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'Overwhelming Evidence': Nude Farming Is Not Therapy

By Robyn Hagan Cain on June 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Kansas social worker convicted of enslaving mentally-ill residents of a group home, and forcing them to engage in sexual acts and nude farming as part of their "therapy," cannot appeal his 30-year prison sentence on the grounds of ineffective counsel, reports The Associated Press.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the former social worker, Arlan Kaufman, did not qualify for a certificate of appealability.

In November 1999, Butler County, Kansas, deputy sheriffs observed two men working in the nude on a farm outside the town of Newton. As the deputies approached, the defendant, Arlan Kaufman, a doctor of social work who owned the farm and was fully clothed, directed the two workers into a nearby van, where they put on their clothes. Dr. Kaufman explained that the workers were residents of the Kaufman House Residential Care Treatment Center, an unlicensed group home for the mentally ill that he owned and operated with his wife, Linda Kaufman, a licensed nurse.

Authorities initiated an investigation of the Center, and learned that, over a period of more than 15 years, the Kaufmans had directed the severely mentally ill residents to perform sexually explicit acts and farm labor in the nude, while maintaining that these acts constituted legitimate psychotherapy for the residents' mental illnesses.

Kaufman was later convicted of numerous federal charges related to his physical and sexual abuse of mentally ill persons under his care, and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment.

Wednesday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Kaufman's latest appeal in the case, finding that Kaufman failed to prove that his defense was plagued by ineffective counsel.

Analyzing Kaufman's claim under the two-part Strickland ineffective counsel test, (counsel's performance was deficient and deficient performance prejudiced defense) the Tenth Circuit concluded that, even if lawyer's performance was deficient, Kaufman had not demonstrated prejudice.

The court noted that there was "overwhelming" evidence against Kaufman, including videotapes of the residents engaged in graphic sex acts and testimony from experts who explained that there was no therapeutic justification for the nudity and sex acts Kaufman suggested.

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