DCF Employee Acquitted of Sexual Molestation

By: Jerry Askin, Julie Montanaro Email
By: Jerry Askin, Julie Montanaro Email

UPDATED 9.7.2012 by Julie Montanaro

A former Florida Department of Children and Families employee accused of molesting a child was found not guilty this week.

Matthew Lappin was arrested in March 2011. He was accused of molesting a 9 year old girl on two separate occassions.

At the time, Lappin worked for DCF answering calls as an abuse hotline counselor. He was promptly fired.

This week, a jury found Lappin "not guilty" of the charges against him.

"If you look on the internet there's been all kinds of stories done about him," Lappin's attorney Ryan Davis said. "You Google his name and it comes up that's he's a child molestor, but we had a jury of six people yesterday that said he isn't."

Lappin faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He walked out a free man.

Davis says Lappin has not been able to get a job since his arrest and has relied on his family to make ends meet for the past 18 months.

UPDATE 3-21-2011 at 5:45pm by Jerry Askin

Leon County sheriff deputies arrested state DCF worker Matthew Lappin Wednesday accusing him of sexually molesting a child under the age of 12 in both April and October 2010.

Department of Children and Families Communications director Joe Follick says Lappin has worked as an abuse hotline counselor since July 2009.

He says his duties were to handle calls from people around the state who believe they were in unsafe conditions, but he had no direct contact with any of the clients.

He goes on to say, "It's disappointing - it's very disappointing, but most of our employees do a good job and work hard everyday."

DCF placed Matthew Lappin on administrative leave in February when they first found out about the allegations, but March 16th after his arrest, he was officially terminated.

Follick says a proper background was check was done at Lappin's time of hire and there were no indicators of prior criminal activity.

"When we receive an allegation like this, we take quick action because Floridians deserve it and other employees deserve it" says Follick.

But some local parents say more needs to be done to ensure safety for our children.

Tallahassee parent Ashley Smith says, "It's our children and we have to take extra precautions than just any average joe off the street to be a hotline representative. It's just not okay."

Leon County sheriff deputies say Lappin was not directly involved with the child while working as an abuse hotline supervisor.

Lappin remains in the Leon County Jail tonight on a bond of $25,000 dollars. Stay tuned to WCTV.TV for the very latest on this story.

A Tallahassee employee of the Florida Department of Children and Families is behind bars tonight accused of sexually molesting a child under the age of 12.

Leon County sheriff deputies arrested 29-year old Matthew Lappin Wednesday for sexual offenses against a minor on two separate dates.

A state of Florida website shows that Lappin was hired as a full-time employee at the Department of Children and Families as an abuse registry counselor in 2003.

Local parent Jill Mitchell says, "It's just awful to think that someone who is supposed to be protecting our children is the one actually harming them."

Tallahassee parent Dan Stannard says, "I believe he should be arrested definitely because it's against the law to do what he did - especially in the position that he's in."

Lappin remains in the Leon County Jail tonight with a bond of $25,000.

It's unclear whether Lappin is still employed with the Department of Children and Families or if he faces some type of suspension.

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