Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s office has launched an internal investigation after discovering more than 70 sexual assault cases in the Juvenile division that collected dust for months — and even years — while victims were waiting for answers.
Calls from the University Heights Police Dept. and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center about cases that had been seemingly stalled help the office uncover “a complete breakdown in the Juvenile Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office.”
“It’s incomprehensible. There was a complete breakdown within this unit. These juveniles, including victims as young as 3-years-old, didn’t receive the proper attention or justice,” O’Malley said.
The office immediately restructured the unit along with personnel and launched an internal investigation.
An internal disciplinary hearing process was then conducted. There were seven individuals still employed in the office who had worked in the Juvenile Unit. The hearings resulted in all seven individuals receiving discipline. Three individuals no longer work here.
It was also discovered that nearly 2,000 cases from 2013 and on were incorrectly marked as “inactive.” O’Malley said it wasn’t a software problem.
“It wasn’t an accident or it wasn’t like the computer system went amuck and did this,” O’Malley said. “Individuals did this.”
Now 1,987 cases need reviewed and evaluated to determine sufficient probable cause to file a complaint, return to law enforcement for further investigation, or close the matter.
Asst. Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Driscoll told News 5 that at least a dozen cases have already led to charges. She’s leading the effort to sort through each and every “inactive” case.
“To allow delinquents, to allow offenders to continue on offending and have no consequences for it is just unheard of,” Driscoll said.
The prosecutor’s office is aware of several cases where offenders who went uncharged were able to re-offend.
“To me it’s all bad and it never should have happened,” O’Malley said. “People should have been prosecuted and perhaps we could have prevented them from reoffending.”
O’Malley said he expects more charges will be filed in the neglected cases in the days and months to come.
From 2013 to 2016, Duane Deskins served as the Director of Juvenile Crime Prevention. In December 2016 he was appointed city of Cleveland's new chief of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity for Youth.
O'Malley said the blame should be shared with leaders of the unit.
"I would say the supervisors in that unit failed to meet the expectations that they citizens of Cuyahoga County expect from them," he said.
Several attempts to reach Deskins for comment were unsuccessful.
A City spokesperson said Deskins was not available for an interview and the City was not ready to address the issue on Tuesday.