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Former Social Workers Charged With Child Abuse To Stand Trial For Death Of 8-Year-Old Boy
A Los Angeles County judge ruled Monday that the four former social workers who were charged with child abuse in the 2013 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez will stand trial, according to the LA Times.
Prosecutors allege the social workers falsified information and minimized Fernandez's injuries, therefore keeping him in the custody of his abusive mother and her boyfriend. Fernandez died at the hands of his abusers three weeks after L.A. County Department of Family and Child Services closed his case. His mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are awaiting trial on capital murder charges.
The decision to stand trial comes almost two months after one of Gabriel's former teachers testified on the social workers' negligence in responding to clear signs of abuse. She explained several situations where Gabriel explained to her the abuse going on in his house. He also displayed signs of household turmoil, like comparing an image to a bong or "pretend[ing] to snort something off his desk." The testimony was a part of a preliminary hearing to determine whether the defendants displayed criminal negligence.
Caseworker Patricia Clement, one of the defendants, claimed a "range of failures led to the boy’s death," according to the LA Times. Her attorney, Shelly Albert, thinks Clement and the three other defendants are victims of selective prosecution, citing the lack of charges against other mandated reporters and sheriff's deputies. According to ABC, prosecutors argue the caseworkers falsified reports that should have outlined the extent of Gabriel's abuse, and that the supervisors approved these reports despite evidence of their falsehood.
If convicted, the defendants could face up to 10 years in prison.