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Judge Dismisses Charges Against Social Workers In Gabriel Fernandez Case

Gabriel Fernandez. (NBC4)
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An L.A. County Superior Court Judge today dismissed child abuse charges against four former county social workers in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. Each defendant was facing up to 10 years in prison.

The Palmdale boy was tortured and murdered by his mother and her boyfriend in 2013.

It was a horrific case that made Gabriel Fernandez a household name around the world. Evidence showed he had been systematically beaten, shot with BB gun pellets and subjected to other abuses before he died.

Fernandez’s mother has since been sentenced to life in prison. Her boyfriend received the death penalty.

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Many questioned how the abuses could have gone unaddressed by authorities at the time, especially since the County Department of Child and Family Services had been alerted.

In a highly unusual move, L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed charges against the four social workers. The DA claimed they had shown willful disregard for Fernandez’s well-being. The social workers' lawyers argued that the abuse and torture escalated months after the county had closed its file on the case.

The judge tossed the case after an appeals court ruled earlier this year that the social workers could not be held criminally liable because Fernandez was never in their custody and it was not up to them to stop the abuse.

In a statement, the L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services said it respects the court’s decision, adding that it has taken “significant steps to mitigate risk and improve our capacity countywide in order to best serve vulnerable children and families and as a department we remain committed to ensuring that reform continues.”

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