Former DCFS workers seek dismissal of charges in death of 8-year-old Palmdale boy

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Unprecedented charges against Los Angeles County social workers were filed following the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale.

The question today is whether the felony counts against four social workers will be dismissed, reduced or stand.

The Second District California Appellate Court heard arguments from lawyers representing Kevin Bom, Stefanie Rodriguez, Gregory Merritt and Patricia Clement.

The four had been held to answer charges of felony abuse in a preliminary hearing, but in the appeal their attorneys argued that there was insufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The mother and her boyfriend were convicted of the torture murder. Unlike the couple, the attorney for Department of Children and Family Services supervisor Kevin Bom argues that Bom never saw
Gabriel, did not directly physically abuse Gabriel and did not have the "duty" required by the child abuse charge.

MORE: Palmdale woman, boyfriend sentenced in 8-year-old's torture killing

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A Palmdale mother was sentenced to life in prison and her boyfriend was sentenced to death in the torture killing of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.



The seriousness of the charges appeared to concern the panel. They asked the lawyer representing the L.A. County District Attorney about the term "duty," and the liability of workers.

One judge asked, "Were there any other charges that you could have brought?"

The trial of the former DCFS workers has been on hold for more than a year.

Supporters of Gabriel attended the hearing.

"We need to stand up to fight. We have been six years fighting this battle," says the boy's cousin Olivia Rubio.

Prosecutors say that the four minimized evidence of abuse and violated multiple policies, reporting that safety programs at Gabriel's home were working at the time abuse was escalating.

An autopsy report showed bruises, fractures, and cuts all over his body including his groin as well as BB's embedded in his body.

If the case proceeds to trial and the defendants are convicted, they could face over 10 years in prison.

The appellate court could also dismiss the charges or reduce them to misdemeanors.
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