This report is part of an investigative series looking into reported corruption in family courts and the judiciary. For the rest of the investigation, visit the catalog here.
David Hughes, the former child welfare supervisor in Cherokee County, N.C., has pled guilty to two misdemeanors for his role in the unlawful removal of children from their families in a scheme that removed them using fake documents meant to look like court orders. The Carolina Public Press reports:
Hughes and his colleagues separated families using what they called a Custody and Visitation Agreement. While it looked like a legal document, two judges ruled the CVA did not carry the force of law and said the child separations were unlawful.
In exchange for his testimony against the others indicted, 10 felony obstruction charges were dropped. Not only that, but the sweet deal Hughes was offered included postponed sentencing on the misdemeanors, meaning he won’t see a day in jail for kidnapping children. For that kind of deal, Hughes must have given up information that will lead to lengthy jail sentences for the others involved, though the outcome remains to be seen.
Along with Hughes, the grand jury indicted former Cherokee County DSS Director Cindy Palmer, who is currently the DSS business officer. She faces two felony obstruction-of-justice charges, two misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to discharge duties and a felony perjury charge.
The grand jury also indicted former DSS attorney Scott Lindsay on 20 felony obstruction-of-justice charges, two misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one misdemeanor charge of willful failure to discharge duties.
PJ Media reported on this scandal when the story broke. In a very disturbing twist, it is reported that after the investigation into the wrongdoing was made public in 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services took over the child welfare offices. Despite knowing Palmer was being investigated for crimes, they allowed her to remain in a position of authority. The Carolina Public Press investigated in 2019 and found evidence that a “massive number of documents at DSS were shredded at precisely the time she [Palmer] took on the new position. If material relevant to the State Bureau of Investigation probe of Palmer and others were destroyed, it could constitute a separate case of obstruction of justice.”
So many government agencies charged with caring for neglected and abused children have historically been at the center of gross controversy for removing children wrongly, abusing their authority, violating constitutional rights, and ignoring abuse that led to the deaths of children nationwide. Our investigations have found them to be conspiring to take newborns away from parents for disagreeing with medical decisions and have lost huge lawsuits against them for seizing children unlawfully without warrants or due process. The government is out of control and when the few that get caught face justice, they don’t seem to get sentences that fit the crimes.