Closing arguments were presented in the trial of four MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, Inc. social workers stemming from the death of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly in 2006. Danieal Kelly suffered from cerebral palsy and was found starved to death in her squalid family apartment, while under the auspices of MultiEthnic, a social service agency hired by the city to follow her case.
Attorneys for defendant and former MultiEthnic administrator Mickal Kamuvaka claimed innocence, saying that she is being blamed for the misdeeds of her employees who are trying to save themselves, and denies instructing them to falsify records. Kamuvaka’s attorney attempted to shift the blame to government witnesses, many who signed cooperation plea agreements or were given immunity. He said that Kamuvaka tried to make sure caseworkers visited families and filed timely progress reports, claiming Kamuvaka’s efforts were “undone” by “renegade workers,” who missed visits and created false reports. He also dismissed charges that MultiEthnic had contributed to Danieal’s death, stating, “Danieal Kelly was the victim of an uncaring, if not abusive, mother.“
Attorneys for Defendant Solomon Manamela, another administrator, also denied his involvement in the alleged fraud, claiming there was “not one shred of evidence he defrauded the city.” He claimed that caseworkers “lied repeatedly” to Manamela,” and that the real villains were a group of caseworkers “who cheated their company.”
Defendant Juma Julius Murray, the Kelly family caseworker, admitted skipping visits and creating fake records after Danieal died. Murray’s attorney pointed to testimony that Murray had visited the Kelly family, stating, “You have evidence he was making the visits. If he was making the visits, there’s no fraud. If he made mistakes and didn’t take some [follow-up] actions he should have, that’s not fraud.”
Defendant Mariam Coulibaly, another caseworker, admitted to investigators in November, 2007, that she created false progress notes, but didn’t mention that when she took the stand in her own defense. Her attorney told jurors not to put too much stock in her alleged confession because “agents questioned her even though her children were present, it was dinnertime, she was pregnant and not feeling well. ” He said that when Coulibaly began crying, the interview should have been shut down, and that Coulibaly had absolutely nothing to do with the Kelly family or Danieal’s records.
In closing arguments, federal prosecutors claimed there was “overwhelming” evidence that defendants Mickal Kamuvaka and Solomon Manamela, administrators at MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, Inc., frequently told caseworkers “to fill in the gaps” when case files were missing and to falsify progress notes about home visits, and instructed them to destroy records to obstruct a federal investigation.
In the first three weeks of trial, the court heard from former MultiEthnic staff members, medical personnel and Department of Human Services (DHS) employees. Testimony was heard from former MultiEthnic receptionist Yolanda Carr and staff member Patricia Burch, and caseworkers Blendenna Carter, Kim Cooke, Christiana Nimpson, Sokunthea Chan and Alan Speed. They all variously testified about being failing to make visits and being instructed to falsify, fabricate and destroy reports of in-home visits and forge signatures. Testimony was also heard from Manuelita Buenaflor, the social-service administrator and “quality assurance” director at Multiethnic, who testified under a plea agreement that she was aware that MultiEthnic staff habitually failed to make contracted for home visits.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Program Director Cindy W. Christian, testified about Danieal Kelly’s shocking condition, including malnutrition, the massive bedsores on her back, the odor coming from her body, and a sore on her collarbone that went down to the bone. Assistant Medical Examiner Edwin Lieberman testified that the 14-year-old’s body was in “deplorable” condition, bugs flying out when he opened the body bag, and said maggots were living on her skin. He described her bedsores as two to three inches in diameter, and described the other causes contributing to her death as neglect, malnutrition and heat stress.
Testimony was also heard from DHS caseworker Trina N. Jenkins and DHS investigator John P. Dougherty. Jenkins testified that she found the children to be clean and clothed in the fall of 2005, but found Andrea Kelly to be “overwhelmed” with the responsibility of eight children, none of whom were enrolled in school. On the day Danieal Kelly died, Dougherty found much different conditions, saying he was stunned by “the terrible smell.” He described the Kelly home as a “jumbled mess of clothes, shoes, broken furniture and other household items.” When DHS demanded MultiEthnic turn over the Kelly file after Danieal’s death, Kamuvaka told them the copier was broken, and offered to have it by the following Monday.
The case went to the jury on Monday.
Follow up: Social Workers Found Guilty
Source: Prosecution, defense spar; Philadelphia Inquirer at Philly.Com; Witness adamant; Ex-Caseworker admits faking documents;Conditions Deteriorated at Kelly Home; KYW-Radio