Nine-Year-Boy Allegedly Molested at West Palm Hospital by Counselor Previously Arrested for Masturbating in Park
A Palm Beach County family went public yesterday with ugly allegations of sexual abuse at West Palm Hospital.
According to a lawsuit recently filed in circuit court, a troubled 9-year-old boy voluntarily submitted to the facility for psychological observation was abused by a hospital staffer known as "Mr. Dan."
If that's not bad enough on its own legs, the family's lawyer says the alleged abuser had previously been arrested in 2005 for exposing himself in a Lake Worth park. But the earlier pinch wasn't caught by the hospital's administration.
"It just violates the basic safety rules, starting with the fact that a children's hospital should not hire a man who has been arrested for masturbating in a park," says the family's attorney, Jeff Herman.
The boy -- listed only as John Doe in the filing -- entered the facility in May 2013. Herman says he was suffering from suicidal thoughts due to a head injury from the previous year. On Friday, May 24, the boy was assigned to work with "Mr. Dan," a "part-time floating counselor" who worked "with persons with a variety of mental health issues," the complaint says. That night, the boy was instructed to take a shower. Afterward, the man allegedly helped dry the boy off, even though the latter said "he did not need help drying off."
"Mr. Dan insisted and grabbed hold of JOHN's penis without the towel and rubbed it," the complaint states. The boy told his mother about the incident the next day, and he was promptly taken out of the hospital. Herman says a police investigation was opened into the incident -- one that's still ongoing.
The same staffer -- whom we're not going to fully name right now because he's not been criminally charged -- was arrested in September 2005 for illegal exposure of his sexual organs, according to the suit.
In a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office report from the incident, the arresting undercover officer wrote that the suspect was spotted "massaging his crotch" in the "nature trail area of John Prince Park" in Lake Worth. He then "pulled down his shorts, the front, and exposed a semi-erect penis."
The boy's suit alleges that the hospital and its parent company -- health-care behemoth HCA -- should have had some safeguards in place to catch a guy like this. Herman tells New Times the staffer was suspended following the incident, but he wasn't sure about his current status at the facility. An email for comment to the hospital was not returned by press time, and efforts to reach the individual at the numbers listed to his name were unsuccessful. But a LinkedIn page for the name does list a job at West Palm Hospital as a "mental health technician" from October 2012 to July 2013. We'll update as more information comes to light.
Yesterday, Herman and the boy's mom held a news conference outside the hospital in order to coax forward more possible victims. "My son continues to struggle with the trust issues he developed from this incident," she said in her statement. "But I am thankful he was brave enough to report what happened so we can move forward as a family."