In seven years as a detective in the Metro-Dade Police Department's sexual battery unit, Ellen Christopher has exposed dozens of criminals to the light of justice. But by the time she completed her troubling, seven-month investigation of Andres Nogues, accused by his daughter of sexual abuse, Christopher had no interest in putting him in jail. The real criminals, she concluded, were the very people assigned to protect the best interests of Andres and Lisette Nogues's seven minor children.
Christopher claims court-appointed Guardians Ad Litem June Shaw and Robin Greene stymied her criminal probe from the beginning by withholding crucial evidence and witnesses. It seemed to Christopher that Shaw's and Greene's priority was to prove Andres Nogues guilty, regardless of the facts. "The only thing I can figure," Christopher now says, "is that anything that was good for the case they'd report, and anything that took away from the case they kept from me." (Shaw and Greene, citing confidentiality rules governing juvenile cases, declined any comment for this article.)
In September of 1989, only weeks after initiating her investigation, Christopher had become so frustrated by June Shaw's behavior that she considered arresting her. But she says she decided against taking such an action, feeling it would only cause more chaos for the already reeling Nogues family. Instead Christopher waited. She waited while Greene, an attorney, obtained an injunction in April of last year that prevented Christopher from contacting Aimee Nogues in the course of her investigation. She waited while Greene filed a complaint with Metro's Internal Review Bureau that alleged Christopher had "emotionally abused" Aimee Nogues. (The bureau found no basis for the complaint.)
While she waited, Christopher investigated, and she wrote. In April 1990, a month after a juvenile court judge found Andres Nogues guilty of sexually abusing two of his daughters, Christopher completed a 187-page, single-spaced, typewritten report, concluding that the charges against Nogues were completely without merit. Then, in September of that year, she filed a thirteen-page complaint with her superiors. Among the laws Christopher alleges the two Guardians Ad Litem violated:
Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant (a third-degree felony)
Tampering with or fabricating physical evidence (a third-degree felony)
Criminal disclosure of a subpeona, order, or authorization (a third-degree felony)
Hindering or obstructing justice (a violation of Metro-Dade ordinance 21-26)
Resisting an [investigating] officer (a first-degree misdemeanor)
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Christopher says that because the Nogues investigation is still pending, she can't detail the specific charges contained in the complaint. But the central point of the document is plain: "If I was not obstructed and interfered with by June Shaw and Robin Greene," wrote Christopher, "this investigation would have been concluded in several weeks, rather than taking almost a year."
As it turned out, summing up her claims against the guardians took Christopher nearly six months of compiling court transcripts, depositions, and other documents. Early this year the complaint was sent by Metro-Dade Police to the Dade State Attorney's Office. But because other complaints had been lodged by Lisette and Andres Nogues against some of her own investigators, State Attorney Janet Reno passed along the Nogues case, as well as Christopher's allegations, to Governor Lawton Chiles, who then assigned them for investigation to the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office. In June of this year, Christopher sat down with a Palm Beach investigator and went over her accusations in detail.
Christopher's complaint is one of hundreds of documents Palm Beach investigators are currently reviewing in order to determine whether state officials mishandled the Nogues case or violated the law. The Dade State Attorney's Office and HRS both say their reviews of the case have revealed no inappropriate actions. And the former head of the Guardian Ad Litem program, Daniella Levine, says, "There was ongoing supervision in the office of this case, and in this case, maybe more because of the publicity. We were aware of how the case was proceeding throughout." Still, Detective Christopher says she hopes the out-of-town investigators file charges against Shaw and Greene. "People have to be held accountable," says the detective.
Even people who are more accustomed to holding others accountable.