Ex-state mental hospital chief pleads not guilty in Calif. molest case, bail set at $3.5M

By Gillian Flaccus, AP
Friday, February 26, 2010

Ex-hospital head pleads not guilty in molest case

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The former head of one of the nation’s biggest state mental hospitals pleaded not guilty Friday to molesting an adopted foster son and was ordered held on $3.5 million bail at the same time that prosecutors detailed abuse allegations involving five other boys, including another foster son.

Claude Foulk, 62, is charged with 35 counts of sexually abusing one of the four foster sons who lived with him at different times since 1975. He eventually adopted two of them.

Deputy District Attorney Lesley Klein said in court Friday that since the news of Foulk’s arrest broke earlier this week, four new victims have come forward, bringing the total to 13 in cases stretching from 1965 to 2006.

Authorities have said they can press charges in only one case, however, because of the statute of limitations.

During the brief hearing, Foulk was kept separate from other prisoners and conferred quietly with his attorney while standing, surrounded by deputies.

Prosecutors had requested the $3.5 million bail, but defense attorney Jon Artz asked the judge to reduce it to $500,000, saying his client wanted to be free to care for his 96-year-old mother with dementia.

Long Beach Superior Court Judge Arthur Jean granted the prosecution request, citing the serious nature of the allegations, and granted a state request to revoke Foulk’s nursing license.

He also ordered the names of the alleged victims sealed.

Foulk was fired from his post of executive director of Napa State Hospital after his arrest Wednesday.

Outside court, Artz said the bail was too high because Foulk has no criminal record and no prior arrests. He cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions.

“We’re hearing about some terrible allegations but let’s see what the evidence shows,” he said.

Long Beach police said the charges stemmed from one victim who was 10 when he was taken in by Foulk in 1992. The alleged molestation continued until 2004.

The investigation was sparked when one of the victims, now in his 40s, reported sexual abuse to police last September after learning Foulk was head of Napa State Hospital, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

Detectives from the sex crimes division found evidence that five boys under the age of 14 had been molested in Long Beach, where Foulk had lived, and in Rancho Murieta in Northern California, police said.

Additional alleged victims were listed in the amended complaint made public Friday.

According to the new court documents, Foulk molested another foster son for 12 years, beginning in 1973 when the boy was nine; sexually abused the son’s 10-year-old friend; and molested or masturbated in front of three friends of another foster son.

Those cases occurred between 1973 and 1992, the filing said.

Foulk was paid $98,000 a year at Napa State Hospital, where he was responsible for supervising the 1,260-bed institution that houses adults mostly judged mentally incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity.

He previously worked as a high-level administrator at several private psychiatric hospitals and with the state Department of Mental Health. Records show he was briefly married in the 1970s.

Foulk will make his next court appearance on March 12.

(This version CORRECTS that the alleged victim who authorities say was first to report abuse to police is not a former foster son.)

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