If this was leaked to the media did the Corpus Christi Caller Times tell us about this pedophile?
Did the Caller publish any stories on this matter?
And the CCISD Board did they inform the community?
The Serpent IN the Garden January 14, 1996 Houston: CCISD board President Henry Nuss AQUIESCED. CCISD eagerly supplied pedophile with young patients - even after he had been publicly charged.
CORPUS CHRISTI - James Plaisted was a respected child psychologist, a deacon in one of the city's largest Baptist congregations and the father of four.
He also was a child molester so brazen he escorted little girls into church and fondled them under his coat while listening to the sermon.
Parents knew. So did church pastors, school officials and state regulators. But few did anything to stop him, and those who tried were remarkably unsuccessful.
It took 10 years to get Plaisted behind bars. Only he knows how many children he molested during that time.
Last month, Plaisted - already serving a two-year federal prison term for luring a Texas patient to Boston to continue molesting her -was brought back to Corpus Christi in chains.
He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting four girls and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
State regulators have yet to revoke his license to practice psychology.
""I think the Plaisted case is the model of what happens when the system fights with itself," said Susan Snyder, a Kingsville attorney and former prosecutor who tried to lock up Plaisted in 1992.
""Obviously, there have been safeguards in place to prevent this man all along, but either (state officials) were too lazy or too busy, or too scared of the politics of going and yanking this man's license," Snyder said. ""It's not the legal system failing. It's the people within the legal system that refuse to let the legal system work."
It's not as if no one tried.
Carmen Alvarado, the mother of the first child to accuse Plaisted more than 10 years ago, sought criminal charges against the therapist and filed an ethics complaint with the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists. She alleged that Plaisted had fondled her son's penis during a late-night counseling session.
Alvarado called the Parkdale Baptist Church, where Plaisted, 46, was a deacon.
""They said they were leaving it in God's hands," she recalled.
""I don't think they were thinking straight at the time."
She went to other parents. She got no help.
In the end, it was just her son's word against Plaisted, who told a Corpus Christi jury in 1986 that the 6-year-old child was a habitual liar and a pyromaniac who derived sexual excitement from setting fires. It didn't help that a new prosecutor was assigned to the case just before trial.
The jury acquitted Plaisted; his practice continued.
""It made me mad because when I went for help, all I asked was for them to testify," Alvarado recalled. ""We lost because my son was the only witness we had."
""It was a very tough call to make," said another victim's mother. ""And looking back, I really should have crucified him, but I didn't. I chose not to after talking to my attorney. He told me it would just really traumatize my daughter."
The Corpus Christi woman, who asked not to be identified, said she did confront Plaisted and his wife, who were neighbors in 1984, when her daughter was allegedly molested while spending the night with one of Plaisted's daughters.
""He did not deny it," she said. ""He said he could have done it
in his sleep."
Plaisted's wife laughingly added that she and her husband often made love at night, and he would not remember the next morning, the woman said.
The woman, who was also a member of the Parkdale Baptist Church, recalled telling church officials later about Plaisted's molestations.
""But it didn't seem to make any difference," she said. ""The church really backed him up, and a lot of people left the church after that."
Plaisted's attorney, Doug Tinker, refused to allow the Chronicle to interview his client. The criminal defense lawyer, who earlier this year represented Yolanda Saldivar, who was convicted of murdering Tejano star Selena, declined to discuss the Plaisted case.
The victims' families have since sued the church for negligence, but Parkdale's lawyer argues the congregation should not be held responsible for Plaisted's actions.
""It would be the church's wish to get this thing resolved without causing any additional hurt to anyone," said attorney Van Huseman. But he added, ""If a child gets molested in the middle of the service, how does that get to be the pastor's fault?"
Plaisted - a Nebraska native who served in the Army in Vietnam -came to Corpus Christi in 1982 with impeccable credentials, having earned his doctorate in clinical and child psychology from Auburn University in Alabama in 1981.
He quickly built a private practice, and over the years, developed a good reputation as an expert on brain dysfunction.
The Corpus Christi school district, along with local pediatricians, eagerly supplied him with young patients - even after he had been publicly charged. Members of the church also sought his help, and he had hospital privileges at the prestigious Driscoll Children's Hospital, a South Texas institution known both for quality care and charity.
Neighbors described Plaisted as pleasant, reserved, well-spoken. He was methodical, they said, and liked to work on projects around the house.
Plaisted recruited some of his victims from broken homes, showering the children with gifts, inviting them and their parents to Thanksgiving dinners. One 9-year-old girl who spent the night with Plaisted's daughter told prosecutors the psychologist molested her on the sofa in his living room while he and the children watched the movie "Home Alone"
He curried favor with his victims' parents by lending them money and refusing repayment, or by buying them air conditioners and other gifts. One mother even acted as a character witness for the therapist during the Alvarado trial, unaware that her own child was being molested.
""The bottom line is this guy had complaints filed against him at the psychology board - and they are serious - and the board doesn't notify the school about the complaints," said Jerry Boswell, director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a group funded by the Church of Scientology (SEE CORRECTION) that documents cases such as Plaisted's. ""And the school is still referring children to this guy."
Corpus Christi school administrators said they used Plaisted infrequently for psychological testing of students, although school records and correspondence indicate he was a consultant from 1983 until he was indicted for child sexual assault in late 1992.
School administrators have identified records of five students referred to him for psychological testing between 1985 and 1992. There are no records prior to 1985.
School board President Henry Nuss, who has served on the board for seven years, said he first heard of the Plaisted case when he was contacted by the Houston Chronicle last week.
""We certainly should be more selective in who we're using," he said.
After Plaisted was charged in the Alvarado case in April 1986, Robert J. Garcia, the school district's special education director, wrote to the state psychology board to ask about the psychologist's record. The agency's executive director replied that Plaisted's license had been suspended, but because the psychologist was in the process of suing to get it back, he remained licensed to practice. The letter gave no details about the nature of the complaints.
""He was given a clean bill of health by the only agency that had anything to say about it," said Dr. Adrian Haston, a psychologist who coordinates the school district's psychological services, and who, years ago, shared an office with Plaisted.
Haston emphasized that none of the schoolchildren referred to Plaisted were molested. ""And we never had anything untoward, any problems of that sort," he said.
Asked why the district would risk using a psychologist once accused of being a child molester, Haston replied, ""This is something the district did, and you can ask the director of special education why."
Garcia said in a recent telephone interview that he could not remember whether he knew about the child molestation charges at the time he wrote to the psychology board.
""All I know is we asked for what his status was and they said he could still practice," he said. ""We knew he was under review, but we didn't know what for.
""Look, the state board of psychologists, they're the ones that allowed him to continue to practice," Garcia added angrily.
""If anyone should be asked as to why this guy was allowed to continue, it should be the state board of psychology."
Pressed for further details, Garcia abruptly ended the interview and hung up the phone.
Although Plaisted was acquitted in August 1986 in the Alvarado case, the psychology board continued its investigation and ruled in November of that year that Plaisted had violated professional standards.
The board officially suspended his license for two years, but said he would be allowed to resume his practice in three months.
Meanwhile, Plaisted challenged the suspension in state district court in Austin, arguing the psychology board had unfairly considered allegations that had not been introduced during his hearing, denying him the opportunity to defend himself against them. The judge agreed, and in January 1987 reversed Plaisted's suspension.
While the board was investigating Plaisted's case, they were contacted by Corpus Christi psychologist George Kramer.
Kramer, who had hired Plaisted in 1982 before Plaisted was licensed, told the board to subpoena records of the state Department of Human Resources. It did, and found other instances of alleged molestation by Plaisted.
In April 1989, the board reached an agreement with the psychologist that allowed him to keep his license if he agreed to be supervised for 11/2years. Plaisted was to treat children only in the presence of an associate or in a location where he could be observed by a television monitor. He also was to pay to have Corpus Christi psychologist Joseph Horvat supervise his casework.
Horvat met with Plaisted weekly, but after a year - convinced that Plaisted was doing nothing wrong - he recommended the supervision be terminated six months early. The board decided to continue the supervision.
""I have found no evidence in any way, shape or form of any behavior on his part which could be in any way construed as unprofessional or unethical," Horvat wrote to the board.
Included in one of his reports to the board was a review of Plaisted's treatment of an 8-year-old girl - a child Plaisted was later charged with molesting.
The board's general counsel, Barbara Holthaus, acknowledged past actions taken by the agency were inadequate.
""With hindsight, of course it wasn't appropriate, because look at what happened," Holthaus said. But she said the board has since added lay people to its ranks and has a new, tougher state law giving it better enforcement powers.
""Now, if we get a report that a psychologist is molesting a client, we can go before a judge and say we want to temporarily suspend the license," she said.
Holthaus said the board has filed a motion to revoke Plaisted's license, but Plaisted is fighting it.
""It's all kind of moot, because he's incarcerated," she said.
Soon after Plaisted completed his board-ordered supervision, Corpus Christi police received new information from state child welfare workers that Plaisted had been molesting girls at his office, in church and at home in his hot tub.
Former detective Eric Michalak, who now works in Colorado, remembered taking the Plaisted case to a Nueces County assistant district attorney for prosecution.
""He wanted to get a warrant for the doctor and arrest him, because we had very strong evidence against him," Michalak said. ""We had multiple victims and you had a guy in the position he was in, where he had access to all these victims.
You would want to take quick action rather than let it go on for so long."
The prosecutor was overruled by then-District Attorney Grant Jones, Michalak said. ""(Jones) just said, `We're not getting a warrant. We're taking our time.' He wanted the kids reinterviewed by one of the prosecutors.
""Any time you go after someone like that, there's a lot of politics that come into play," Michalak added. ""Instead of stepping in right then, and bringing it out in the open and taking it to a grand jury (for indictment), they delayed."
Jones contends that any delay in prosecution was an effort ""to tie the case down tight. We didn't want to lose him twice,"
said Jones, on whose watch Plaisted was acquitted in the Alvarado case.
Jones called it ""outrageous" the psychology board still hasn't revoked Plaisted's license.
""They should have done it in 1986," he said. ""What they want to do is wait around until you go to trial and you convict him, and then they come in behind your conviction and revoke his license. Well, what's he doing in the meantime? He could be out in the community molesting kids for two years."
Michalak said the case was finally taken to the grand jury several months later after he leaked the information about Plaisted's investigation to the local media.
""It was taking too long, and it wasn't being handled like another case," he said. ""And it was because he was so prominent in the community."
Plaisted was finally indicted in Corpus Christi in October 1992. He posted bond, closed his practice in Corpus Christi, and negotiated an agreement with the psychology board to place his license on inactive status until he could prove his innocence.
He then moved to Boston, where he enrolled in Boston University Law School and successfully completed his first year of studies by May 1994.
While in law school, Plaisted began calling a former patient - the girl whose treatment Horvat had reviewed in Corpus Christi. Plaisted convinced the girl's mother - who was also a patient of his - to bring the girl to Boston for additional therapy.
Plaisted's plans were foiled when a policeman setting up a speed trap in his neighborhood accidentally intercepted on his police radio a sexually explicit telephone call between the girl and Plaisted, who was using a cordless phone.
FBI agents were called in, six other calls were taped, and Plaisted was arrested on June 3, 1994, after he met the girl, then 13, and her mother at the train station and took them to a budget motel.
""The mother wasn't aware" of the molestations, said Adolfo Aguilo, an assistant Nueces County district attorney. ""The mother had a borderline personality disorder - she developed dependency on people -and unfortunately for her the person she developed a dependency on was Dr. Plaisted."
Sgt. Michael Harpster, a police detective from suburban Boston who helped arrest Plaisted, described him as ""very congenial, almost shy."
""He'd answer questions very courteously, but he didn't show any outward signs of knowing the seriousness of the situation," Harpster said.
Last January, Plaisted was sentenced by a federal judge in Boston to a two-year prison term after he pleaded guilty to transporting a minor across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity.
The Corpus Christi conviction and sentence came almost a year later.
In the end, Plaisted admitted molesting four victims. But prosecutors say no one will ever know how many others failed to come forward.
""I imagine there could be several other victims. Through his practice and the church he probably had access over the years to thousands of children," said Aguilo, the Corpus Christi prosecutor who eventually secured Plaisted's guilty plea.
""To me, any kid that came in contact with this guy was a victim in some way or another," added Michalak.
When Plaisted was sentenced last month, it was a bitter emotional meeting for many of his young victims and their parents, who had been called as witnesses in case Plaisted decided against the plea bargain.
Parents said Plaisted stood up straight, held his head high and looked the judge in the eye. And when he saw the relatives of his former victims, he acted as if he were attending a reunion of old friends, they said. One parent said Plaisted looked as if he thought they were there as supporters or character witnesses.
""He turned around and gave the families a big smile," Alvarado said. ""I couldn't believe it."
Alvarado, who sued Plaisted in civil court, has received a settlement for an undisclosed amount. Her son, now a teen-ager, is still struggling with his past abuse, she said, and she continues to feel betrayed by those who would not join her in speaking out years ago.
""I told them if they had helped me in the beginning, none of this would have happened," she said.
Key dates in the career of Dr. James R. Plaisted:
January 1983: Licensed to practice psychology in Texas.
October 1984: Investigated by Texas Department of Human Resources for allegedly molesting a neighbor's child.
April 1986: Charged in criminal case for allegedly fondling a boy during therapy.
August 1986: Acquitted by jury in Corpus Christi.
October 1992: Indicted for sexual abuse of three Corpus Christi girls.
December 1992: Closed Corpus Christi office; moved to Boston to begin law school.
June 1994: Arrested by FBI agents for luring a 13-year-old former Corpus Christi patient to Boston.
January 1995: Indicted by Corpus Christi grand jury on three counts of aggravated sexual assault for incidents years earlier involving the same girl.
January 1995: Sentenced to two years in federal prison in Boston case.
Dec. 7, 1995: Sentenced to 40 years in state prison by a Corpus Christi judge after pleading guilty to five counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child.