As reported in the Washington Post this past week, when a Serbian man in California gave his work computer to an office technician last July, it prompted a chain of events that have stripped him and his wife of their kids and sparked fury in his home country at the state’s child protective services system.

Among the approximate 5,000 personal digital photographs on the Stockton resident’s hard drive, the technician noticed a few dozen pictures of the man’s two naked children. He reported the pictures to the sheriff’s office which caused the arrest of the parents and the children put into foster care, where they remain over 7 months later, despite the discovery that the 8 year old son is the one who took the pictures of himself and his sister, age 5.

The case attracted the attention of the Serbian government and of local and federal law enforcement agencies here which so far have found no basis for criminal charges.  But the state’s child protection system, with the consent of a judge, deemed that the children remain at risk and has kept them from their parents.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento reviewed the photographs after being contacted by Serbia’s Consul General, (where the parents are from) and sent a letter in December to the state Department of Social Services, saying it had determined the offending photos were taken by the son, not the parents.  Despite this, San Joaquin Children’s Protective Service is now claiming there is evidence that the father has molested the daughter and refuses to return the children.  CPS produced a videotaped interview with the 5-year-old girl to make a case that the father had inappropriately touched her.  The father’s attorney says the questions were ambiguous and that the father’s conduct amounted to routine contact between a parent and young child, such as drying her off with a bath towel.

Serbia is now providing funds for the father’s attorney, and its Consul General in Chicago, Desko Nikitovic, is advocating on behalf of the couple. He said so far it has been an uphill battle with an agency and local judge with power to do what they want with the children.  The children have not only been separated from their parents, but from each other and have been denied access to the family’s Serbian Orthodox Christian priest, unless the priest speaks to the children in English. The U.S. Attorney referred the clergy matter to the FBI, and a spokesman said it is “trying to determine if there’s been a federal violation.”

This case reminds me of the Kern County molestation arrests and convictions in the 1980’s that have now been overturned and the longest incarcerated father (20 years) who was awarded 5.5 million in 2009 for the devastation brought to his life.  Don’t get me wrong, molestation of children is a serious matter and should be investigated, however, it would seem by all accounts in this case, with the Attorney General‘s independent investigation that there is simply not enough evidence to support the charges for pornographic photos or molestation.

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