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California NewsUSA

DA reviews cases against Probation Department staffers accused of sexual abuse

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing cases against two Probation Department employees accused of sexually abusing minors in their custody, first sign of possible criminal ramifications for current and recently employed staff named in deluge of lawsuits for sexual abuse against the county.

On Dec. 21, the Probation Department presented cases against two staff members — Thomas Jackson and Altovise Abner — to the district attorney’s office for consideration for prosecution, according to an office spokesperson.

Both Jackson and Abner had already been on leave, along with 21 other staff members, while the probation service and an external law firm investigated allegations of sexual misconduct. Jackson resigned in September after 33 years with the department.

His resignation came after at least 20 women accused Jackson of sexually abusing them when they were minors confined in a Santa Clarita juvenile camp between the late 1990s and mid-2000s. In another lawsuit, Abner, a department supervisor, was accused of groping a 17-year-old at a juvenile camp in Lancaster around 2006.

Tom Yu, who represents Jackson, said he was confident his client would not be charged due to “insufficient evidence.” Abner did not respond to a call or text message, but previously declined to comment on the allegations. The department said it does not comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.

These lawsuits represent only a small fraction of the hundreds of complaints filed against the county alleging uncontrolled sexual abuse at the agency’s camps and halls. Since State Legislature passed a law in 2019 giving victims of childhood sexual abuse a new window to file lawsuits, the county was sued by approximately 3,800 plaintiffs — about 1,500 of them allege sexual abuse by Probation Department staff. County officials estimated this spring that settling the lawsuits could cost as much as $3 billion.

Attorney Courtney Thom, whose firm has about 150 clients suing the county, said the prosecutor’s office’s review of the case against Jackson represented the “first rumblings of accountability” for a man accused by at least 19 of his clients for having assaulted and raped them while they were under his supervision.

The women said Jackson threatened them with isolation and revoked their phone privileges if they reported the abuse, according to the lawsuits.

“This is the first time I’ve heard that the county is waking up,” Thom said, with Manly, Stewart and Finaldia law firm known for handling high-profile sexual abuse cases.

But, she said, it’s a long-awaited wake-up call. Many of his clients told him they had reported sexual abuse since the late 1990s. The complaints all stagnated.

She said the fact that criminal repercussions could arise for some probation staff decades later could be attributed largely to the change in state law — and to the hundreds of men and women who were allowed to name their attacker in court records.

“The delay is unwarranted,” Thom said. “It is only now, thanks to the number of people who have had the courage to come forward publicly, that pressure is being put on law enforcement to investigate. »

Keri Blakeger contributed to this report

California Daily Newspapers

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