A former staffer at the shuttered Wordsworth residential youth-treatment center pleaded guilty Friday to sexually assaulting three teenage girls who had been placed at the West Philadelphia facility.
The assaults to which Isaac Outten, 38, admitted during a hearing before a Common Pleas Court judge took place in fall 2015, one year before state officials ordered Wordsworth closed after a 17-year-old boy died in a fight with staffers who had come to his room looking for a stolen iPod.
The Oct. 13, 2016, suffocation death of David Hess, 17, of Lebanon, Pa., http://bit.ly/2f9mwaz has been ruled a homicide but no charges have been filed. His death capped a decade of allegations and charges of sexual and physical abuse at what was the city’s only residential treatment center for troubled youth, as chronicled by the Inquirer and Daily News in April http://bit.ly/2oCByVF.
In July, facing numerous lawsuits alleging sexual or physical abuse by employees, Wordsworth officials filed for bankruptcy and announced that the company would be acquired by the Philadelphia-based Public Health Management Corp.
Outten, who now lives in a Richmond, Va., suburb, pleaded guilty to one count each of statutory sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, and unlawful contact with a minor from an Oct. 19, 2015, incident involving a 15-year-old girl.
Outten also pleaded guilty to two counts of institutional sexual assault and two counts of unlawful contact with a minor from an Oct. 26, 2015, incident with a 17-year-old and an Oct. 11, 2015, incident with another 17-year-old.
All three assaults occurred at Wordsworth’s facility at 3905 Ford Rd.
Judge Roger F. Gordon ordered a presentencing and mental-health evaluation and set sentencing for Dec. 21.
Assistant District Attorney Kelly Harrell said Outten’s plea agreement did not include a recommended prison term, although her office agreed to drop a series of related charges that would have increased his prison time.
The most serious charge to which Outten pleaded guilty – statutory sexual assault – is a first-degree felony that carries a maximum of 10 to 20 years in prison. The state’s sentencing guidelines, however, could yield a recommended prison term of one to two years, according to Harrell.
Outten, who has no prior criminal record, was allowed to remain free on $10,000 bail until sentencing. Outten’s attorney, David D. Wasson III, said after the hearing that Outten did not wish to comment.
Wasson said Outten, the father of several young children, moved to Virginia in 2015 after Wordsworth officials learned of the sexual assaults and fired him.
Harrell said judges had placed the three girls at the Ford Road facility as “juvenile dependents” because they were not able to live at home. Harrell said Outten lured the girls to the basement for sex and forced them to take naked photos of themselves with his iPhone.
Outten promised the 15-year-old money for diapers and milk for her 1-year-old child in exchange for sex, Harrell said. He promised one of the 17-year-olds he would help with a criminal case.
In addition to the criminal charges against him, Outten has been added as a defendant in a Common Pleas Court lawsuit filed against Wordsworth by his 15-year-old victim.