Monday, October 29, 2012

J'Accuse... Chris Koster!

In October of 2010, I broke the story of racial discrimination suffered by Stephanie Patton at the hands of Missouri bureaucrats in the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS):
Stephanie Patton, an African-American woman, opened Peace of Mind Adult Day Care in 1993. It was the first adult day care in the Show Me State to specifically cater to African-Americans. Most of Stephanie's clients are poor, so much of her funding came from Medicaid. She was driven out of business in 2009 by the combined forces of DSS, HealthNet, and DHSS. This entrepreneur employed ten people and the DHSS shut her down in the middle of a recession.


Here's what [Judge Chapel] wrote [emphasis added]:
Patton testified that Blum called her a "nigger" and said she was illiterate during the October 16, 2008 inspection. We consider this as a claim that DHSS's actions were the result of a racially discriminatory animus and that DHSS's actions deprived Patton of due process and equal protection of the laws, in violation of U.S. Const. amend. 5, 14 and 15, and Mo. Const. art. I, §§ 2 and 10.
While's there's much more, the main point is that the state of Missouri sued Stephanie for nearly a half million dollars of Medicaid fraud and lost. In addition, DHSS was found to have shown racially discriminatory animus toward her. The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District has a slightly different take on that aspect of the decision (full appeals court ruling).

Having lost the half million dollar Medicaid fraud case, Attorney General Chris Koster decided to harass Stephanie with a trumped up charge of stealing.

On January 4th, 2011, Koster's office filed criminal charges against Stephanie. The AG's office charged her with stealing less than $1,500. In essence, Koster's claim was that $1,500 of Medicaid payments that she had received were stolen. The AG's office held that because they didn't think she should be paid by Medicaid and yet she had been paid by Medicaid, that those payments constituted theft on her part. Basically, Attorney General Chris Koster alleged that the act of depositing checks was a criminal offense.

A warrant was issued for Stephanie's arrest.

She had lost her business and therefore her income as a result of her legal battle with DHSS. Her car had been repossessed. Stephanie's house was in foreclosure. She struggled to put together enough money for bail. Once she did, she turned herself in and spent a couple of hours in jail while being processed.

Stephanie could not afford an attorney, so she was represented by a public defender at a hearing in late February of 2011. At that hearing, the AG's office asked for a grand jury investigation. It seems odd to me that a grand jury would be impaneled for a case alleging the theft of less than $1,500. Understandably, Stephanie was both upset and depressed to be the subject of a grand jury investigation.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares she has already come sustained by her faith, family, and friends. Her faith found re-assurance on March 21st, 2011, as this chapter of her life, where she was unjustly branded a criminal by an over-reaching Attorney General, came to an end. At her hearing that Monday morning, the county prosecutor, representing the AG's office, asked the judge to dismiss the charges against Stephanie. The judge did exactly that.


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