Sexual Abuse Ruling Reversed

A controversial sexual abuse ruling was reversed by an appeals court Friday. The Illinois Appellate Court was to review the case of a father freed from charges of sexually abusing his children because of his Sicilian heritage.

The court reversed the previous decision because they found the father’s behavior to be neither “innocent, accidental, or clinical.” The court ruled that the father be restricted from having unsupervised visits with the children.

The previous ruling, issued by Judge Fe Fernandez in February, argued that the father’s Sicilian upbringing could be a possible cause for his feeling that there was nothing wrong with “tweaking” his 10-year-old daughter’s breasts and buttocks and his 8-year-old son’s genitals.

Joseph Cecela, General Counsel for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, represented one of many Italian-American groups that were appalled by Fernandez’s ruling. “Any suggestion whatsoever by anybody that perhaps culturally Italian people condone or advocate sexually abusing their children is an asinine proposition,” he said.

Judge Fernandez has been transferred to Traffic Court and has been given mentoring and sensitivity training.


AP - November 24, 1998

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