Cristian Fernandez not getting proper treatment, advocates say

Judge agrees to motion for psychologist evaluation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Advocates for a teenager who pleaded guilty to killing his half-brother told a judge he is not getting the treatment he needs at the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Last year, Cristian Fernandez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated battery in the 2011 death of his 2-year-old brother, David Galarraga. Fernandez, now 15, is serving his four-year sentence in a private state-contracted DJJ facility in Central Florida, where he is ordered to receive sexual abuse and trauma counseling.

But the Department of Children and Families and his guardian told Juvenile Court Judge David Gooding Tuesday that Fernandez has not received the trauma counseling during his 14 months there. Gooding agreed to a motion that would allow a psychologist to review Fernandez's treatments.

Wansley Walter, secretary for the DJJ, told Channel 4's Tim Pulliam that children at every level at the DJJ are repeatedly assessed and screened. If those tests indicate issues, juveniles are then treated by a team of clinical staff. Walter could not specifically comment on the Fernandez case because of privacy laws.

"We are very focused to getting services to these children as quickly as possible," Walter said. "In our system we have children who have serious diagnosable issues, and we are not delaying treatment, so certainly if there is a case where this is being implied, we would be most interested in reviewing it."

In court Tuesday, Fernandez's advocates raised concerns about the recently ended psychosexual therapy he received for sexual dysfunction or emotional withdrawal. The advocates argued Fernandez also needs trauma-focused and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not related to the Fernandez case, said the DJJ would not face penalties from the state if Fernandez is not receiving proper treatment, but the judge will hold the DJJ accountable by continuously following up to make sure the order is followed.

The next court date to review the progress of the psychologist's review is in about two weeks.