It hasn’t yet been two months since Justina Pelletier — the Connecticut teen at the center of a more than a year-long custody battle between the state of Massachusetts and her parents — went home with her family. But details surrounding the case seem to still be coming out of the woodwork.
WTIC-TV reporter Beau Berman, who was the first to break the story about the now 16-year-old whose parents were accused of medical child abuse and lost custody after they tried to discharge her from Boston Children’s Hospital when they disagreed with a diagnosis and treatment plan, recently obtained emails from government officials pertaining to the case through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Most of the emails are rather straight forward correspondences between staffers and officials about coverage of the case and if, or how, to respond to certain aspects of it appropriately.
For example, the first email WTIC obtained from Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office that mentioned the case was in response to Bergman asking for a statement on Feb. 2, 2014, almost a year after Justina was taken into custody in Massachusetts.
David Bednarz, the governor’s spokesman wrote to other staff members, “Do we have anything on this that we can give him? Should we have DCF respond?” The office’s Director of Communications Andrew Doba said he wasn’t even sure the state’s [Department of Public Health] had any interaction with the Pelletier family. Afterward, staffer Samaia Hernandez weighed in and said the Department of Children and Families was handling the situation and that she thought they should “stay away from this.”
Fast forward to March. The Pelletiers had already been in and out of court for more than a year with Judge Joseph Johnston in Boston’s juvenile court division ruling each time that Justina would remain in DCF custody in Massachusetts.
This department had expressed a desire to return to Justina to Connecticut, transferring custody to Connecticut’s DCF. While Justina was eventually transferred to a facility in Connecticut, she remained in Massachusetts DCF custody during that time until her parents officially regained custody in June.
Still, one of the emails WTIC obtained sent on March 1 was from Connecticut DCF Commissioner Joette Katz who wrote to state officials, saying that the department was “[n]ot taking this child under the current circumstances… The parents’ reactions throughout this circus is proof positive that this is about them and not justina … it should be clear to everyone now that this case is a marathon and not a sprint.”
In a separate email, WTIC reported that Katz wrote: “This case is extremely complicated- both medically and legally. As you know I have been coordinating DCF’s response to Massachusetts authorities for some time and have been very careful in my public statements. Work at the agency and with the attorney general’s office also has been very carefully managed.”
In response to some of the emails being made public, Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, told WTIC his family was “pretty appalled at some of the comments made in there by both the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut regarding the situation.” He added that they would respond “in due time.”
Other officials, such as Katz, would not talk further about the Pelletier case but told WTIC she believes the family has “endured a great deal over an extended period of time, and I wish the family and Justina well.”
Doba, Gov. Malloy’s head of communications, emphasized to WTIC that the office was aware of the case prior to the first email on Feb. 2 and also expressed a “tremendous amount of empathy for the Pelletiers,” adding that the office is “pleased that this situation has been resolved.”
Read more of Berman’s full report on WTIC.