The former chief of committed services for the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) was accused of stalking and molesting a female subordinate in the District years before similar accusations recently surfaced against him while chief probation officer in Alameda County, Calif.
Coupled with the Alameda complaint, the accusations against David Muhammad, a key architect of the District's juvenile justice reform effort under former DYRS director Vincent N. Schiraldi, suggest a troubling pattern and raise questions about whether D.C. officials acted diligently.
Mr. Muhammad "apparently has two sides to his persona - a public one and a dark side," according to a lawsuit filed March 20 in Alameda County court by attorneys for a 30-year-old deputy probation officer who says he sexually assaulted her. The complaint resulted in Mr. Muhammad being placed on administrative leave, and it prompted the California State Attorney General's Office to take over the case because the Alameda County District Attorney's Office recused itself.
Mr. Muhammad, 38, has denied the accusations and said he will cooperate fully with the investigation.
The unidentified female employee of DYRS who is referenced in the Alameda lawsuit was walking her dog at 6 a.m. outside her apartment in 2009 when she spotted Mr. Muhammad sitting in a truck staring at her, the lawsuit states. He obtained her personal cell phone number and called her on it, according to the lawsuit, and he would summon her to his office on a work-related pretext then "grab her breasts and put his hands on her legs in her crotch area."
As in the Alameda case, the female DYRS employee "repeatedly pushed him away," the lawsuit states. She reported Mr. Muhammad to David Brown, then DYRS' deputy director, who transferred her to another division under a different supervisor. However, in an email from the employee to Mr. Brown dated June 4, 2010, obtained by The Washington Times, she portrays herself as a victim of retaliation by Mr. Brown and others as a result of her complaint against Mr. Muhammad.
Mr. Muhammad referred to women in derogatory terms in the presence of female employees, the lawsuit states, and was not trustworthy in his dealings with committed youths or employees. At one point, he was pursuing so many subordinate female DYRS employees that a female correctional officer wrote a letter complaining about him to then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the lawsuit states.
Kelly Armstrong, a San Francisco-based attorney who filed the Alameda case, wrote in the lawsuit that she is aware of two additional potential sexual-harassment complaints by former DYRS subordinates against Mr. Muhammad that are being investigated, and that Mr. Muhammad was "given a pass" on the complaints because of his management position.
DYRS officials declined to comment.
During his tenure in the District, Mr. Muhammad oversaw 20,000 youths on probation, a staff of 600 and a $90 million budget, according to the Alameda County lawsuit. He left DYRS in 2010 to become deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation under Mr. Schiraldi, after Mr. Schiraldi became commissioner there. But Mr. Muhammad left New York for the position of chief probation officer in Alameda County in December 2010.
An Oakland, Calif., native, Mr. Muhammad has been quoted in newspapers as stating he was arrested several times as a teenager there, once for attempted murder, the lawsuit states.
According to Ms. Armstrong, "Mr. Muhammad has apparently been protected for a long time because people wanted so much to hold him up as an example of a successful African-American male who had overcome a difficult background." But the lawsuit points to his November 2010 divorce amid charges of adultery and failure to pay child support.
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