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Victim’s family redirects DYRS lawsuit

Youth in custody is slaying suspect

- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2012

The family of a Catholic University student who was fatally shot while bicycling through the Petworth area in 2010 has dropped the District and its juvenile justice agency from a lawsuit that had accused the city of failing to supervise the 16-year-old murder suspect committed to its custody.

An amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court by the parents of Neil Godleski now lists a group home in Northwest under contract with the city's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) as the sole defendant.

Godleski attorney Denis Mitchell has confirmed filing an amended lawsuit but declined to comment on why he dropped the city entities as defendants.

The family also dropped DYRS Director Neil A. Stanley as a defendant. Mr. Stanley took over the agency months after Godleski's death, though questions remain about the agency's ability to supervise its youths.

Prior to the amended complaint, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan argued in court papers the Godleskis had failed to cite facts that put the District at fault and that Mr. Stanley is an "improper party" because he was general counsel for DYRS only at the time of the incident.

The changes significantly alter the tenor of the suit, which initially charged that DYRS "incompetently supervised the juveniles under their control," allowing the suspect, Eric Foreman, "to evade supervision and detention."

A 2010 investigation by The Washington Times found that in a one-year period, one-fifth of D.C. homicides — including Godleski's — involved a youth in custody of DYRS, either as a suspect or a victim.

Police said Mr. Foreman, a ward of the city, fatally shot Godleski, 31, during a robbery as Godleski bicycled home from his job as a waiter at a restaurant near the Southwest waterfront. Godleski was shot several times as he rode through Sherman Circle in Northwest. When he fell from the bicycle, Mr. Foreman shot him twice more at close range while he was on the ground, police said. The robbery netted $60.

At the time of the Aug. 22, 2010, homicide, Mr. Foreman, who is awaiting trial, was staying at Dupree House, a group home operated by the DYRS-contracted Associates for Renewal in Education.

The Godleskis' initial complaint said the District "should have known their employees at DYRS, acting at their direction, were incompetent and unfit to perform the duties of their respective jobs at the time they were hired and thereafter."

The complaint also cites the conclusions of the investigation by The Times, and those in a January 2011 article in which The Times reported there are no records documenting inspections, escapes or unusual incidents at Dupree House.

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