Criminal courts

Alleged Miami Gardens group-home rape sparks judge’s ire

 
 
Yves Michael Scott
Yves Michael Scott

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Eight years ago, Yves Michael Scott was arrested and accused of raping a 3-year-old girl in the bathroom of her family’s Liberty City home.

But Scott could not be prosecuted for the crime. The reason: With an IQ of 57, he is intellectually disabled, and will never have the mental capacity to understand how the criminal justice system works.

After the charges were dropped and Scott, now 30, was committed to the care of the state, he eventually wound up in a Miami Gardens group home — where he is now accused of repeatedly raping his roommate.

While the case is investigated by police, Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities has drawn the ire of a Miami-Dade judge for its handling of Scott’s case.

APD apparently never gave Scott any sexual-offender treatment as the court had recommended five years ago, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Brennan wrote in a scathing six-page report.

“It pains the court to have to point out that had the proper sexual offender treatment been afforded this defendant, there may have been no new sexual battery allegation,” Brennan wrote. “How many more alleged victims need there be before the agency addresses the obvious needs of the defendant?”

The agency declined to answer questions from the Miami Herald about Scott’s case because of medical privacy laws.

APD spokeswoman Melanie Etters said that, in general, placements of people under APD care are done by a “treatment team” over months and years.

“The goal is always focused on what is required for the resident to be successful within the APD system and, ultimately, within the community,” Etters said.

Advocates for the intellectually disabled say Scott’s case underscores the limitations of the state welfare system in dealing with those who were once accused of crimes, particularly sex offenses.

Jim DeBeaugrine, the former head of APD, said the case illustrates the lack of “intermediate” living options for people such as Scott. Usually, they go from rigid, secure, state-run facilities directly to group homes that are often ill-equipped to deal with the intellectually disabled who were once criminal defendants.

He advocates an investment in smaller, highly specialized facilities across the state that are established specifically to deal with this population. That would require help from lawmakers, DeBeaugrine said.

“You have to understand that this would require a financial investment,” he said. “It’s a difficult population to deal with, and that’s why it’s so hard to find people willing to be effectively service them. You can’t just have group home staff. You can’t ask someone making $8 an hour.”

After the judge issued her order, the agency temporarily moved Scott from the group home to a locked-down facility at the Florida State Hospital in Chattahochee.

Judge Brennan has appointed a committee of experts to figure out the best place for Scott to live; a court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 18.

In his 2005 case, Scott, a former Miami Carol City Senior High School student, had been a friend of the little girl’s family, and often stayed at their Liberty City home.

According to Miami-Dade police, the little girl immediately disclosed the rape in March 2005, and Scott admitted to the crime. The charges: two counts of sexual battery on a minor.

But it soon became clear that Scott could not stand trial. According to one diagnosis in 2006, Scott had an IQ of 57, which placed him in the “mild” range of mental retardation.

He was declared incompetent for trial and placed in a special program in Chattahoochee. By law, criminal charges must be dropped within two years for anyone who is intellectually disabled and cannot be restored to competency.

That is exactly what happened in December 2008. As is standard, Scott was committed to the care of APD, and ordered to a secure facility. A judge recommended that he receive “specialized training for sexual offenders.”

Scott was placed at a program in Marianna known as Sunland SEEDs, a facility that houses hundreds of disabled people, plus a secure wing for 34 residents who are under the supervision of the criminal-justice system.

At both Chattahoochee and Sunland, Scott appeared to thrive.

In his first stop, Scott was elected by peers to represent them in “resident government activities,” earning “freedom of movement” privileges. Later, at Sunland, he worked at the coffee shop and was described as a “diligent worker,” according to one progress report.

His outbursts were never severe. On three occasions, according to a progress report in his court file, Scott threw his dinner tray to the floor, hurled a fork at one resident and hit another resident who had put her hands on a staffer.

Mostly, like other residents, Scott was written up for minor behavioral infractions: cursing when asked to turn down the radio, not keeping his room clean, visiting the coffee shop without notifying staff.

“Mr. Scott has made steady progress within the program,” a specialist wrote in a report submitted to the court in September 2012. “He is generally polite, cooperative and gets along well with staff and his peers.”

Late last year, APD proposed sending Scott to the CK Group Home, 19431 NW 23rd Ct., in Miami Gardens, where he would receive “24-hour supervision.” With no objection from prosecutors or Scott’s defense attorney, the judge agreed in December.

But in May, a group home staffer reported that a 32-year-old man, identified as A.B., was forced out of the room he shared with Scott, who had punched him in the eye. That’s when the man suggested, through hand signals, that Scott had raped him.

Much of the evidence collected so far against Scott was detailed in a search warrant filed in Miami-Dade court.

According to the document, A.B. is also intellectually disabled, with “limited verbal skills.” Using hand signals, A.B. later retold his story about Scott to a Miami Gardens police detective.

“When asked if he consented to the sexual act, he replied by moving his head side to side saying ‘NO,’ ” a Miami Gardens detective wrote in a search warrant.

Detectives twice interviewed A.B. On a third visit, when the man was shown a photo of Scott, he immediately hollered out “Michael,” and again repeated the allegations using hand signals.

One staffer told police that A.B. had once been “happy and interactive,” often playing music, dancing and smiling. But once he was moved into Scott’s room, he “became isolated,” staying out until late at night, sitting on a patio all day.

The detective wrote that in his experience “investigating sexual battery related cases, that is common for a victim’s behavior to drastically change when the victim continues to be exposed to his or her sexual abuser.”

To detectives, Scott denied ever having sex with the man. Miami Gardens police are now awaiting results of DNA testing to determine whether Scott can be linked to genetic material on the victim.

It was unclear whether allowing Scott to share a room with another person was a standard practice at the group home. Owner Katena Broussard declined to comment, referring calls to APD.

Scott could face criminal charges for the alleged Miami Gardens attack, but in all likelihood he would eventually be found incompetent to stand trial.

“My sense is that APD dropped the ball in a major way,” said Scott’s defense attorney, Tony Moss. “There were enough red flags. By all appearances, he never got any specialized treatment to address any sexual deviancy. If the roommate was indeed a victim, he deserved better. The community deserved better. And Mike deserved better.”

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