Michelle A. Miller, 26, of Malone was charged with two counts of third-degree rape and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual act, both class E felonies.
The offenses allegedly involved clients of the Franklin County Youth Advocate Program, where Miller was –– at the time –– employed. Officials at the center did not respond to several requests for comment.
State police did not provide any additional details of the incidents that led to the charges. The investigtion is continuing.
The Youth Advocate Program, established in 1975, returned to Franklin County in 2011 under the auspices of the Department of Social Services after a five-year absence. It provides in-home services to at-risk youth that would otherwise attend compulsory care programs at incarceration facilities outside the county.
Each 14- to 17-year-old within the YAP is assigned an advocate to spend time with and to help them accomplish certain goals, in addition to working with their family. As of July, the program was serving 25 families within the county.
Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said his office has up to six months to investigate and discuss plea agreements with Miller before presenting the felony charges to a grand jury.
He also said the New York State Justice Center has already reached out to his office about possibly taking over investigation and prosecution of the case. The center was created in late June 2013 by the Protection of People with Special Needs Act. It acts as both an advocate and a law enforcement agency for vulnerable persons in state-operated or licensed facilities.
Mr. Champagne said his office has no issues with the center taking the lead on the case, as it was created to deal with cases involving our most vulnerable populations; kids like this or ones in housing.
The Office of Children and Family Services, part of DSS, falls under the centers protective jurisdiction. Individuals determined by the center to be responsible for serious or repeated acts of abuse or neglect are registered to a state-wide employee blacklist disqualifying them from ever working with special needs people again.
Miller was arraigned in Bangor Town Court Friday and released under the supervision of the Franklin County Probation Department.