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Two California Cases Illustrate Types of Elder Abuse, Neglect

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Abuse of the elderly may be physical or financial. In some cases caretakers or family members may simply have failed to provide adequate care and that neglect may have lead to injury (or even death). Most elder care professionals recognize that all three kinds of misconduct are seriously under-reported, making it difficult to accurately determine how common the problems actually are. That difficulty is exacerbated by adult protective organizations’ inclusion of “self-neglect”—the failure of a frail elder to seek adequate care for themselves—in the statistical mix.

Two recent California criminal cases are evocative of the kinds of physical abuse and neglect inflicted on elders. Both arise because the defendants, though acknowledging that they were guilty of criminal acts, sought to reduce the severity of sentences imposed for their crimes.

David Wallace Taggart, who lived in Ventura County, had a problem with cocaine. He had been in trouble several times as a result of his drug addiction and drinking, and he was on probation for a drunk-driving offense when he embarked on a three-day cocaine binge, leading to a delusional state and a violent outburst. He began by tearing up his girlfriend’s house, then jumped into his truck, drove it into the fence of his elderly neighbors the Thompsons, and attacked both the wife and husband without any provocation. He ended up striking Mr. Thompson with a frying pan, knocking him out.

When Mr. Taggart was sentenced to nine years in prison he appealed. His argument: he was delusional at the time of the attacks and that should have mitigated his sentence. The Court of Appeals noted that he had a history of violence and drug abuse, and declined to reduce his sentence. People v. Taggart, September 19, 2002.

Nicholas Hayes Raye lived in Napa County. He had befriended an elderly woman, Helen Johnson, and moved in with her, helping her with small household chores and projects. As Ms. Johnson’s ability to take care of herself deteriorated Mr. Raye became more and more responsible for her care. After Mr. Raye noticed open sores on Ms. Johnson’s back he called 911, and state social services workers became involved.

Despite repeated attempts to get Mr. Raye to turn Ms. Johnson in her bed, feed her adequately and keep her wounds clean, he did not seem to be able to cope with his landlady’s condition. Instead, he chased nurses and social workers out of the house. Ms. Johnson’s condition worsened, and she died at home a few weeks after Mr. Raye’s care began.

Mr. Raye obviously suffered from mental problems of his own, but he was convicted of elder abuse and sentenced to one year in jail and five years of probation. He appealed because, among other things, he objected to the prosecutor introducing evidence that he had also taken financial advantage of Ms. Johnson prior to her physical condition worsening. The Court of Appeals upheld Mr. Raye’s conviction, finding that the evidence tended to show the relationship between Mr. Raye and Ms. Johnson, and that any error was harmless. People v. Raye, September 19, 2002.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.