FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --An internal investigation into the death of a 10-year-old boy and what went wrong at Fresno County's CPS is now public.
Seth Ireland was murdered by his mother's boyfriend in December 2008.
A few months before his death, Ireland took his last school picture. A swollen left eye and a bruise on his forehead foreshadowed the extreme violence that would end his life a couple months later -- despite repeated calls to CPS.
More than six years later, Fresno County released its own investigation -- the so-called "quality assurance report" -- but only after a long court battle. "The quality assurance report at issue in the Hudson case does not represent an effort by the county to hide any information, but was part of the department's continuing commitment to analyzing and improving its policies, practices and services," said Fresno County's administrative officer, Jean Rousseau, reading from a prepared statement from which he hesitated to stray when Action News asked follow-up questions.
Dark marks on the report represent what the county didn't want to release to the public just last week, including admissions that CPS workers changed entries in Ireland's file, after the fact. "I made that in my argument that I thought the computer had been modified and altered because of some of the entries," said plaintiff's attorney Warren Paboojian. "And the county denied that and they expressly denied it in front of a jury but now this report expressly states they did it."
Paboojian sued CPS and the county on behalf of Seth Ireland's dad, Joe Hudson. He won an $8.5 million verdict at trial. That was almost three years ago. So far, the county hasn't paid a dime. An appeals court threw out the verdict and ordered a retrial. Paboojian and the county have been fighting over the quality assurance report ever since. "Plaintiff's counsel's attempt to sensationalize the discovery dispute over a single document in the Hudson litigation are clearly designed to deflect attention away from the appellate court's reversal of judgment," Rousseau said.
But the appeals court also noted the county didn't even admit the quality assurance report existed when Paboojian asked for all files and reports related to Ireland's death back in 2010. He only found out about it while questioning witnesses in 2012 -- three years after the boy died -- and he says its contents would've been very convincing at trial if the county released the report when originally asked. "This is an admission of guilt that I could've used at the time of trial when they were denying that they violated any of the duties," Paboojian said.
Paboojian says the county has not responded to his offers to settle the case for much less than the jury verdict.
The case is set for retrial in October, but county administrators are now saying they might not be able to get a fair trial in Fresno County.
Click here to download the full report (PDF).