Emails belonging to former employees at a state-run group home were purged after a woman alleged that her developmentally disabled sister was raped there, according to court documents.
The email claims came to light as part of an ongoing lawsuit against staffers at Union Avenue IRA, in Bronx, and officials for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, a state agency that oversees programs and homes for the disabled.
A woman alleged in the lawsuit, filed May 2, 2016, that her nonverbal sister was raped while under the care of the Longwood facility.
The woman, identified in court documents only by her initials, L. K., to protect her sister’s identity as an alleged rape victim, said she became concerned about possible sex assault after her sister was diagnosed with a venereal disease in 2004.
L. K.’s sister cannot consent to sex under the law due to her disabilities.
State officials told L. K. her sister, who has lived at Union Avenue since the early 1990s, probably got the STD from a foreign student at a sleep-away summer camp for the disabled, the Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit states.
Several other relatives of Union Avenue residents are plaintiffs in L. K.’s lawsuit, alleging similar physical abuse and neglect of their loved ones.
New court papers reveal emails belonging to ex-Union Avenue IRA employees, some of whom are the defendants, were scrubbed “after those individuals were removed from duty at the facility in 2014 as a result of the events at issue in this litigation.”
Lawyers for the disabilities office claimed the emails were “purged due to inactivity,” according to court documents filed by the families’ lawyers on February 13, 2017.
Lawyers representing the families of Union Avenue residents who allegedly suffered abuse are concerned that key electronic evidence has been destroyed.
“Anytime emails are lost or destroyed, it is of great concern,” said the families’ lawyer, Ilann Maazel, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. “Obviously, we want to get to the bottom of it.” A disabilities office representative said the agency can’t discuss ongoing litigation.
The office said in a statement that safety is the agency’s “highest priority” and that “Any abuse of the people in our care is completely unacceptable.”