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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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