MIAMI – A forensic interviewer with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, who reportedly interviews hundreds of children a year, made a mistake on a report that was part of a child sex abuse case that prosecutors later decided to drop.
While interviewing a 6-year-old girl accusing her friend's dad, Josef Opdeweegh, 51, of touching her vagina three times at a pool party, the forensic interviewer had to make a determination about the girl's understanding of the truth.
Eulusandra Coats erroneously reported in June that the girl was "unable to accurately demonstrate her understanding of the truth and a lie," when in fact she meant to report that the girl was "able" to make the distinction, according to prosecutor Laura Adams.
Adams wrote in a Nov. 27 email to attorney Joseph Rosenbaum, who is representing the girl and her parents, that the SAO employee made a "significant" typographical error in her report and her supervisors were "putting into practice a new procedure for these reports" that will require a review prior to dissemination.
"The most damning piece of evidence against Opdeweegh was the forensic interview," Adams wrote and that, she added, was thanks to the experience of Coats, who "follows the best practices in forensic interviewing," is "a valued member of the SAO team" and "does excellent work for this community."
A video of the forensic interview prompted the Miami-Dade Police Department to determine the girl's "disclosure was sufficiently credible" and there was probable cause to make an arrest. Opdeweegh surrendered Aug. 14. But prosecutor Rachel Kipnis decided not to charge him with lewd and lascivious molestation.
"The child's disclosure was sufficiently credible," Kipnis wrote in a memo, but despite this, she added there was "insufficient evidence to prove the allegation beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt."
There weren't other witnesses and detectives didn't find surveillance video of the crime. Opdeweegh, a wealthy executive who lives in Pinecrest, hired a spokesperson from RBB Communications, who said he was innocent, and the case was "a grave mistake."
Rosenbaum, the girl's family attorney, demanded corrections to the report Nov. 25. Adams made sure that the record was corrected and the girl's family received a copy of the amended report. Miami-Dade state attorney's office spokesman Ed Griffith said the "recognized typo" didn't change the status of the case.
"Without sufficient evidence and without the victim's testimony in a criminal trial, the issue of the recognized typo in a report would not reopen this matter," Griffith wrote in an e-mail. "However, the situation might change if additional corroborative evidence were to be supplied the police."