City social worker indicted

Man allegedly told teen in his care to take off after hearing

Employee denies accusation

April 27, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore social services worker who allegedly told a teen-ager in his charge to take off after a juvenile hearing in Howard County was indicted yesterday on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A Howard County grand jury returned the single-count indictment against Larry D. Richardson yesterday, six months after he was accused of telling a 17-year-old boy who had been released into his care to "get steppin,'" according to court officials.

The charge is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum three-year prison term and $2,500 fine.

Reached at home last night, Richardson said he could not comment at length about the case but declared his innocence.

"This is something I feel is unfair to me," he said. " ... I believe I am totally innocent of this."

Richardson, 42, who lives in Chase in Baltimore County, had been the youth's case worker with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services for a few years, said Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell.

Although Baltimore was responsible for the boy's care, he had been accused of a crime in Howard County and appeared before Juvenile Master Bernard A. Raum on Oct. 31 for an emergency detention hearing, said Assistant Public Defender Avery Berdit, who represented the 17-year-old.

At the end of the hearing, Raum released the boy into Richardson's custody, but two witnesses who had been in the hearing overheard Richardson, who was in the hallway, tell the youth to leave on his own, Campbell said.

The youth, who prosecutors said has problems that require medication, walked out of the Howard County Circuit Courthouse while Richardson returned to Baltimore, according to court officials.

The witnesses told Raum what they had overheard, and police were called in to find the boy. The youth, who had no coat and was wearing a T-shirt and jeans, was found at a Burger King on U.S. 40 -- a few miles from the courthouse. He had apparently gone there to pick up a paycheck, Berdit said.

The youth, who was brought back before Raum that afternoon, believed that he was following instructions, Berdit said.

The youth was later released into the care of another city social services employee, Berdit said.

Richardson said last night that he was not supposed to be working the day of the hearing -- he had been taking time off to deal with a medical problem -- but had been told he needed to speak to the juvenile master.

Of the teen-ager, Richardson said he is "troubled" and previously was a runaway.

Richardson, a city social services worker since 1991, has been transferred to a job that does not involve children, said Sue Fitzsimmons, a department spokeswoman. He works in a unit that handles the paperwork for various federal programs, she said.

Richardson said he changed jobs in February.

"It saddens me that I no longer can work with children," he said.

Fitzsimmons said that whenever wrongdoing by employees is alleged, they are moved into jobs that remove them from the type of situation that resulted in the allegations.

The department had not been officially notified of the indictment as of late yesterday, she said.

"As long as none of the children or families are in harm's way, we'll wait for the judicial process to take its course," she said.

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