Albany, Oregon DHS Office
By Joseph Snook
Albany, OR. – On November 22, 2016 Dain Sansome’s attorney filed a $9.2 million lawsuit against the State of Oregon and Department of Human Services Caseworker Matthew Stark. Dain and his family are seeking damages for the abuse they endured over a false sexual abuse allegation that nearly ruined their family. This is the second lawsuit Dain has filed. The first suit was filed in Federal Court and is currently under appeal over a filing deadline issue.
Dain Sansome was arrested in November 2011. On December 12, 2013, after more than two years, Dain was finally acquitted of several false charges, for allegedly abusing his own young children. Dain was accused after a neighbor supposedly overheard part of a conversation between one of Dain’s daughters while she was playing with the neighbor’s children. Dains daughters had never been abused. There was no disclosure by his children of abuse, nor a confession of abuse. The required medical examinations of the children were normal. All Dain had ever done was bathe with his daughters, then ages, one, three, and six years old; this is the customary way he and his wife chose to raise their young children, who are half Japanese.
One expert who is associated with Dain’s case stated, “We live in a culture where many people are ashamed of themselves, including their body. We also live in a culture where actions are often sexualized, even when they shouldn’t be. In an era where anyone is a potential target, it really makes one reconsider raising a child today.”
Dain and his family suffered over two years of separation while his false criminal case was in limbo. Dain could occasionally see his family. The only catch: all visits were supervised by the State. Dain had to live in a barn behind his parent’s house while separated from his wife and children. Every step of the way Dain complied with authorities, hoping the nightmare would soon end. The nightmare continues to this day, over five years later.
Dain’s children never stated that their father was sexually abusing them. Dain’s wife never said that her husband was abusing their children. Dain never said that he was abusing his children. Dain was told he should take a polygraph test, that if he passed, his charges would likely be dismissed. Dain took the police-administered test and passed. DHS Caseworker Matthew Stark and Detective Glen Fairall, the two main people responsible for Dain’s charges, then refused to honor their promise to dismiss the case. Dain also passed a psycho-sexual exam which showed there was no sexual gratification when he bathed with his children.
Detective Fairall and DHS Caseworker Stark then ramped up the case against Dain. Transcripts of official communication were altered and used against Dain, making him appear guilty. The doctored transcripts were relied upon by government employees who testified against Dain. Caseworker Stark and Detective Fairrall knew the transcripts were altered. They did the interviewing.
Facing 20-30 years in prison if convicted, Dain stood by the truth and took his case to trial, denying all plea offers. Not only was Dain acquitted, he was quickly and unanimously acquitted by a 12 person jury. During trial Detective Fairall finally admitted while under oath to altering the transcripts after being hard-pressed by Dain’s trial attorney Steven Sherlag.
Dain was finally found innocent! Although he was found innocent, his problems were far from over.
Four days after being acquitted, DHS Caseworker Matthew Stark and Supervisor Linda Crawford showed up at Dain’s front door, threatening, “let us in your house to interview your children” or we will take them again. Dain told them to leave his property. Dain recorded the interaction. After that encounter Dain contacted Senator Betsy Close who put a stop to the continued abuse by DHS and Stark. This begs the question: What is the purpose of being found innocent if the state can immediately start tormenting a loving family, again?
Matthew Stark, the caseworker involved in Dain’s case, was previously involved in a case where he placed a child with the wrong parent which resulted in the death of a four-year-old girl named Karly. Stark continues working for DHS to this day. In fact, it has been reported that Matt Stark was promoted to a supervisor position at the Albany, OR. DHS office.
How Dain and his family have survived through all of this is a miracle. Dain paid over $250k to protect his family. Dain and his family used their life savings to fight against the abuse leveled by a few people who only sought conviction without justification. His loving parents used most of their retirement savings to help. Fortunately the Sansome Family has strong community support. Dain was labeled a sexual abuser by the mainstream media, the police, the prosecutor, and Matthew Stark of DHS. Dain was lied to repeatedly. His daughters were greatly damaged by a forced, two-year separation from their father. Dain and his family all lived in fear of DHS and police. Dain’s wife and children were without a husband and father when they desperately needed him. His children continue to suffer. Dain prevailed, but the damage caused by Fairall and Stark continue to put Dain and his family in constant fear of separation and incarceration.
Seeking remedy for the damages, Dain sued Detective Fairall, the City of Albany, the State of Oregon, DHS, and employee Matthew Stark by filing a Federal civil lawsuit. One filing deadline during the process was missed, and Federal Judge Ann Aiken dismissed Dain’s lawsuit on August 9, 2016, stating, “… plaintiffs had the opportunity to present opposing arguments prior to the court’s order, and plaintiffs failed to do so. Further, plaintiffs do not explain or provide any cause for their failure. Regardless, plaintiffs’ arguments do not support reconsideration. …Accordingly, plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration is DENIED.”
James Leuenberger, Dain’s civil attorney, filed an appeal, arguing the denial should not prevent Dain’s lawsuit from moving forward. He provided case law to show cause to keep the case open. It was an honest mistake. To prevent Dain and his family from seeking remedy for what they endured because of a filing deadline is nothing short of a travesty of justice. Dain and his family’s Federal lawsuit is currently under appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If reinstated, the case would likely be set for mediation. If mediation does not present a remedy, then the case could take up to three years before Dain has his day in court.
Seeking further remedy, Dain’s second lawsuit was filed in state court against DHS and Matthew Stark. This lawsuit was recently assigned to Judge Hart in Marion County Circuit Court. This lawsuit will require several motions filed by all parties involved which will likely take considerable time before resolution.
Dain has voiced his willingness to mediate both cases together in an attempt to quickly remedy them. However, the Federal suit is now in the hands of the 9th Circuit Court, and Dain eagerly awaits his day in front of a jury of his peers if mediation is not fruitful. Millions of dollars are at stake for the horrible things that DHS Caseworker Matthew Stark forced upon the Sansome family.
If Dain has no way to remedy his case, how can there ever be trust in a system that is plagued with injustice against innocent children and their families? DHS was recently sued for 60 million dollars in a separate incident. Costly lawsuits will continue until there are better checks and balances within DHS. Accountability of caseworkers is paramount to alleviating the tremendous liability that Oregon taxpayers are faced with because DHS caseworkers are not held responsible when they do wrong.
One day you or a loved one could also need help. Sharing this message will help spread awareness to others, and will hopefully help save other innocent families who may think the system has silenced them. If the people who have aided in the abuse of Dain and his family are not held liable, then these actions will continue. This is not just a fight for the Sansome family. This is a fight for the ability to protect ALL of our families from overzealous people who pay no price for being wrong. If you have any doubt, Google Karly’s Law, inspired by Matt Stark.