New lawyer appointed to 'caged kids'

Date: 2007-06-16

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

Attorney David Brown will investigate whether the children, who had been adopted by the Gravelles, have grounds for a civil lawsuit.

Margaret Kern, the former court advocate, stepped down, according to Juvenile Court Administrator Chris Mushett.

In the 1980s, Brown represented the interests of a child who became known as Infant Charlie, Mushett said. Infant Charlie was in the custody of the juvenile court after becoming a battered child who suffered permanent injuries due to abuse, said Mushett.

"(Brown) sought damages on behalf of (Infant Charlie) and won a pretty healthy settlement," Mushett said.

Eventually, Infant Charlie won a $15 million settlement from various defendants who failed to notice the baby was being abused by his adoptive mother, according to a story in The Morning Journal.

As a result of several injuries, Charlie was considered mentally retarded and crippled, according to a story.

"It's my understanding that (Brown) is going to review the entire (Gravelle) case and determine what, if any, action he thinks might be available there. And, if he feels there is something, then he would attempt to go out and retain counsel for the children," said Mushett.

Sharen, 58, and Michael Gravelle, 57, of St. John Road, Clarksfield Township, were each convicted of two misdemeanor and five felony child endangering charges and five misdemeanor child abuse charges, according to court records.

The couple's parental rights to the children were terminated. The Gravelles were convicted of keeping some of their former 11 adopted children in cage-like structures used for sleeping and punishment, according to testimony during the couple's criminal trial last year.

The children were removed from the Clarksfield Township home in September 2005 by the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services, but allegations surfaced during the trial that the agency knew about the "cages" much earlier and failed to act.

The Gravelle children remain in foster care while their former adoptive parents remain free while they appeal their respective three-year prison sentences.

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