A judge in Downtown L.A. said Monday prosecutors had shown enough evidence to hold two former social workers and two former supervisors for jury trial on charges related to the abuse and torture death of a boy in Palmdale.
L.A. Superior Court Judge M.L Villar said there was sufficient evidence for a jury trial for the four on one count each of child abuse and the falsification of official records.
Gregory Merritt, Kevin Bom, Patricia Clement, and Stefanie Rodriguez were fired from the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services following an investigation into the death of Gabriel Fernandez in 2013.
Prosecutors presented testimony and evidence during a 19-day preliminary hearing -- that the four ignored or minimized abuse reports in the months leading up to Fernandez's death.
"They're being scapegoated by a department and the District Attorney's Office that's trying to expand the reach of the statute," Merritt's defense lawyer James Barnes said outside court.
He and other attorneys unsuccessfully argued the social workers were too far removed from the situation at the time of the death to be held criminally liable, and if they were to be, they said the proper charge would be a misdemeanor, not a felony.
"It's bittersweet but they deserve it," said Fernandez's cousin Emily Carranza.
"They didn't do what they were educated to do, they didn't, they chose to ignore a lot of the signs that were there," she said.
Fernandez's mother, Pearl, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are both awaiting trial on murder charges.
-- Eric Leonard (@LeonardFiles)