Two cases against Milhous set for trial in Nevada County next year
Two civil suits against Milhous Children’s Services and against former employee Jonathan Scott Foote, regarding Foote’s molestation of Milhous clients, have been set to go to trial next summer.
The suits name four separate victims of Foote, who was sentenced in 2014 to a prison term of 30 years to life for molesting a number of boys, most of whom he supervised at Milhous’ treatment ranch. It is not clear why the victims were separated into two cases.
A large part of the lawsuits allege that Milhous staff members failed to report the suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities, tried to cover up the allegations and allowed Foote to resign.
Specifically, the complaints allege negligent supervision and retention of an employee, negligent supervision of a minor, negligent failure to warn a minor, negligent failure to report suspected child abuse, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and sexual battery.
“The cover-up by Milhous administration of the child sexual abuse committed by Scott Foote is among the most shameful we have seen in handling over 250 cases against other corporate administrations,” said Sacramento attorney and psychologist Joseph C. George, the attorney for the plaintiffs, when he filed the first suit. “Psychotherapy … was not even provided to these child sexual abuse victims while they were at Milhous.”
The documents filed by George are requesting punitive damages for each plaintiff in the amount of $1.1 million, in addition to past and future medical expenses. The suits also ask for between $4.85 million and $5.85 million per plaintiff for pain and suffering, and the same amount each for emotional distress.
Milhous CEO Dan Petrie told The Union previously that Milhous staff members “have always reported any allegations of child abuse in accordance with California’s ‘mandated reporter’ regulations.”
Criminal case testimony involved victims
During the criminal case against Foote in Nevada County Superior Court, testimony was presented regarding several victims who came forward who had been at Milhous, which at the time was serving severely emotionally disturbed children.
Foote was arrested Feb. 14, 2013, for allegedly molesting a number of boys, most of whom were in their very early teens at the time.
Now-retired Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Davenport had taken a report on two alleged victims from Milhous in 2003. One of the boys told Davenport that he felt “intimidated and manipulated” into having oral intercourse with Foote, who threatened him with the loss of privileges. He said he traded sexual favors for cigarettes and that Foote molested him five to 10 times over a period of a few months.
Another victim — one of the plaintiffs in the civil suit — told a detective he was 17 at the time of the alleged molestation, and like the others, he felt he had no choice.
Foote, 31, ended up pleading no contest to five of 39 felony counts.
The former client initially filed a civil suit in April 2014 against Foote and Milhous. The suit later was dismissed in part because the plaintiff’s attorney was too ill to continue representing him.
The same alleged victim — “JSD Doe” — is part of one of the new suits, which added a second plaintiff, “OM Doe.” The other suit lists two plaintiffs, “EH Doe” and “SS Doe.”
The allegations in the suit regarding JSD Doe remain essentially the same as what was covered in the 2014 suit, and in the criminal case against Foote.
According to the complaint, JSD Doe told a staff member in mid-September 2002 that something sexual had occurred between him and Foote, which was reported to supervisor Kelly Hopkins.
Hopkins met with the alleged victim, who detailed several instances of sexual abuse. Hopkins reportedly told JSD Doe they would follow up, but later called him into another meeting and accused him of lying. Hopkins and other employees told JSD Doe to “come clean,” or lose privileges including family visits, according to the complaint. He reportedly was directed to write an apology letter, the complaint states — but was told the letter was “too detailed.” Hopkins then allegedly helped JSD Doe write another letter, and forced him to apologize to Foote.
According to the complaint, prior to JSD Doe’s allegations, Foote had been written up in August 2002 for “horse playing” with a client.
Second suit includes similar allegations
That December, new allegations were brought to staff regarding a minor named only as S.S., the complaint states. Foote reportedly was called into a meeting that included Milhous program director Dan Petrie in January 2003 and placed on administrative leave. Foote subsequently was written up for incidents of “poor boundaries” and “inappropriate comments.”
After a staff mental health worker wrote a declaration in mid-January 2003 that he was alarmed by Foote’s unethical behavior — including sitting in the dark with his arms around a minor who was in bed, and staying in the bathroom while clients were showering — Foote was allowed to resign that year, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, no report regarding JSD Doe was ever submitted to Child Protective Services, despite Milhous employees being mandated reporters.
It was not until mid-March 2003 that an employee, the therapist of OM Doe, reported suspected child abuse by Foote to CPS, leading to a criminal investigation by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. The complaint alleges that Milhous did not disclose the allegations made by JSD Doe during that investigation.
Similar allegations surfaced in March 2003 involving the fourth plaintiff, E.H.
“(Milhous) staff members learned of allegations against Foote in 2003 and reported them immediately to the state’s Community Care Licensing Division, Child Protective Services and the Sheriff’s Department, which proceeded to investigate the claims,” Petrie said in an email to The Union earlier this year. “(Milhous) fully cooperated with the investigation. Prior to the specific allegations coming forward, Foote abruptly resigned from (Milhous).
“Shortly after Foote was arrested in 2013, on an unrelated child molest charge, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department conducted an investigation of (Milhous),” Petrie continued. “After an exhaustive search of (Milhous’) records the sheriff’s department found no evidence that (Milhous) had sought to cover up Foote’s behavior.”
Civil trials set for June, July 2017
After a case management conference on Aug. 8, trial dates were set for both cases in Nevada County Superior Court.
The suit involving JSD and OM is set for trial June 6, with a settlement conference scheduled for May 15. The suit involving SS and EH is set to go to trial on July 18, with a settlement conference on June 26.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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Authorities have identified a man as a person of interest in one Nevada City homicide, and have also released the name of a victim in an unrelated homicide investigation.