Archive for Friday, October 28, 2005

Judge rejects defense witness in servitude trial

October 28, 2005

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— A social worker expected to lend credence to nude therapy and other unorthodox techniques employed at a group home in Newton was disqualified Thursday as an expert witness.

U.S. District Judge Monti Belot ruled that Cynthia Steinhauser of Oregon was not qualified to testify in the trial of Arlan Kaufman, 69, and his wife Linda, 62. They are being tried on more than 30 federal charges - including health care fraud, forced labor and holding clients in involuntary servitude - related to the treatment of residents at the Kaufman House.

Federal prosecutors accuse the couple of forcing residents to masturbate, fondle each other and shave each other's genitals in purported therapy sessions. The defense contends the goal of the therapy sessions was to remove some of the shock value that some of the residents had been trying to achieve by exposing themselves in public.

Steinhauser also believes that having clients act out deviant behavior can help desensitize them to it, though she said she has never used the approach in a group setting. She spoke by phone with the court Wednesday after jurors were dismissed.

Steinhauser, who holds a doctorate in clinical social work, called her therapeutic techniques "Adversive Behavior Rehearsal," "Masturbation Reconditioning" and "Masturbation Fantasy Change."

"I can only say serious problems require serious interventions," Steinhauser said.

But in rejecting her as an expert witness, Belot said Steinhauser's description of her techniques as "extremely controversial" and potentially "dangerous" didn't meet the test for scientific validity.

The defense also noted that the clinician who co-authored many of Steinhauser's own writings had lost his license to practice in three states.

That leaves Arlan Kaufman, a former professor, to explain the therapy techniques the couple used. He was expected to begin testifying today.

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