Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fifth person charged in "fight club" at state school being sent back to Texas

From The AP:

CORPUS CHRISTI — The fifth of six people charged with organizing fights among mentally and developmentally disabled residents at a state school was en route to Texas Saturday after being arrested earlier this week in Virginia.

Guadalupe Delarosa Jr., 21, was arrested March 24 at Fort Lee Army base in Virginia, where he was on active duty, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. A sergeant at the Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va. told The Associated Press Saturday that Delarosa was on his way back to Texas.

Delarosa and five others were charged March 12 with injury to a disabled person after police identified them in videos of the fights recorded on a cellular phone.

Investigators say staff at the Corpus Christi State School organized the fights among residents. Police said those charged were the ones who could be identified in fights where there were clear injuries. They believe the fights went on for at least a year.

Delarosa resigned from the school last year before the investigation, a spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services said.

The mother of a former resident of the state school sued the Department of Aging and Disability Services on behalf of her son Thursday in state court. The suit alleges that Armando Hernandez Jr., 21, was forced to fight other residents while he was at the school from April 2007 to April 2008.

Gov. Rick Perry responded to news of the fights by ordering a moratorium on new admissions to the Corpus Christi facility and demanding the installation of security cameras.

The Corpus Christi school is one of 13 state schools for the mentally and developmentally disabled in Texas.

A lack of supervision on the overnight shifts is believed to have created the atmosphere for the Corpus Christi fights, which took place in the early morning hours.

A Justice Department report in December found at least 53 patients in Texas’ facilities died in 2007 from preventable conditions that were often the result of lapses in care. It also charged that the facilities violate residents’ rights.

According to state records obtained last year by The Associated Press, 53 employees at the Corpus Christi State School were fired for abuse or neglect between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2007. Another 24 were suspended.

There were 229 confirmed allegations of abuse or neglect at the Corpus Christi State School between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal 2008, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The agency investigated 5,443 allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility during that five-year period.