The criminal trial of a former North Carolina social services attorney facing 20 felony charges for his role in separating children from their parents without judicial review has been postponed for a second time.
Scott Lindsay, a former attorney for the Cherokee County Department of Social Services, was due to face a jury trial in February and then again in July of this year. It is the latest criminal case to be heard involving what the courts ruled was an illegal scheme, so much so that individual family cases together have resulted in the county facing more than $53 million in judgments, settlements and costs.
A Murphy grand jury indicted Lindsay in 2020 on 20 counts of obstructing justice, two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and one misdemeanor count of willfully disobeying his duties. duties, all linked to a plan to separate the children from their families without judicial review. He is now due to appear in September.
Two former DSS bureau chiefs were charged at the same time: David Hughesthe child protection supervisor, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors last year as part of a deal with prosecutors and promised to testify in related cases.
Last year, the former director of the DSS Cindy Palm pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice and had to perform 24 hours of community service as part of his sentence. Palmer fulfilled that requirement in February, according to the Cherokee County Clerk’s Office.
In 2021, a man and his daughter won a $4.6 million federal civil lawsuit against the county over its policies and actions. Earlier this year, Cherokee County settled more than a dozen cases related to the practice for $42 million.
Lindsay’s attorney, Jerry Townson, successfully argued for Lindsay’s misdemeanor charges to be dropped last year. Attempts by Carolina Public Press to reach Townson for comment in July were unsuccessful.
Cherokee County DSS employees separated parents and children using a document that judges later called “the product of actual and constructive fraud.” This happened dozens of times over several years, and social workers testified that Lindsay and Palmer ordered them to use a document called a custody and visitation agreement, or CVA.
It was not until much later that social workers and parents learned that the document had been fabricated. Social workers testified that they had questioned the legality of the document, only to be assured by Lindsay that the document was legal.