The horrific child abuse case of Gabriel Fernandez depicted in the Netflix documentary, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez has left viewers in utter shock and with tons of questions. What makes his true crime story unique other than the brutality inflicted on the child by his mother, Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, is that the legal system found the social workers who came in content with Fernandez at fault, as well. Scroll below for all the details on the social workers’ involvement in the case.
Did the Social Workers in the Gabriel Fernandez Case Get Charged?
Los Angeles County social workers Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt, were charged with two felony counts in relation to the death of Fernandez on April 7, 2016. They were charged with one count of child abuse and one count of falsifying public records. Their case was separate from the trial of Fernandez’s mother and boyfriend.
The prosecution claimed that the county Department of Children and Family Services employees minimized “the significance of the physical, mental and emotional injuries that Gabriel suffered … [and] allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused.”
A motion to dismiss the charges against the government employees was denied on September 13, 2018. Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said the social workers demonstrated “improper regard for human life” and “a lack of vigilance” by failing to efficiently document the abuse.
The appeals court threw out the case against the social workers on January 7, 2020. The court stated, “although there may be consequences to social workers who fail to fulfill” their duties, “the consequences do not include criminal liability for child abuse.”
Did the Social Workers in the Gabriel Fernandez Case Go to Jail?
Since the case against the four social workers was dismissed, they did not face any jail time. However, all four government workers were fired on July 30, 2013. If the case had not been appealed and each worker was convicted, each of the four workers could have faced up to 10 years in prison.
What Happened to Stefanie Rodriguez and the Other Social Workers?
Rodriguez is one of the more significant players in the Fernandez case. She was allegedly the first person to become privy to the abuse after Fernandez’s teacher, Jennifer Garcia, called the abuse hotline after seeing wounds on the boy. Although Garcia consistently called to report more signs of abuse, it appeared she minimized the evidence and downplayed the severity of the situation. Rodriguez argued that she believed other children she had been working with were in greater or equal danger as Fernandez.
As for Patricia Clement, she allegedly got involved in the Fernandez case after his teacher reported he was shot with a BB gun. Clement apparently acted similarly to Rodriguez and allegedly took a light approach to the case.
The supervisors who were also charged in relation to the death of Fernandez, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt, reportedly felt they did nothing wrong. In 2018, Merritt told The Atlantic he felt extreme guilt for what happened to Fernandez. Although, he stated, “I don’t think there’s anything else I could have done.”
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