Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is Milwaukee's Therapist/Client Sex Felony Statute Applicable When the Therapist is a White Man and Victim is a Black Woman?

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare put social worker Peter J. Nelson in charge reviewing of Theola Nealy's custody of her two children. After taking her two children from her, Peter J. Nelson fathered a child with his client, Theola Nealy, and then took that child from her as well, and took the child to his own home, with the approval of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.

In this therapist/client sex case, many parties are putting pressure on the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, which was Nelson's employer until this April.. The reason I call it the "therapist/client sex case" is that those are the words used in the Wisconsin statute makes therapist/client sex a crime a felony, with the therapist punishable by up to a ten thousand dollar fine and or 15-year prison term, and required to register as a sex offender if convicted.

Wisconsin Statutes 940.22(2), Entitled "Sexual Exploitation by Therapist . . .", provides:
(2) SEXUAL CONTACT PROHIBITED. Any person who is or who holds himself or herself out to be a therapist and who intentionally has sexual contact with a patient or client during any ongoing therapist−patient or therapist−client relationship, regardless of whether it occurs during any treatment, consultation, interview or examination, is guilty of a Class C felony. Consent is not an issue in an action under this subsection. (Emphasis added.)

Among the parties putting pressure on the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare is Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Rosa, who ruled today that an unbiased social worker, from a different county, who does not work for the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, and does not know the potential criiminal defendant Peter J. Nelson, must be appointed to make unbiased child custody recommendations in this Peter J. Nelson/Theola Nealy criminal therapist/client sex case.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is covering the case (below) as it progresses. What I want to know is whether Peter L. Nelson will be prosecuted under
Wisconsin Statutes 940.22(2), Entitled "Sexual Exploitation by Therapist . . .". Or will this crime not be prosecuted simply because the sexual predator is a white man and the his victim is a Black woman?

Equal justice is a two-way street. Equal justice requires not merely that Blacks not be arrested, charged and prosecuted more harshly than whites, as we saw occur in
the Jena Six case. But equal justice also requires that whites be prosecuted equally for crimes against Black victims, which has yet to happen in the Peter J. Nelson/Theola Nealy criminal therapist/client sex case, .even though there is a Wisconsin law that specifically forbids he white offenders behavior in this case, Wisconsin Statutes 940.22(2), Entitled "Sexual Exploitation by Therapist, saying, "Consent is not an issue in an action under this subsection."

More facts below in the Journal Sentinel article of yesterday.

[Judge] wants inquiry in case of client's baby

A judge Wednesday ordered the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare to appoint a worker from another county to manage the case of a child born to a Milwaukee bureau social worker and the bureau client he impregnated.

Calling the behavior of the social worker, Peter J. Nelsen, "despicable," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Rosa agreed with the woman's attorney, Scott Phillips, who said that a case manager from outside the bureau, one who hadn't worked with - or was familiar with - Nelsen, was necessary to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"This is an unusual request," Phillips told the judge. "But this is an unusual case."

Case managers are employed by the bureau or by one of its private agencies to work with children who allegedly have been abused or neglected and also to work with their families.

Their decisions and logged observations are critical in deciding whether these children should remain in their homes or be placed in foster or kinship care.

Nelsen, who is 56 and a 12-year-veteran of the bureau, was allowed to resign in April, shortly after the bureau learned of his relationship with the 31-year-old mother, Theola Nealy.

The bureau has taken the girl from Nealy and has placed her, for the time being, with Nelsen.

Rosa said that one of the issues he will have to decide is, "Did the child need to be removed in the first place?"

The investigations of an independent case manager will be critical in making that decision.

A Journal Sentinel investigation exposed Nelsen's relationship with Nealy last month. In the story, Nelsen admits that he impregnated Nealy after investigating what turned out to be an unsubstantiated report of child abuse and that he hid his relationship with Nealy even as she sought to retain custody of two other children.

A follow-up story reported that the state Department of Children and Families, which runs the Milwaukee welfare bureau, did not report Nelsen to the Department of Regulation Licensing until the day before the story ran - months later than required by law.

Rep. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) has asked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to investigate whether bureau or department officials were involved in a coverup.

In letter obtained by the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) takes department Secretary Reggie Bicha to task for not informing the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council about Nelsen.

The council, of which Darling is a member, is a panel of public and private child welfare leaders who advise the state about Milwaukee County child welfare services.

"I am requesting an explanation as to why myself and other Partnership Council members were not briefed on the situation with the BMCW social worker," she wrote in the letter, which is dated Aug. 28, the day the first Journal Sentinel story ran about Nelsen.

More at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


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