2.6 million awarded for children kidnapped by STATE

2.6 million awarded for children kidnapped by STATE




This article was sent to the NCHR by our contact Will Gaston at "A Voice for Children", Oregon, USA.

It is published here by special consent of Will Gaston.




A federal jury in Sacramento returned a verdict of $2.6 million on Friday against two detectives and the City of Stockton following a four-day trial. The eight member jury found that the detectives and the City of Stockton violated the constitutional rights of a child, then four years old, and her father when they took the child into protective custody without a warrant.


The suit was brought by Crystal Keller and her father, Dennis Keller of Fair Oaks.
After Crystal’s parents separated, a court awarded them joint custody. Crystal spent alternating weeks in each parent’s home.

In July, 2002, Stockton police received a complaint that Crystal was being abused in her mother’s home in Stockton. Officer Ernie Alverson responded to the complaint.
Concerned for Crystal’s welfare, he told the father to keep Crystal even though she was due to return to her mother. Alverson told Mr. Keller that he would be contacted by the Stockton police department family crimes unit.

Alverson’s report was forwarded to Sergeant Ken Praegitzer who assigned the case to Detective Kathryn Henderson. Two days later, Henderson with Praegitzer’s approval went to Sacramento with officer Takada and removed Crystal from her day care provider, placing her in protective custody just three days before her fifth birthday. It was alleged that officer Takada threatened the day care provider with arrest if she did not turn over Crystal.

In a report explaining why Crystal was removed, Detective Henderson said that the father was in violation of the custody order by keeping Crystal when the mother was supposed to have her. At trial, the Kellers argued that Henderson was not enforcing the custody order when she took Crystal away from both parents and that Henderson could have gotten an emergency protective order to change custody while the allegations against the mother were investigated.

The jury found that Crystal was not in danger of physical abuse and that the officers violated the Kellers’ rights by not getting a warrant. The jury also ruled against the City of Stockton for not having a policy to protect children from lawless seizures.

A statement from the father after the jury delivered its decision was that it was with the support from friends and American Family Rights Association that was of great help in understanding the system.

But when all was said and done, Mr. Keller hopes that this case will set a precedence for the use of warrants to remove children, and to train the Police officers how, when, and why they need to be used.

In a blistering forty five minute long final argument from David Beauvais, the Stockton Police Department was described as being a bunch of "lawless police." Judge Karlton implied that he would not reduce the amount of the award, and he felt that whatever award that Dennis and Crystal received, was fair and just.

The jury assessed punitive damages of $2 million against the detectives saying they acted with deliberate indifference to the Kellers’ constitutional rights.


Soon there after, the skies opened up with rain, thunder, and lightening as Shelly Green attorney for the police was seen walking away in tears.  

In 2004, a court awarded Dennis Keller full custody of his daughter.



A voice for children


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