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Judge orders three girls to be removed from Deans' home

A Superior Court judge ordered three adopted daughters of Scott and Renee Dean removed from their home Monday, calling it a precaution to ensure that their testimony in the criminal case against their father is untainted.

During a hearing at the Evans courthouse, Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. made his ruling after concerns were raised about a request for family counseling that would have included Mr. Dean.

A grand jury indicted Mr. Dean, a former county commissioner, on two counts of child molestation Feb. 2. He pleaded not guilty to those charges Feb. 18.

As part of Mr. Dean's bond, Judge Blanchard had ordered that Mr. Dean not be involved in counseling with his family because one of the children is the alleged victim and the others are potential witnesses.

A counselor who has met with the victim several times and the other children at least once recently requested that Mr. Dean be involved in an "intensive, family counseling" session with two specialists from Atlanta.

The counseling request was denied by the children's guardian ad litem and by the Department of Family and Children Services. The guardian ad litem, appointed by Judge Blanchard last month, said a DFCS case worker initially appeared willing to approve the family counseling session.

"I did not agree with that in the middle of a court proceeding (involving) criminal charges and did not feel that was appropriate at this time," the guardian told the judge.

Mrs. Dean expressed her willingness to participate in the counseling.

Judge Blanchard said he was concerned about the children's being influenced, possibly coerced, in their testimony. He said he has seen numerous cases in which children later change their testimony and were obviously influenced or coached.

"One of the purposes the court has is to make sure the criminal procedure operates ... without any contamination," the judge said. "I'm not saying that is taking place in this case."

The judge referred placement of the children to the Columbia County Juvenile Court.

He also ordered that the children continue treatment without the counselor who suggested involving Mr. Dean. Continued treatment will be arranged by the Juvenile Court.

The alleged victim is one of five children -- four girls and a boy -- the Deans adopted from Guatemala in 2008. They have two biological sons.

Mr. Dean has not lived in the family's Harlem home since the DFCS temporarily removed the adopted children in October.

The oldest daughter, Marlin, ran away to Mexico in October.

Web posted on Thursday, March 03, 2011

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