MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — After beating eight-year-old Rica Rountree to death, the killer is officially behind bars for the rest of her life. But now, a new pending lawsuit aims to hold more people accountable.
On Wednesday, Rica’s mother, Antoinette Rountree, joined by her lawyers in a zoom call, announced they’re going after the Department of Family and Child Services (DCFS). They are suing the agency, six of its employees, and the state, for what they claim is a violation of Rica’s constitutional rights by failing to stop the abuse despite multiple reports and warnings.
“The facts here are so strong and so compelling, whatever legal hurdles the sovereign (state) can place in our way, we will be able to overcome,” said Co-Counsel Steven Levin, Senior Partner of Levin & Perconti.
Joining Levin will be partner Andrew Thut and national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is most known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor following their deaths.
“It was right there if anybody from DCFS just opened their eyes and looked,” said Crump, President & Founder of Ben Crump Trial Lawyer for Justice. “If they just opened their ears and listened, if they just opened their heart and cared about this little black girl.”
The lawyers would not divulge the damages they are seeking. Instead, Levin said, “Imagine what you think would be fair compensation for what this child endured, and whatever you come up with that is what we will be seeking.”
WMBD reached out to DCFS for comment. They responded with the following statement:
DCFS does not comment on pending litigation, however, we are committed to doing everything in our power to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. The department has taken several steps to better serve vulnerable children and families, including providing additional training for more than 3,200 staff to help identify safety issues. DCFS remains deeply saddened by the death of Rica Rountree and is dedicated to protecting the children of Illinois to the fullest extent possible.
Bill McCaffrey, Director of Communications, Department of Children and Family Services
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