Thursday, December 3, 2009

City officials have opposed unsealing a $20 million sex-abuse lawsuit brought by the father of a youth inmate against a city employee and a D.C. Council candidate, according to lawyers in the case.

A D.C. judge issued the sealing order in October to protect the youth’s privacy and safety. But the lawyer for the teen’s father, who brought the lawsuit, said he thinks the case should be a matter of public record.

Last week, lawyer Harry T. Spikes said he recently asked the District to join him in the request to unseal the case filed in September by his client, Kenneth Agee, on behalf of Mr. Agee’s 19-year-old son, also named Kenneth.

It is unclear how much input the teen has had in the lawsuit. He could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit charges that Mary Phillips, a special assistant to Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) Director Vincent N. Schiraldi, molested the teen on multiple occasions between 2007 and 2009, and that D.C. Council candidate Clark E. Ray and his partner solicited sex from the youth while he was a guest in the couple’s home during the holidays in 2007.

The lawsuit does not charge that Mr. Ray and his partner Aubrey Dubra, an openly gay couple, had sex with the teen.

“The public has a right to know, and there is public interest in this case,” Mr. Spikes said. “The government’s preference is to keep it sealed.”

Through their attorneys, Ms. Phillips, Mr. Ray and Mr. Dubra vehemently denied the allegations. Court records indicate that Mr. Agee has a history of domestic abuse and criminal charges and that his lawyer, Mr. Spikes, has a history of disciplinary action by the D.C. Bar, some of which has been upheld by the D.C. Court of Appeals.

City officials declined to say why they prefer the case remain under seal.

DYRS officials referred all questions to D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles. Mr. Nickles did not return multiple calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

In October, Curt Hansen, attorney for Ms. Phillips, filed a motion to seal the lawsuit to avoid publicity and protect the youth. The Times first reported on the lawsuit Oct. 20, after WTTG-TV (Channel 5) reported on the case earlier that month.

Now that the matter has been publicized, Mr. Hansen said, his client is not opposed to unsealing the case, particularly given that Mr. Agee’s attorney is not seeking to keep the case under wraps.

Yet his client does not want to be the only defendant to side with the plaintiff, either, Mr. Hansen said.

“It’s inconvenient to file documents under seal rather than electronically, like in an open case,” Mr. Hansen said. “Plus, we hope to present this case for everyone to know and understand that there’s no basis for these false and spurious charges.”

Former D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti, who represents Mr. Ray and Mr. Dubra, declined to comment.

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