Man sues DSHS, citing sex abuse by social worker

A 38-year-old man who says he was sexually exploited and abused by a state social worker later convicted of sex crimes has sued the state Department of Social and Health Services.

The plaintiff, identified by his initials, B.P., in the lawsuit, contends DSHS was negligent in hiring and supervising Harry Wayne Pitcock, who pleaded guilty to 11 sex crimes in 1996 and was sentenced to 17 years, six months in prison.

“But for DSHS’ employment of Mr. Pitcock, he would not have had the opportunity to groom and prey upon B.P. and other children assigned to his caseload,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court. “DSHS had a duty to ensure the safety and health of B.P. while B.P. was in care of the DSHS foster care system.”

He seeks undisclosed damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish and other losses.

DSHS spokeswoman Kathy Spears issued a brief response Friday.

“The Department of Social and Health Services believes that the litigation process will best determine what relief, if any, is due to this young man by the department,” Spears said.

B.P. entered the state’s foster-care system when he was 2. About 10 years later, Pitcock, who was hired by the state in 1988, began supervising B.P.’s care, the lawsuit states.

Pitcock had a criminal conviction for DUI and an arrest for disorderly conduct in his native Texas, but Washington officials did not know about his criminal history because they did not run a background check on him, the lawsuit contends.

Pitcock soon after began grooming B.P. for sex abuse, granting favors or withholding benefits, such as clothing vouchers, to influence the boy’s behavior, according to the suit. Pitcock eventually began photographing B.P. while the boy was in various states of undress and later sexually assaulted him, the suit states.

Pitcock also is alleged to have encouraged the boy to seek his release from foster care at age 17 so that he no longer would get into trouble for running away from home.

B.P., who had no home and no marketable skills, turned to prostitution to support himself, the lawsuit states. Pitcock allegedly was one of his customers.

“B.P. eventually contracted hepatitis and the HIV virus,” according to the lawsuit.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 adam.lynn@ thenewstribune.com