exposing the dark side of adoption
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The Associated Press

November 23th 1995

BEND, Ore. A couple who won accolades for adopting dozens of troubled children was convicted yesterday of racketeering and forgery for mismanaging their "Celebration Family."

But they were acquitted of manslaughter in the deaths of three youngsters.

Capping a year-long trial, the jury deliberated for seven days on a total of 22 counts before reaching a decision Tuesday. The decision was sealed and given to Deschutes County Circuit Judge Michael Sullivan for safekeeping overnight.

Dennis Nason was acquitted of manslaughter in the children's deaths, and his wife, Diane, was acquitted on two of three manslaughter charges. The jury was deadlocked on a third count against her.

The Nasons also were acquitted of criminal mistreatment and aggravated theft.

The couple showed no emotion during the 20 minutes it took the judge to read the verdicts, which were delayed a day so that attorneys could be summoned. The couple remain free pending sentencing Feb. 6; each could get anything from probation to 20 years.

Afterward, Mrs. Nason said she felt vindicated because the manslaughter and child abuse charges were the most important. She said she and her husband simply adopted too many children.

As for her convictions, Mrs. Nason said, "I don't know anything about racketeering. All we had was a mob of kids." Added her husband: "It's over. The jury did a good job."

The charges alleged the couple allowed three small children to die neglected in their beds an infant girl who died of starvation in 1988, and a boy of about 2 and a girl of about 4 who died of a form of dysentery called shigella in 1985, days apart.

They also were accused of using a cattle prod and other forms of abuse to discipline children, falsifying records to adopt more children and siphoning off $10,000 in contributions to their school.

The couple adopted 84 children in addition to having six of their own, all of whom they raised in a 33-room farmhouse.

The prosecution argued the Nasons adopted more and more children to make more money. The defense countered that they were guilty only of doing their best to help children no one else wanted, children who were already in poor health.

Afterward, Deschutes County District Attorney Michael Dugan said the prosecution was worth the $1 million it cost because the children had suffered. But he agreed that the Nasons began their huge family with good intentions.

"What started out with a good heart and a good mind ended up with disastrous effects on the children," Dugan said.

1995 Nov 23