- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

The youth at the center of a $20 million sex abuse lawsuit against the city and a D.C. Council candidate is one of six inmates who escaped this summer from the District’s new $46 million detention facility.

Law-enforcement records, D.C. Council staff interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times indicate that the youth is a transient ward of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) with a history of violence and escapes from custody.

The 19-year-old son of Kenneth Agee, the man who filed the lawsuit, is one of 700 D.C. youths committed to DYRS supervision - 60 of whom are housed at New Beginnings Youth Center, a locked residential facility in Laurel, Md.

DYRS said 170 of its committed youths - including the youth in the lawsuit, identified only as Kenneth because he is an alleged sexual crime victim - reside in locked facilities outside the District. In addition, 470 youths live either at home under monitoring arrangements or in group home settings.

City records show that Kenneth’s encounters with authorities became progressively more serious after he was committed to DYRS custody and eventually led to his residing in three different detention facilities across the country this year alone.

Now his father seeks to hold D.C. officials - including DYRS Director Vincent N. Schiraldi - accountable for what Mr. Agee charges was flagrant sexual abuse. The lawsuit contends that Mary Phillips, a special assistant to Mr. Schiraldi, molested Kenneth multiple times from 2007 to 2009 and that council candidate Clark E. Ray and his partner solicited sex from the youth when he was a guest in the openly gay couple’s home during the winter holidays in 2007.

The defendants in the lawsuit deny any wrongdoing.

In 2006, when Kenneth was 15, he was charged with theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle and assault with a dangerous weapon, according to records obtained by The Times. He was admitted five times to the Youth Services Center on Mount Olivet Road in Northeast Washington and once to the now-defunct Oak Hill Youth Center.

Kenneth was released from Oak Hill in 2007 but readmitted for subsequent offenses until he was relocated in January to Canyon State Academy in Arizona. By then, his criminal charges had escalated to gun possession, assault with intent to kill and assault on a police officer while armed.

According to Mr. Agee’s lawsuit, Ms. Phillips molested Kenneth in May while visiting him in Arizona. Soon after the visit, Kenneth was involved with an inmate uprising at Canyon State, according to a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office incident report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

On June 24, the Arizona report states, Kenneth clashed with Canyon State staff and had to be physically restrained. The incident sparked a melee involving dozens of youths, seven of whom, including Agee, are wards of DYRS but are housed out of state.

Maricopa County officials said Kenneth spent three days in county jail and was released without being formally charged. Charles Allen, a spokesman for D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat who has oversight of DYRS, said Kenneth was at large for several days until Canyon State officials took him back into custody and arranged for him to be transported back to the District.

Yet upon his arrival at Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Kenneth broke away from his escort for a short time until airport security apprehended him and DYRS officers took him back into custody, Mr. Allen and others familiar with the case said.

In July, Mr. Allen said, Kenneth was among six inmates who escaped from New Beginnings. Four of the six had been in Arizona with Kenneth, according to the sheriff’s incident report and news reports of the July escape.

Government records further show that DYRS soon shipped Kenneth and his fellow escapees off to locked youth facilities in other states.

It remains unclear how or whether Kenneth’s complicated history could affect his father’s lawsuit, which the District has attempted to keep under seal, according to lawyers in the case.

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