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Social worker accused of making sexual advances towards mothers, threatening to take kids when rejected

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Christopher Osher

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Robin Niceta was a key child protective caseworker witness in 30 active investigations when she was arrested for allegedly falsely reporting that a vocal critic of the Aurora police chief had sexually abused her son, according to an Aurora councilwoman who is suing Niceta and the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services.

Niceta is at the center of a lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky. Police have charged Niceta with maliciously smearing Jurinsky with false child sex abuse allegations after Jurinsky called for the firing of Niceta’s girlfriend at the time, Vanessa Wilson, then the Aurora police chief.

Jurinsky and several other parents and caretakers are seeking to have a judge approve them for class-action status for the lawsuit. They contend that Niceta falsely testified and filed false reports in child dependency and neglect hearings and violated their constitutional rights. Their lawsuit states that the class likely is composed of more than 40 individuals.

Their lawyer, Elliot Singer, appeared with Jurinsky and several of the parents seeking to join the class during a press conference held Thursday morning in front of the building of the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services.

Jurinsky revealed during the press conference the number of child protective cases Niceta was a key witness in at the time of Niceta’s arrest. Jurinsky clarified in a later interview that Arapahoe County District Attorney John Kellner had revealed that number of cases to her and told her those child-dependency and neglect cases now could be in jeopardy.

The lawsuit names as defendants Niceta; the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services; that agency’s Division of Child & Adult Protection Services; a manager in the division; and the Arapahoe Board of County Commissioners.

Niceta’s lawyers have declined comment. An Arapahoe County spokesperson said in a prepared statement that the county “is equally appalled and concerned as our community is about the alleged criminal actions of Robin Niceta, a former employee of our Human Services Department.”

Luc Hatlestad, the spokesperson, added: “We have confidence in our ability to protect children from abuse and neglect in our county, and at the same time to preserve the rights of parents and guarantee due process. All allegations of abuse and neglect of chilldren are fully evaluated and investigated by multiple layers of human services, educational, medical, mental health and legal professionals, in accordance with state laws and regulations.”

He said the county still is awaiting the results of a review by the Colorado Department of Human Services of Niceta’s casework during her time as a county child protective worker.

Jurinsky said that while the lawsuit alleges fraudulent filings and testimony from Niceta, she believes it also will expose systemic problems within the county’s child protective services.

“This is absolute unchecked power,” Jurinsky said during the press conference.

“How, how is this isolated to just one employee of DHS?” Jurinsky asked during the press conference. “There are supervisors. There are different levels. How does it go on for so long? You know, how is someone’s child taken from them based off of someone’s expert testimony when there’s no proof?”

Jurinsky also is individually suing Niceta in another lawsuit for defamation. Another family last week filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that their 14-year-old daughter was removed from their home and kept in foster care due to false reports and false testimony from Niceta. The daughter in that case was returned to her parents nearly a year after the removal.

Jurinsky faced a two-week investigation by the child protective division after Niceta falsely reported anonymously to a hotline that she saw Jurinsky inappropriately touching her 2-year-old son, according to a probable cause affidavit that led to Niceta’s arrest. The report came a day after Jurinsky had gone on a radio talk show and called Niceta’s girlfriend at the time, Vanessa Wilson, then Aurora’s chief of police, “trash.”

Robin Niceta – Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office

The county investigation cleared Jurinsky of wrongdoing, but after that child protective investigation closed, laws enforcement investigators probed whether the hotline allegation was retaliation. Those investigators found that the call to the hotline had come from Niceta’s cellphone and also found that the search browser on Niceta’s laptop included the hotline number and Jurinsky’s address, according to the affidavit that led to Niceta’s arrest.

Niceta resigned from her job as a caseworker with the county a day after she was questioned by law enforcement about the hotline call. She denied to investigators that she called the hotline. Niceta also told investigators that two children she was parenting at the time and the police chief also had access to her phone.

Niceta is scheduled to appear Monday for an arraignment on criminal charges related to attempting to intimidate a public official. Niceta and Wilson, who was fired by the Aurora city manager in April, have since broken up.

Singer and his clients say the alleged targeting of Jurinsky by Niceta is just a fraction of the deception Niceta committed as a caseworker. The FBI also is investigating whether Niceta staged a false attack from a former partner to gain the upper hand in a child custody battle she was waging with the former partner.

Niceta’s former partner, Kristin Nichols, who is seeking to become a member of the class, attended the press conference, along with several other parents and caretakers who say they have yet to have their children returned.

Christina Cimino attended the press conference and held a photo of her 10-year-old stepson. She contended that he had been removed from her care due to what she termed spurious allegations that Cimino had engaged in Munchausen syndrome by proxy and allegations that she and her partner drugged him up and neglected him.

Niceta was not the child protective worker in that case, but Cimino said Niceta’s supervisor had been involved. During the child’s removal from the home, the child’s mother died of a seizure in her sleep, Cimino said. The stepson now lives in Nevada with a grandmother, she added.

“The way the county went about this whole thing was bizarre,” she said, adding that she believed she was targeted because she is a lesbian. “I wasn’t given a fair evaluation.”

One mother at the press conference, Jamie Schneider, said Niceta made sexual advances toward her while Niceta was investigating whether she could continue to parent her son, who was causing trouble in her home and needed therapy.

Schneider claims that Niceta invited her into her home and offered her a beer during that investigation and advised her to leave her husband. Schneider said Niceta then became cold and eventually pushed her into signing away her parenting rights after Schneider rejected “sexual advances” from Niceta.

“We fully recognize that some of the vulnerable members of our community are children, and that sometimes children do need to be removed from dangerous situations, but equally vulnerable are the parents standing behind me who were totally at the mercy of the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services,” Singer said during the press conference. “Some of them had no say. Some of them had evidence ignored, lies told about them, false evidence introduced, false testimony given in their cases. And they have had their children taken away from them permanently.”

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