- Montana removed 27 children from an alternative youth treatment program citing allegations of physical and mental abuse, along with medical neglect.
- According to the state, the kids were hit, kicked, spit on by staff, forced to go on 15-20 mile disciplinary walks in hash conditions, withheld from food, subjected to prolonged isolation, and more.
- The facility’s executive director denied several allegations, calling them “deceptions,” and said he will fight the state’s suspension of the center’s license.
Authorities in Montana have removed 27 children from a youth treatment facility after learning of “consistent and chronic allegations of physical and psychological abuse, as well as medical neglect,” the state said Tuesday.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services removed the children from a facility called Ranch for Kids in Rexford, which is located in the northwest corner of the state.
In a news release the department said, “Allegations of egregious abuse regarding Ranch for Kids has escalated in both frequency and severity in recent months.”
“The 27 children that were removed are now at a safe location,” the agency added. “They are receiving medical care. The details of their care and condition are confidential.”
The children were removed during a two-hour-long sting operation conducted by 20 caseworkers and law enforcement authorities. On Wednesday, a state health department official said the agency had made contact with “virtually all of the parents” and many kids have already been reunited with their families.
The state department also suspended the nonprofit organization’s license “to prevent future abuse,” and said that information it can publically release is limited because the investigation is ongoing.
Ranch for Kids is a nonprofit organization which describes itself as a treatment center for “Kids who have been adopted, and suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD),” according to its website.
However, the state says that the children, who are between 11-17-years-old, were actually subjected to consistent abuse. Reports of physical abuse included allegations that the children were hit, kicked, bodyslammed, and spit on by staff. One child was even allegedly shot with a nail gun.
Several staff members were accused of “persistent psychological abuse.” Food was allegedly withheld from the children, who were also subjected to prolonged isolation. Authorities say children did not receive any medical attention when it was critically needed and said medications were not stored, administered, or regulated properly.
The state also heard reports of excessive discipline like forcing the children to go on 15-20 mile disciplinary walks, with no shoes or improper shoes, in harsh conditions along remote Forest Service roads. Children who ran away were also not reported to authorities in a timely or consistent manner, even in harsh winter conditions, the state said.
Investigators interviewed former staff members, counselors, and the children, according to KECI. The investigation led to a court order, which allowed the department and Child Protective Services to remove the children and suspend the ranch’s license.
Authorities made no arrests during their visit, but children are still being interviewed, and the Montana Department of Justice said it would explore criminal charges.
Ranch Denies Allegations
Bill Sutley, the ranch’s executive director, said he is cooperating with the state’s investigation. However, he has denied some of the allegations against the facility, including the allegation about a child being shot with a nail gun, according to the Missoulian.
The Montana based newspaper reported that he called some of the allegations listed by the state “deceptions,” or deviations from the truth. Sutley confirmed that children were sent on disciplinary walks, but said they were never in improper conditions.
“We can talk about therapeutic walks, we can talk about abuse, we can talk about neglect, but unless you’ve emotionally experienced living with these kids, you’re not going to get it,” he told the Missoulian. “Everything we’re here to do to stand against is what we’re being accused of.”
However, the paper noted that in May, a notice that the Montana Department of Labor and Industry issued to Ranch for Kids said: “Ranch for Kids provided conflicting information about the purpose of the walks. Mr. Sutley claimed the walks are not a punishment or behavior modification, but the walks are also repeatedly described by Mr. Sutley and Ranch for Kids staff as a consequence for severe behavior.”
In another statement to CNN, Sutley said the allegations are “selected fabrications of information from incredible sources,” He also argued that the children had already been through trauma and said the state was only causing more.
Sutley plans to fight the state’s decision to suspend the ranch’s license. He said Ranch for Kids has 10 days to respond and said there will be a hearing.
“We fully expect to go through and clear the air,” Sutley added. “We look forward to the opportunity to clear the air and be exonerated of the misconstrued allegations.”
The state took action against the center as part of new legislation that went into effect on July 1. Montana lawmakers passed a bill moving oversight of private alternative treatment programs to the state health department after an investigation by the Missoulian found the programs faced few sanctions despite several complaints.
Prior to July 1, DPHHS did not have licensing authority over these programs.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Missoulian) (NBC News)
Houston Police Chief Slams Republican Lawmakers After Officer Death
- Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo slammed Republican leaders for their opposition to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on Monday.
- His remarks came right after his sergeant, Christopher Brewster, was fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call.
- He claimed Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn are refusing to pass the bill because of its provision to close the “boyfriend loophole” that allows non-married men with a past conviction of domestic violence to buy firearms.
- Acevedo accused the senators of supporting the National Rifle Association over the safety of women, children, and officers.
The Chief’s Remarks
Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo publicly denounced Republican senators on Monday for their failure to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and take action against gun violence.
Acevedo was standing outside of a medical examiner’s office when he spoke to the press, waiting to escort the body of Sgt. Christopher Brewster to a funeral home. Brewster was fatally shot after responding to a domestic violence call over the weekend.
The chief specifically called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn in his passionate remarks. He said he believes that one of the biggest reasons they won’t pass the VAWA is “because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends.”
“And who killed our sergeant?” he added. “A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend.”
The VAWA was originally enacted in 1994 to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, but it expired in February. The House passed a reauthorization of the bill in early April, but it is currently on hold in the Senate as some disapprove of new provisions like closing the “boyfriend loophole.”
Under the former version of the VAWA, only spouses and ex-spouses who are convicted of stalking offenses or domestic violence crimes are not legally allowed to buy firearms. Closing the “boyfriend loophole” would extend these gun restrictions to boyfriends and non-spousal partners.
The NRA has publicly criticized the provision to close the “boyfriend loophole” in the past, calling it a “poison pill” and “too broad and ripe for abuse.”
“You’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts,” Acevedo said on Monday. “Or you’re here for the NRA.”
Last week, before Brewster’s death, Acevedo had been part of the group of Houston leaders who urged Congress to reauthorize the VAWA.
In response to these requests, Sen. Cornyn blamed the ongoing impeachment hearings for distracting lawmakers from other matters.
Acevedo mentioned Cornyn’s online response in his call for action on Monday.
“And don’t tell me, Senator, with all due respect, it’s about the impeachment,” he said. “Because you brag every day, you and Mitch McConnell, about getting judges confirmed. You brag about every piece of legislation you care about.”
“Start caring about cops, children and women, and everyday gun violence,” Acevedo added.
The suspect accused of killing Sgt. Brewster, Arturo Solis, already had a previous domestic violence conviction. A spokesperson for Cornyn told The Washington Post that Acevedo’s arguments to close the “boyfriend loophole” didn’t apply to this case because there are already laws that restrict people who have previously been convicted of domestic violence (although the federal gun control act still has its own ‘boyfriend loophole.’)
“So the ‘loophole’ he spent so much time blaming Sens. Cornyn and Cruz for didn’t apply because [Solis] already wasn’t supposed to own a gun,” Cornyn’s spokesperson said.
Cornyn’s office also told CNN that Democrats are to blame for the delay in reauthorizing the revised VAWA.
“Democrats in DC walked away from negotiations and that’s when it fell apart,” they said in an email.
In turn, Cruz’s office released the following statement to KHOU 11:
“For many years, Senator Cruz has worked in law enforcement, helping lead the fight to ensure that violent criminals—and especially sexual predators who target women and children—face the very strictest punishment,” they said. “Senator Cruz is currently reviewing Violence Against Women Act legislation in the Senate.”
See what others are saying: (Houston Chronicle) (Washington Post) (CNN)
Influencer Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison After Heist to Steal Website Domain Goes Completely Wrong
- Influencer Rossi Adams was sentenced to 14 years in prison for extortion after he convinced his cousin to help him steal a domain name.
- Adams’ cousin, Sherman Hopkins Jr., held up the domain owner at gunpoint before that owner managed to gain control of the situation.
- Adams, who had created social media company State Snaps, had reportedly been trying to complete his business with the website domain.
Influencer Tries to Buy Domain
An influencer who operated a social media company known as State Snaps was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Monday after being found guilty of extortion.
That influencer, Rossi Adams, had planned to steal a website domain to use to market State Snaps; however, the domain had already been bought. After unsuccessfully trying to buy the domain, he convinced his cousin to break into the owner’s house and steal it at gunpoint in June 2017.
Adams first launched State Snaps while he was a student at Iowa State University in Cedar Rapids. Spread across Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, State Snaps contained videos and photos of “young adults engaged in crude behavior, drunkenness, and nudity,” according to court records.
As State Snaps then took off at Iowa State, many students began using the hashtag #DoItForState, which in turn, allowed the company to grow outside of the campus.
At its height, Adams actually collected over a million followers. During that time, Adams began raking in money. At one point, he even earned the nickname “Polo” because he reportedly started buying and wearing Ralph Lauren Polo clothes en masse.
“The nudity, that’s what draws the attention, that’s what got it going, you know?” he said in an investigative piece with KCCI in 2015. “Sex sells.”
Adams, however, lacked a website, so he attempted to create doitforstate.com, but that domain name was already registered with GoDaddy.com.
At the same time State Snaps went viral, two brothers—Ethan and Chris Deyo—reportedly wanted to bank off its success by selling merchandise and promoting parties. Thus, they purchased doitforstate.com, with the sale was being officially in Ethan’s name.
Ethan Deyo, who had also been living in Cedar Rapids, had also previously worked for GoDaddy.com and at the time, was making a side hustle by buying domains that might be popular.
Within the next few months, Adams reached out to the Deyo’s and met with them on several occasions to buy the domain from them. At one point, they had discussed a potential partnership, but it repeatedly fell through when neither side could reach a deal.
However, for the next two years, Adams continued to contact Deyo.
Adams Tries to Claim Domain at Gunpoint
In June 2017, Adams and his cousin, Sherman Hopkins Jr., exponentially escalated the situation when they drove to Ethan Deyo’s home to hold him hostage.
Hopkins, who was already a convicted felon at the time, reportedly armed himself with both a stolen gun and a taser.
The plan had been for Hopkins to deliver a note from Adams on how to transfer the domain to his name while Adams waited in the car and acted as the getaway. According to court documents, the two had purchased burner phones to communicate.
Meanwhile, Deyo was in his home office on the second floor. He said when his dog cocked its head and picked up its ears, he stepped outside the room to see what was happening. That’s when he then saw Hopkins standing in his foyer.
Reportedly, Hopkins—while wearing pantyhose over his head as well as sunglasses and a baseball cap—shouted, “Come here, motherfucker!”
Deyo raised his hands to surrender but then ran and locked himself in his bedroom. Hopkins, however, kicked through the door and grabbed Deyo, reportedly by the neck.
He then asked Deyo where his computer was. In turn, Deyo to lead him back to his office. All the while, Hopkins pointed the gun against Deyo’s back.
Once in the office, Hopkins opened Deyo’s Macbook and told him, “Okay, motherfucker. GoDaddy.com.”
Hopkins then handed Deyo the note from Adams. While Deyo followed commands, GoDaddy also requires the physical address of new owners when transferring domains. When he attempted to explain that to Hopkins, the intruder tased him in the neck.
“You don’t need no fucking address,” Hopkins reportedly said.
Eventually, however, Hopkins put Deyo on call with Adams, who gave him the address. In court, Deyo said he recognized Adams’ voice from previous conversations.
But there’s actually another reason why this plan was doomed from the start. To prevent theft, GoDaddy requires a second, later confirmation of transfer. That process can take up to a few business days, but Adams was sitting in his car on his iPhone waiting for the transfer to go through.
Deyo, piecing together that Hopkins would be waiting for Adams’ command to leave, began concocting a plan to fight back.
“My thought is that, you know, they’re not going to be happy until they see the domain in their account,” he said in court. “And if it’s a three-day period of that happening, you know, what are they going to do? Sit here for three days and hold me at gunpoint? So I decided to get out of it.”
Finding an opening, Deyo grabbed the gun and swung it away from his head. He and Hopkins then reportedly struggled over the gun, crashing through a table. At one point, Deyo ended up getting shot in the leg, but he was ultimately able to gain control of the gun.
He then reportedly shot Hopkins three times in the chest before running downstairs to call police. When he couldn’t find his phone, he then ran back upstairs to call 911 using Hopkins’ burner.
Within minutes, police and paramedics arrived. Hopkins ended up surviving that shooting but also suffered permanent nerve damage in his spine.
He was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison for burglary, robbery, and kidnapping.
Adams Convicted and Sentenced to 14 Years
Meanwhile, for the next three days, Adams continued checking GoDaddy to see if the domain had been transferred to him. It never was.
It wasn’t until September 2018 that police arrested Adams after Hopkins revealed Adams’ full plan in court in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Adams was then charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats, and violence.
In April, he was actually found guilty of that crime, leading to his sentencing on Monday. He’s also been ordered to pay around $35,000 in legal fees.
Doitforstate.com, the website which inflamed the entire fiasco, has been nothing more than a blank page since 2018.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (One Zero) (Des Moines State Register)
AOC and Sanders Ask for HIV Medicine Patent to be Rejected
- A petition filed by advocacy group PrEP4All Collaboration alleges that biotech company Gilead Sciences suspended the development of a potentially safer HIV prevention drug for five years in 2005 so they could continue to profit from their current monopoly on the market, despite the fact that it was less safe.
- Gilead is asking now asking to extend the patent on the new drug while PrEP4All is asking for this patent to be rejected.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also wrote a joint letter urging the Trump administration to reject this request, calling the alleged practice a “disgrace.”
- Gilead has denied these accusations.
Petition Filed Against Gilead
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are calling on the Trump administration to reject a patent extension request from Gilead Sciences after the company was accused of delaying the development of a safer HIV prevention drug.
A petition filed by advocacy group PrEP4All Collaboration alleges that when Gilead suspended the development of a newer and potentially safer HIV prevention drug in 2005, it did so in order to maximize its monopoly on profits from its less-safe drug that was already on the market. The petition says they wanted to leave this old drug on the market until its patent expired, and before generic competition came up. The company did not submit the new drug, tenofovir alafenamide, or TAF, to the Food and Drug Administration until 2010. It was approved in 2015.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Gilead is currently requesting that its patent on TAF be extended for another three years. PrEP4All is asking the Patent and Trademark Office to reject this request because of this allegation.
TAF is meant to prevent HIV infections via a process called pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP. Extending the patent would make sure they had a monopoly on the drug.
Letter from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez
PrEP4All’s fight got a new push of support on Monday when Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez gave their support. In a letter to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office obtained by The Guardian, the leaders condemned Gilead for these accusations.
“It is an absolute disgrace that in America, a greedy drug company like Gilead can deprive hundreds of thousands of Americans of lifesaving HIV medicine to extract more profit, lie about it, and then have the audacity to ask the US government to award it with a longer monopoly to reap tens of billions more in profits,” Sanders wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez said this practice “inhibited efforts to end the HIV epidemic.”
Together, the two urged the Trump administration to “not reward Gilead for this immoral behavior.”
If the Trump administration followed their requests, it would not be the first time they took action against Gilead. In November, the administration sued the company in a patent infringement case. They accused the company of profiting off of taxpayer-funded research without giving taxpayer money back.
Statements From Those Involved
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have not been the only ones to speak out.
“Gilead has not only intentionally delayed clinical development of a drug to artificially manipulate its eligibility for a patent-term extension, but it has done so despite the apparent harm to patients,” said attorney Christopher Morten, who filed PrEP4All’s petition in a statement to the Washington Post.
The Post says that the petition cites statements made by the company’s executives in 2011, where some indicated a desire to “avoid cannibalizing sales of the old drug” with the expectation that TAF could maintain the patent longevity of their HIV drug franchise. The petition also says that Gilead stated that clinical trials had indicated that TAF is safer than older drugs. A study funded by them found that restricting patients from the new drug could cause 16,000 deaths over the course of nine years.
Still, the Washington Post said the outcome of PrEP4All’s petition is not set in stone.
“Odds of success are steep because the patent office will review such third-party petitions only in ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, according to its rules,” their report said.
“Patient safety is of foremost importance to us, and any implication that Gilead delayed the development of a drug known to be safer than [the older drug] is false,’’ Gilead spokesperson Ryan McKeel said in a statement obtained by the Post.