When a person becomes unable to make decisions for himself or herself, the court may step in and deem the individual incompetent. The next step is to assess the individual’s circumstances and to appoint a conservator for his or her benefit, when necessary. A conservatorship in Florida and elsewhere is meant to ensure the safety and well-being of someone who needs another party to look out for their own best interests. However, a recent case alleges that this important legal duty was violated by a 66-year-old man who was the court-appointed conservator for a mentally-disabled couple.
The conservator, who was a family friend, is now being accused of raping the woman whose interests he was supposed to be looking after. Along with rape by someone in authority, he is also being charged with three counts of sexual battery, as well as theft of over $60,000. Since being charged last month, the defendant has been released on bail and plans to plead not guilty to the allegations against him, according to his attorney.
The attorney representing the couple has also filed a civil suit against the conservator. The complaint alleges that since his appointment as conservator in 2004, the defendant has embezzled a little less than $100,000 from the couple, treating their resources as his own and purchasing items that the couple never used. It also alleges that the conservator coerced the woman into having sexual relations with him, and would refuse to pay for the couple’s basic living expenses until she did as he demanded.
This case brings to light the dangers associated with a court appointed conservator who does not act in the best interest of the person he or she is charged with protecting. These types of relationships, while sometimes necessary, are also susceptible to abuse. For those who are considering a conservatorship for themselves or a loved one, it is essential that all options are considered and evaluated before approaching the court. Should an abusive situation result, the victim and their family can seek a change in conservatorship or court-ordered damages through both criminal and civil litigation, if necessary.