Former Pennsylvania psychologist says he reported child molestation, lost license

Michael Volpe Contributor
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Jim Singer, formerly a psychologist working in Pennsylvania, said that he reported a case of child molestation in 1986 to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services agency, and not only was his report ignored, but soon after, in retaliation, the Pennsylvania Psychology Board prosecuted Singer and eventually removed his license to practice psychology.

As the aftermath of the Penn State University molestation scandal unfolds, most observers believe that if the proper authorities had been alerted to the crimes much earlier, many children could have been saved. That’s not always the case, says Singer.

Speaking exclusively with The Daily Caller, Singer said that most of the same Pennsylvania government agencies that were outraged over the PSU scandal — Child Protective Services, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police — all ignored and buried his report of child molestation.

In 1986, Singer was working as a psychologist at the DuBois Regional Medical Center in DuBois, Pa. During a session with a female teenage patient, Singer said the patient revealed to him that she was being sexually abused by her father. Upon having two more medical professionals confirm this, Singer said that he reported the abuse to the state’s Child Protective Services agency.

TheDC has exclusively acquired a letter from one of the two medical professionals, Dr. Albert Varacallo, vouching for the veracity of Singer’s claims.

“If all this seems hard to believe,” Varacallo wrote to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, Sr. in 1991, “I agree with you … the events of the past three years have proven to me that this nightmare is indeed a reality and not just Mr. Singer’s imagination from the stand point of any health professional, once he knew all the facts.”

“While the state is supposed to provide immunity for reporters,” Varacallo wrote, “it actually prosecutes those who seek to protect the rights of children.”

And according to a letter written by the alleged victim to Singer, she credits him with saving her life.

“I told her [the CPS case worker] that I went to Dr. Singer three weeks ago and asked him for help. I told her that if it weren’t for him, I’d be dead right now. She asked why and I told her I’d run away or commit suicide or both.”

Singer said he wasn’t merely duty bound by medical ethics and humanity to report the abuse, but by the law.

“I would have been prosecuted if I didn’t report the abuse,” Singer said.

As a psychologist and medical professional, Singer was mandated to report the abuse. By law, a failure to report would result in criminal and civil penalties. As a mandated reporter, he was also due protections like anonymity.

Instead, Singer said his name was leaked not only to the abuser but some of his other patients. In 1991, speaking anonymously to a local investigative reporter about Singer’s case, here’s what an individual that also reported child abuse recalled CPS agents saying to her:

“They [CPS officials] kept pressuring me to say something against him [Singer] and I kept telling them I didn’t know him. They then proceeded to tell me that Dr. Singer had reported child abuse. Before they left my home, I knew that Dr. Singer had reported child abuse. I knew who the perpetrator was and I knew who the victim was.”

In the same report, a female patient, also given anonymity, also claimed that CPS officials attempted to pressure her into saying bad things against Singer.

“They were trying to get us to go against Dr. Singer,” continuing, “we didn’t feel any of it was true.”

Watch the Action News report:

Singer said that the retaliation only started with his identity being leaked. Within a year of filing the complaint, he said that a number of complaints were filed with the Pennsylvania Psychology Board, including some by the accuser.

The Pennsylvania Psychology Board (PPB) did not respond to TheDC’s requests for comment for this report.

Citing standard policy against commenting on individual cases, Pennsylvania’s CPS also declined to comment.

Singer said he practiced psychology for fifteen years with a perfect record prior to facing these numerous allegations, which ranged from ethics complaints to billing complaints. For much of the next decade, Singer said he was forced to defend himself against these charges, and they’ve destroyed his career and depleted most of his savings.

Finally, on October 26, 1992, the PPB issued a decree fining Singer as well as suspending his license to practice psychology. The suspension was stayed, with Singer being given numerous stipulations to keep his license active.

Singer said he refused to sign the order and he appealed the decree immediately. The appeal would never be heard and instead, his license to practice psychology was revoked a few weeks later. Since that time, he has not been able to reinstate his license.

In 1996, Singer thought that he had finally caught the break he was looking for. Upon receiving a job with Pennsylvania’s prison system, a routine background check was run. That background check turned into an investigation of Singer’s case run by a Pennsylvania State Trooper named Lieutenant Ivan Hoover.

Hoover’s investigation was meticulous, and the summary was thirty three pages. Lt. Hoover verified Singer’s telling of the story, and concluded that Pennsylvania authorities committed numerous criminal acts in prosecuting Singer. Those acts, according to Hoover’s report, included fabrication of evidence and perjury.

Hoover’s report appears to have never gained traction and a grand jury was never convened. Lt. Hoover has since retired from the Pennsylvania State Troopers and could not be reached for this report.

Singer told TheDC that it’s what Hoover didn’t find during his investigation that’s even more important. He said that Lt. Hoover could not find any record of an investigation even being started into Singer’s 1986 report of child molestation.

Beyond alleged criminal acts, Pennsylvania officials have also made a number of factually inaccurate statements both in public and in correspondence with politicians.

As part of the 1991 investigative report, State Department Chief Counsel Pamela Raison claimed that Singer was not a mandated reporter, and that he would have had to come into contact with the alleged perpetrator to be a mandated reporter.

“In order to be a mandated reporter, you have to come into contact with the person that you are reporting within the context of your profession,” said Raison in that report.

Even more than twenty years later, Singer still scoffs at that notion.

“That would mean only someone that saw Jerry Sandusky commit his crimes would be considered a mandated reporter,” said Singer.

In 1998, Colonel Paul Evanko of the Pennsylvania State Police, writing to Pennsylvania State Senator William J. Slocum, claimed that Singer had agreed to a punishment from the Pennsylvania Psychology Board and that his license was removed after Singer didn’t comply with the order.

“A review of Dr. Singer’s case revealed that following a hearing before a disciplinary board,  Dr. Singer entered into a consent decree with the Department of State, Dr. Singer agreed to pay a fine, and, following a period of supervision, would be able to keep his license to practice. When Dr. Singer failed to comply, his license was suspended.”

An analysis of the decree document concludes that it was an order and not a voluntary agreement and TheDC could find no evidence that Singer ever agreed to it.

Throughout Singer’s ordeal, he’s been helped by a number of high profile political figures both in Pennsylvania and the nation at large. On October 14, 1993, then-U.S. Congressman Rick Santorum wrote a letter to then-President Bill Clinton on Singer’s behalf.

“I am writing on behalf of Dr. James Singer, a psychologist from DuBois, Pennsylvania, I would like to join my colleagues Senator Specter, Congressman Bud Shuster, Congressman Tom Ridge, and Congressman Bud Cramer, who have expressed their concern to you over the handling of Dr. Singer’s case by the state and federal governments as a result of his mandated reporting of an alleged case of child abuse in 1986.”

On April 12, 1994, then-U.S. Rep. Tom Ridge sent a letter to Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, also in support of Singer.

“My concern was and continues to be the lack of attention given to the case of Dr. James Singer of DuBois, Pennsylvania. Several years ago, Dr. Singer was asked to give his opinion of a child abuse case at DuBois Medical Center. He concluded that the child had been abused, and because he was mandated by both state and federal laws to report any suspected child abuse, Dr. Singer reported his findings to Children and Youth Services. He had been informed that if he failed to report his findings, he would have been prosecuted for violating Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. Because Dr. Singer obeyed the law, his life was destroyed.”

Given what has transpired at Penn State University, it was the correspondence of Sam Stein, then a state senator in Pennsylvania, that was most eerie.

In a letter to Rita Olzewski, the executive director of the Health Systems Development Corporation, Stein expressed his deep concern that Singer’s case would discourage people in the future from reporting on child abuse.

“Please understand I have serious concerns regarding the impact that Jim Singer’s case will have on child abuse reporting by professionals,” wrote Stein. “It is obvious that such irresponsibility, on the part of the Departments of State and Public Welfare, will cause more and more mandated reporters to think twice before reporting suspected child abuse.”

Most recently, Sen. Barbara Mikulski wrote a letter in January 2012 to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office pleading that an investigation be conducted into Singer’s case.

“I am writing to bring to your attention of the attached correspondence and documents from my constituent, James Singer [who now lives in Maryland], regarding a case of child abuse that he has brought to the attention of Pennsylvania law enforcement,” wrote Mikulski. “I respectfully ask that you review the materials attached.” Sen. Mikulski’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this report.

TheDC attempted to contact a number of Pennsylvania state officials as well as national officials like Sen. Dick Durbin, and only the office of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee responded. An aide in the Judiciary Committee told TheDC via email that they were aware of Singer’s case, but that the Judiciary Committee did not have jurisdiction.

“Dr. Singer’s complaint is with the state of Pennsylvania.  The House Judiciary Committee is a federal legislative body — our investigative authority is focused on misconduct or malfeasance of the federal agencies over which we have jurisdiction (i.e. U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security).  Our staff advised Dr. Singer that he should direct his request to investigative bodies within the state of Pennsylvania.”

Singer told TheDC that he hopes sharing his story will finally lead to a full investigation of his ordeal.