By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"I don't think the social workers liked that she fought them and didn't show them the respect they wanted," says McMillan. "So they used their power against her. It was BS."
Ten months into the fight, Orange County bureaucrats offered the emotionally drained Steiner a deal: If she signed a statement affirming the social workers had been justified in their hostility, she could have two of her kids back immediately.
"It was a Hobson's choice," says McMillan. "It was, 'Tell us what we want to hear, and we'll give you your kids.' What was she supposed to do?"
Steiner reluctantly signed the deal. She never regained custody of her oldest child, who eventually was given to his father. In January, she filed a civil-rights lawsuit against Newport Beach police, Orange County, Orangewood and the SSA. Superior Court Judge Steven Perk will handle the case. Government officials have not yet responded to the allegations, but in the past, county lawyers have argued that, as with criminal prosecutors, social workers enjoy legal immunity.
"What happened was so offensive," McMillan says. "Think about this: If these social workers really believed that my client had tried to poison her own kids, would they have returned them to her custody? Of course not. They made false charges against this parent to gain control over her. It's a tactic, and it's scandalous."
This column appeared in print as "Newport Coast Offers Stunning Ocean Views and an Arsenic Mystery: A wealthy mother who complained about the poisoning of her children finds herself in a police-state nightmare."