I’m thriving.”

CONVICTED CHILD PREDATOR DOES IT AGAIN

.jpg photo of Child Sex Abuse graphic
It is a Parents job to Supervise their Children and keep them safe until they are 18 years of age.

‘Low risk’ registered sex offender arrested after San Angelo child makes outcry of abuse

SAN ANGELO, TX  –  A San Angelo man, previously convicted for indecency with a child in 1995, has been arrested in connection to a recent child sex abuse case, according to court documents obtained Monday, May 16.

A child, 11, made an outcry of sexual abuse and named a San Angelo man.  The child stated the man had inappropriately touched them multiple times between Jan. 5, 2020 through Nov. 29, 2020, in San Angelo, according to the arrest affidavit.

During an interview with investigators, the man admitted to what the child reported, records state.

Deputies arrested Reymundo Luna, 61, on suspicion of continuous child sex abuse of a child younger than 14 years old.  He remained in Tom Green County Detention Center with no bond listed as of 4:45 p.m. Monday, according to online jail records.

Luna previously pleaded guilty to four counts of indecency with a 9-year-old child in Tom Green County in 1995, for which he received 10 years deferred adjudication, a type of probation that could have helped him avoid conviction if he followed the rules of the agreement.

That probation was revoked in 2005 due to unsupervised meetings with a child younger than 17, being within 1,000 feet of a place children congregated and not going to counseling.  He was then sentenced to 4 years in prison.

The Texas Public Sex Offender Registry listed Luna as “low risk. ”  This means he “pose(d) a low threat to the community in terms of engaging in further criminal sexual conduct,” according to nealdavislaw.com.

WHEN RACE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE SAFETY OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN

The Great Divide
9 takeaways from Boston’s investigation into Mission Hill School; DA reviewing

SUFFOLK COUNTY, MA  –  A blistering investigation released this week revealed institutional failures that endangered children for years at Boston’s Mission Hill K-8 School, including overlooked reports of sexual abuse and bullying.

Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden on Thursday said his office is reviewing the report for “any crimes or incidents where mandatory reporting of sexual assault allegations did or did not occur.”

The report spurred Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to take the extraordinary step of recommending the school’s closure at the end of the academic year in June.  The Boston School Committee will vote on the closure May 5.

“This is the stuff of nightmares,” Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday on GBH News, pledging accountability in BPS.

Many parents have continued to defend the school.

Here are nine key takeaways from the report:

1.  The school ‘systematically failed to protect students’ from sexual abuse, investigators found

The 189-page report by the law firm Hinckley Allen was sparked by complaints from parents that Mission Hill officials were ignoring their concerns about bullying, and separately, allegations by five families that one student had repeatedly sexually abused their children.

Investigators found the school “systematically failed to protect students” from sexual abuse by neglecting to document, investigate, or address allegations.  The school’s lacking response to sexual abuse allegations went far beyond a case in which BPS in August agreed to pay a $650,000 settlement to five Mission Hill families who said their six young children were repeatedly sexually abused by the same student and administrators failed to adequately act.

Investigators blamed much of the school’s problems on a former administrator they labeled “MH Admin 3.”  That administrator’s tenure coincided with Ayla Gavins, who served as principal for 12 years until summer 2019.  She did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The report details witnesses’ accounts of the principal’s response to the case of the student identified in court records as “A.J.,” who was accused in the families’ lawsuit of inappropriately touching fellow students and digitally penetrating one from 2014 to 2016.  Gavins told parents who complained they should “pull their kids out” and that A.J. “had a right to be” there, the report says.  A staffer recalled employees also voiced concerns that the student would be criminalized because he was Black, the report says.

The investigation found Mission Hill failed to complete official incident reports for at least 20 incidents of sexual misconduct allegations against A.J. and at least another 40 incidents of sexually inappropriate behaviors involving the school’s other students from 2013 to 2021.

The report says the failure to document sexual conduct was “an intentional by-product” of Gavins’s efforts to protect students of color.

2.  A ‘persistent and well-documented bullying problem’

Investigators concluded Mission Hill had a “persistent and well-documented bullying problem” that ballooned due to the school’s “hands-off attitude” which “taught students to protect themselves by being abusive.”

Mission Hill School’s failure to implement standard disciplinary procedures led to a rise in bullying that was “largely unaddressed” by Gavins, according to the report.  Investigators wrote that Gavins often paid “lip service” to handling serious bullying incidents.

Parents told investigators that Gavins avoided giving direct answers to safety questions and accused white parents of being racist or hostile when they advocated for their child’s safety.

3.  Special education failures

The school also failed to properly provide special education services due to its philosophy that “each child is special and learns at their own pace,” investigators found, leading to students’ learning challenges going unaddressed.

The report found that students with disabilities — who make up one-third of the school were likely failed in many ways, including the school’s practice of removing disruptive children for “what was effectively babysitting in another room.”

4.  BPS was aware of Mission Hill’s problems for years

Over the six years before the investigation, BPS received multiple complaints from parents and investigated several internally.  In 2015, BPS hired attorney Joseph Coffey to investigate allegations.  Coffey found Gavins failed to provide specialized instruction by special education teachers, allowed improper restraints of children, created a culture of intimidation, and asked staff to “misrepresent” the school’s English as a Second Language services, the report says.

From 2014 to 2017, the report says, BPS received numerous complaints reporting sexual misconduct at the school.  Coffey’s 2015 report cited concerns by a staff member who reported incidents involving A.J. in a staff meeting and recommended the student be evaluated, but Gavins allegedly refused due to concerns about Black boys being “over diagnosed” with disabilities.

In August, a parent told Cassellius that six employees in the superintendent’s office failed to act despite knowing that the school inadequately responded to reports of abuse, assaults, and bullying.

5.  Three key e-mail accounts deleted during investigation

The report suggested some school employees put their self-interests before that of children, including by using a separate e-mail server and deleting at least three key employee e-mail accounts while the school was under investigation.

6.  Cultural problems cited

Investigators said they found a “cult-like” climate at the academically struggling school, which espoused its philosophy as the unique “Mission Hill Way,” and an intolerance of dissent that ostracized employees and parents who voiced concerns.

7.  Retaliation concerns

Parents said staffers who raised concerns were fired or pressured to leave.  Several parents told investigators that the school fired an employee because the employee filed a “51A” report to the Department of Children and Families against A.J. in November 2014, which the parents felt disobeyed Gavins’s “view of keeping matters in-house,” the report says.

Although the employee reported leaving for other reasons, the employee also described being pushed out by Gavins and enduring a “pattern of hostility by [Gavins] and long-term teachers,” the report says.

8.  Academic failings

Investigators concluded that Mission Hill failed to provide rigorous academic instruction in math, writing, literacy, and science.

The school focused on literacy for marginalized students, but often didn’t recognize that students from all backgrounds struggled, investigators wrote.

9.  Gender-nonconforming students bullied

Investigators found the school fostered a culture that “allowed increased bias and discrimination” toward transgender and gender-nonconforming students.  One parent told investigators the school “allowed a culture” where transgender students were beaten up in the bathroom.  Investigators wrote they found evidence Gavins “showed an unwillingness” to address concerns raised about these students.

The Great Divide is an investigative team that explores educational inequality in Boston and statewideSign up to receive our newsletter, and send ideas and tips to thegreatdivide@globe.com.

Danvers Leaders Targeted By AG, NAACP Report After Hockey Team Hazing

AG investigation, NAACP report target Danvers leaders in wake of hockey team controversy

DANVERS, MA  –  Danvers leaders faced new fallout Wednesday from alleged violent racist, homophobic, and antisemitic behavior by its high school boys hockey team, as the state attorney general’s office disclosed it is investigating the school system’s handling of the case and the NAACP called for changes in the Police Department over its role in the controversy.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office had previously stopped short of acknowledging it had launched an investigation, saying only that it was “looking into” the Danvers case.  But a spokesperson said Tuesday that a preliminary review has since triggered a formal investigation.

Notable among the allegations the school district withheld were statements by a member of the 2019-20 Danvers team that other players pinned him down in the locker room and beat him about the face for refusing to shout the n-word as part of one ritual and that he was touched inappropriately on the buttocks during another ritual in which players stripped naked in the dark.

Danvers School Superintendent Lisa Dana, who withheld the abuse allegations from the public with the school board’s backing, went on medical leave in December, less than eight weeks after the Globe first reported the system’s refusal to release results of its investigation.  Her duties have been handled by assistant superintendents Keith Taverna and Mary Wermers.

In a statement, Taverna and Wermers said, “Starting with the initial outreach to the school department, the district has been receptive to the review process initiated by the Attorney General’s office.  We have made ourselves available to answer all of their questions, we have provided all documentation that has been requested of us, and we are prepared to implement recommendations that may follow.”

Meanwhile, in a report issued Wednesday, the North Shore NAACP recommended that Stephen Baldassare, a police sergeant who was also head coach of the hockey team during the alleged misconduct, be reassigned from supervising the town’s school resource officers.

The group also called on the Danvers Police Department to improve its hiring and training, to commit to greater transparency, and to acknowledge that its role in the hockey case contributed to “undermining trust and causing fear and trauma” in the community.

NAACP branch president Natalie Bowers characterized the report as a “People’s Call for Accountability.”

“The community wants to finally heal from the racial trauma that has lingered for the last two years,” Bowers said.  “It seeks accountability so that it can rebuild trust in local governance. Danvers has much work to do.”

Bowers, however, stated in a letter Tuesday to the town’s Human Rights and Inclusion Committee that Police Chief James Lovell and Town Manager Steve Bartha have reviewed the report and acknowledged the NAACP’s concerns but “decided not to adopt our recommendations.”

Lovell, in a statement to the Globe, defended the integrity of the hockey investigation, denied the police made any attempt to cover up the allegations, and said the department has taken measures and committed to launching additional initiatives that address the NAACP’s concerns.

He also reflected on the lack of diversity in the Danvers Police Department.  The force, including the command staff, is composed of 39 officers: 36 white males and three white females.

“As a civil service community, Danvers is required to follow their guidelines in the selection process of police candidates,” Lovell said.  “A list of candidates is provided to us, upon request, by Civil Service, and we are required to hire from that list, which is developed using a variety of criteria, including exam scores, residency, veteran status, etc.”

He said the department uses various methods to screen candidates, including analyzing their responses to questions about racism, bias, and excessive use of force.

Lovell also pledged to promote racial sensitivity in part by assigning officers to attend a four-hour webinar produced by the Anti-Defamation League, titled “Fair, Equitable, and Objective Policing.”

As for removing Baldassare from his school-related assignment, the NAACP report says taking that action would demonstrate “the department is committed to improving its practices, including ensuring that those [officers] it places in critical roles in the schools have the training necessary to do the work appropriately and ensure the safety of the school community without multiple competing priorities and interests.”

Lovell and Bartha have rejected previous requests to reassign Baldassare, a former star athlete at Danvers High School who lives in town and has served on the police force since 1999.

Baldassare told police and school investigators he knew nothing about the alleged misconduct.  He has not publicly addressed the allegations.

The Globe’s efforts to reach Baldassare were unsuccessful.  In a letter to Lovell and Bartha in February, he said he wanted to retain his police assignment to help the community move forward.  The school district rehired him as the hockey coach despite the abuse allegations, but he resigned from the position before the 2021-22 season.

Baldassare wrote that he understands some people will never be satisfied that he was unaware of the alleged misconduct.  Throughout his career, he said, “serving, supporting, mentoring, coaching, and helping kids has been the driving motivator and passion in my professional life.”

On accepting a reassignment, Baldassare wrote, “The truth is this would be the easy thing to do, walking away from both the work I love and the challenges that lie ahead, but that isn’t me.”

Instead, he said, “I will ensure that our unit is a leading advocate and force for positive change within the community.”

Bowers said the NAACP and its allies plan to press the Danvers Human Rights and Inclusion Committee to support the report’s recommendations and the Select Board to help implement them.