Megalithic daycare conglomerate, Bright Horizons, which operates 1,100 child care centers across the globe and 700 in the U.S. and Canada alone, is in the crosshairs of the Florida press after paying the criminal defense fees of two of their employees charged with molesting children in their care. This included bringing in a Maryland-based attorney, Thomas Pavlinic, who specializes in sex crime defense cases. According to reports, the fee structure of the defense bill incentivizes taking the case to trial as opposed to settling or pleading down the charges. Nonetheless, Jayrico Hamilton pleaded guilty to three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct while the other accused party, Olakunle Omomowo, had charges against him dropped in Broward County after allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Three years earlier, the same teacher had been accused of multiple counts of sexual misconduct.
For obvious reasons, Bright Horizons has a vested interest in how this case plays out. Not only can the daycare corporation be sued for negligent hiring, but they also likely face punitive damages as well. The fact that Bright Horizons is paying for the legal defense of both of the alleged perpetrators of these crimes will likely figure prominently into the plaintiff’s case against Bright Horizons.
However, neither side was allowed to speak on the matter citing a gag order issued from the bench.
Defense Payment Structure Raises Conflict of Interest Issue
According to the contract signed between Bright Horizons and the defense attorneys representing their former employees, Bright Horizons had the right to terminate any money paid to the defense attorneys if the defendants confessed to any allegations related to children at the facility. Interestingly, Omomowo was offered what some might consider an almost impossibly good plea deal. Instead of serving life in prison, Omomowo would be let off on probation. However, as a condition of the plea, he would have to release a statement regarding his complicity in the alleged assaults against children while acting as a caregiver at the daycare center. Omomowo apparently accepted this deal, but then realized that Bright Horizons would no longer pay for his defense.
In other words, the plea deal (which probably would have been in the best interests of Omomowo) was declined based on the fact that “his” attorneys had a greater incentive to take the case to trial. In response, an assistant state attorney made the court aware of the potential conflict of interest, but nothing came of it.
In 2016, charges against Omomowo were dropped after the defense alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The prosecutor in charge of the sex crimes unit had apparently left his post to work for the firm that was representing the plaintiffs in the civil trial which resulted in the charges against Omomowo being dropped before the judge could dismiss the charges. This leaves the prosecution open to file the charges again in another district.
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