Photo: Randi Duarte (left) / Florencia Guadalupe Morales (right)
Photo Credit: Silverdale Detention Center / Hamilton County Jail
Published September 1, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
The two female employees of the now shuttered Chattanooga Immigrant Facility that were booked for sexual assault of minors will not return to court until next year.
As reported by News Channel 9, the accused – Randi Duarte and Florencia Guadalupe Morales, appeared in Hamilton County Court yesterday morning, August 31st, facing charges in two separate cases.
Hamilton County District Attorney, Neal Pinkston agreed to push back both court dates until January 11th of next year.
The Office of the District Attorney told the Tennessee Conservative that this was due to one of the defense attorneys being in quarantine for COVID and one defendant having a “high risk pregnancy” and is due within the next two months.
Duarte was charged with sexual battery by an authority figure, coercion of a witness, and tampering with evidence.
Morales was charged with sexual battery by an authority figure.
The abuse was first reported to the Department of Children’s Services by a teenaged boy during a routine, surprise inspection of La Casa de Sydney during the week of May 31.
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The facility, located in the old Tennessee Temple dormitory in Highland Park, was run by the Baptiste Group under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to house unaccompanied migrant children ages 12-17 as they awaited placement with sponsors.
In his ruling, Hilliard stated that the Baptiste Group failed to demonstrate that they have eliminated the potential for future safety issues for minors who might be kept there and cited the allegations of sexual battery that occurred there.
However, the Baptiste Group has taken legal action to attempt to get their license back with a lawsuit they filed at the end of July claiming that the state violated their right to due process in its handling of two reports of sexual abuse occurring at La Casa de Sidney. Their claim accuses the state of prejudice and bias against the company.
The group is asking to have its license reinstated, and they are requesting expenses and attorney’s fees.
During the Tennessee Legislature’s Study Committee on Refugees meeting on August 12th, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jennifer Nichols said “We expect that to last well into the fall, if not further,” Nichols said. “There are no children (there) and can be no children there because of the stay.”
Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) implied he supports the reopening of the facility by reminding the committee that he has 110 constituents who worked at the facility that will be unemployed until the court process is over and the home can be reopened.
About the Author:
Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative
Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com