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COA reverses child welfare molestation case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has tossed out the convictions and 106-year sentence of a former Hamilton County child welfare worker accused of molesting two boys, including an autistic boy who he'd mentored.

In a 19-page decision in Cory Heinzman v. State of Indiana, No. 29A04-0710-CR-553, the court ruled 2-1 to reverse and remand the case on its official misconduct aspect regarding one victim.

Heinzman was a Department of Child Services caseworker from 2002 until the accusations surfaced in May 2005. A then-13-year-old autistic boy's mother called a hospital to report that Heinzman had molested her son during an eight-month period, and another teenager came forward after that to make similar accusations. A jury in June 2007 found him guilty on 16 counts of official misconduct and various sexual offenses involving minors and acquitted him of four. Hamilton Superior Judge Daniel Pfleging sentenced him to 106½ years.

The appellate majority didn't find a clear error in the trial court's decision not to sever the trial and that no error existed by not changing venue. But the court found that Heinzman established prima facie error in his convictions of official misconduct regarding the autistic boy, as there was no evidence that he was performing any "official duties" when the offenses against that minor were committed.

Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented, writing a separate six-page opinion that says she'd affirm the convictions and that she departs from her colleagues on the question of whether Heinzman's crimes against that minor relate to the performance of official duties.

She determined the majority improperly reweighed evidence in reaching the result and that the jury believed Heinzman had continued working with the autistic boy's family in a manner related to his Child Protective Services employment throughout spring 2005 when those inappropriate interactions occurred. Checking on the boy's needs fit into those official responsibilities as a family case manager, the judge wrote.

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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