The director of a foster family agency is scheduled to be tried this month in Fresno County Superior Court on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse.
Michael John Tucibat, director of Spectrum Children’s Services of Fresno, faces up to six months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 if convicted of failing to carry out his duties as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse.
A co-defendant, James David Stewart, already has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of peeping for putting a hidden camera in a bathroom of his home to secretly record foster children. The children were living in Stewart’s home under Tucibat’s license, court records say.
Stewart was sentenced in May last year to 30 days in jail and three years of probation, court records say.
Tucibat’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 19. He has pleaded not guilty.
According to a police detective’s affidavit, a foster child told Tucibat about the hidden camera in December 2014, but Tucibat failed to report it to police for 21 hours.
Fresno attorney Peter Kapetan, who is defending Tucibat, said his client has no criminal record and has cooperated with police by turning over the hidden camera that was in Stewart’s home. Tucibat also has cooperated with investigations by county social workers and state licensing officials, Kapetan said.
“He acted reasonably under the circumstances,” Kapetan said. “Because of that, he is not guilty.”
Because of the criminal proceedings, Tucibat no longer takes care of foster children, but he continues to counsel adults as a therapist, Kapetan said.
He acted reasonably under the circumstances. Because of that, he is not guilty.
Fresno defense attorney Peter Kapetan
An affidavit by Fresno police detective David Wilkin spells out the evidence against Tucibat, 63, and Stewart, 50:
On Dec. 16, 2014, four foster children, all siblings, were living in Stewart’s foster home. One of them, a 14-year-old girl, went into Stewart’s bedroom to watch a movie. The girl then discovered a live video feed from a camera hidden in a bathroom that the foster children shared. The video showed the toilet and interior of the shower. One of her siblings then took a photo of the live video feed.
Later that day, Tucibat went to the home to counsel the foster children. “A 15-year-old female told Tucibat about the live feed, showed him the television with the live feed, as well as the picture she took,” the affidavit says.
Tucibat later confronted Stewart about the hidden camera. The two men then “located the camera in a metal shower caddy within the shower,” the affidavit says. Tucibat took the camera and left, but “failed to call police to report a case of sexual exploitation of a child.”
The following day, the 15-year-old girl told her therapist about the hidden camera. The therapist contacted the Fresno County Department of Social Services.
A 15-year-old female told Tucibat about the live feed, showed him the television with the live feed, as well as the picture she took.
Fresno police detective David Wilkin’s affidavit
When a county social worker contacted Tucibat about the incident, Tucibat told the social worker “he was going to report it, but had not come around to it yet,” the affidavit says.
Tucibat contacted the Fresno Police Department 21 hours after finding the camera, the affidavit says.
When police searched Stewart’s home, the camera’s power source was missing. “This means sometime between the time Stewart and Tucibat removed the camera and when the police arrived, the power source was hidden or removed from the residence,” the affidavit says.
As a mandated reporter, Tucibat was required to report the incident. Instead, “he destroyed valuable evidence in the process, left four children in a residence where they were being victimized, and allowed the suspect (Stewart) ample time to destroy even more evidence,” the affidavit says.
According to the agency’s website, the nonprofit Spectrum Children’s Services on Sixth Street north of Shaw Avenue has been licensed as a foster family agency since 1999.
According to the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing, Spectrum Children’s Services has received citations and complaints in the past.
In an unannounced visit on Dec. 29, 2015, a state licensing program analyst said in a facility evaluation report that Spectrum’s compliance status was questionable. Records showed that not every staff member had state Department of Justice, FBI and “child abuse index check clearances,” the report says.