The expert witness whose testimony in a child custody case helped persuade a Mississippi judge to remove a lesbian mother’s children from her household, is a former psychotherapist stripped of his counseling credentials by a state board that found he had falsified reports, illegally charged clients and violated an ethics code. Paul Davey left the state last year and has disappeared, leaving behind a firestorm of allegations that he fleeced former clients, falsely testified in court and helped put innocent defendants behind bars in order to enrich himself.
Davey, who regularly appeared in court cases and on TV as an expert in child abuse and family-law cases, is apparently on the run in Texas and might face criminal charges pending the outcome of an investigation by the state attorney general.
Davey’s testimony helped convince a judge in a local chancery, or family court, that April Davidson’s lesbian lifestyle was injurious to the well being of her two daughters. The court granted custody of the girls to their father, Edwin Coit, a decision recently upheld by an appellate court.
Robert Nichols is another parent who lost custody of his son following a hearing in which Davey testified. In this case, Nichols’ estranged wife hired Davey to helped prove that Nichols sexually molested their three-year-old son. Nichols was never charged with a crime and maintains that the charges were false and Davey knew it.
According to Nichols, his three-year-old son once told a day care worker: “ ‘Daddy puts pencils in my hinie.’” “From that one statement,” said Nichols, “they reported me to [Department of Human Services] and a child psychologist did a forensic exam and said there was no proof that it happened.”
Nichols’ estranged wife sued for custody. “The judge in my case was just determined to decide that this had happened to my son. That’s when Paul Davey got involved,” said Nichols.
Nichols alleges that the Madison County judge, Bill Lutz, like other judges in various jurisdictions around the state, knew that Davey would testify as he was expected to, in this case against Nichols.
Nichols’ said that he has not seen his son, now nine years old, for six years. The case is on appeal.
Nichols has amassed a wealth of information about Davey’s alleged misdeeds and published it on a Web site, aboutpauldavey.com. Nichols serves as an informal spokesman for others who claim to have been victimized by Davey.
Apparently, Davey made a lucrative living from appearing as an expert witness in various jurisdictions across Mississippi. His Adolescent, Child and Family Clinic in Jackson employed a staff of counselors, some of whom Davey trained, who appeared regularly in child custody and criminal cases. Clinic documents make clear to prospective clients that Davey would charge $1,000 for a half-day and $1,800 for a full day in court. On top of that, parents were informed that each prepared report would cost them a minimum of $250 with each five-page increment costing an additional $125. Other fees included $150-250 for a “weekend crisis intervention.”
An official with the Mississippi Board of Examiners, a non-profit group that state law has mandated with monitoring the professional behavior of licensed professional counselors, said that the group is “very fair” and that stripping Davey of his license came only after a lengthy investigation. The official said that it is “clear what Davey is guilty of” and that he was given adequate due process to fight the charges of bilking his clients.
According to a copy of his resumé, Davey states that over 15 years he qualified as an expert witness 117 times in various courts and that he has provided treatment to more than 2,200 sexually and physically abused children and to more than 1,500 adult survivors of sexual assault. The documents say that Davey has performed more than 4,000 evaluations for child custody, sexual offenses, juvenile detention and other court-related matters.
In interviews, Davey has said that in 90 percent of his child consultation cases, he uncovered some form of abuse, a claim that eventually caught the attention of a county district attorney, David Clark. Experts say that roughly one-third of reported child abuse claims are actually true.
“When you start taking people's children away from them with evidence that you know is false, you ought to be in jail,” said Clark in a July story in the Clarion-Ledger.
According to various sources, Davey might have fled Mississippi to avoid a 2002 charge that he secretly videotaped himself and his ex-wife having sex. An investigation by Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell indicated that no indictment has yet been handed down. Davey’s former wife, Loretta, told the newspaper that Davey’s charge that she insisted on the videotaping in order to spark up their sex life in the midst of a separation is ridiculous.
A local sheriff’s deputy was also quoted as saying that the charge is enough to have Davey extradited, if in fact he is out of state.