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Former Cook County human services director charged with child abuse

The man who was responsible for overseeing social services in Cook County is himself accused of engaging in a years-long pattern of child abuse.

Former public health and human services director Joshua David Beck, 40, was charged last month in State District Court with multiple felony and gross misdemeanor charges stemming from allegations of abuse toward two children.

The children, ages 12 and 10, reported to investigators this summer that they had been subjected to years of physical and verbal abuse, including strangulation, slapping, hair-pulling and name-calling, according to a criminal complaint.

The children were interviewed at First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth on July 19, the complaint said. Beck resigned his post with the county two days later.

"Mr. Beck adamantly denies these allegations, and he looks forward to exercising his rights in court," his Grand Marais attorney, Tyson Smith, said when contacted Friday afternoon.

Beck, whose current address is listed in Coolidge, Ariz., was summoned to appear in court on Sept. 11. He is facing felony counts of domestic assault by strangulation and third-degree assault, as well as two gross misdemeanor counts of child endangerment.

Due to potential conflicts of interest in Cook County, the case was investigated by the Duluth Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant Lake County Attorney Lara Nygaard. St. Louis County is handling the child protection case.

Cook County Administrator Jeff Caldwell said he was unable to comment specifically on the case. Beck's tenure with the county lasted just less than one year.

"This is a personal matter involving a former employee," he said in an email. "Cook County takes its role in the delivery of human services extremely seriously."

According to the complaint:

A 10-year-old girl said in her First Witness interview that Beck had been abusing her for some time.

"She indicated that the defendant calls her names, pulls her hair, throws objects at her, forcibly wakes her up, and takes away her cochlear implants so she cannot hear," the complaint said.

The girl recounted an incident in which she said Beck became angry and grabbed her by the neck, squeezing until she was unable to breathe. She said she later had a bruise and had trouble smelling.

On another occasion, the girl reported, Beck became upset and pulled her by the hair, slapped her across the face and threw hard toys at her face. The assault caused bleeding and left a bruise.

A 12-year-old boy also reported a prolonged period of abuse, saying that Beck "likes to cause him pain." He said Beck would often call him names and knock him off chairs.

Both children reported an incident when they said Beck threw the boy down on the ground, causing his head to bounce off some rocks and start bleeding. They said he then threw the girl, who injured her ankle.

The children said they were not provided with any medical attention after any of the incidents.