An attorney who represented Johnny Depp in his defamation trial against Amber Heard has weighed in on the developing case of YouTuber Ruby Franke.
Ms Franke, 41, ran a YouTube channel named “8 Passengers” with her husband Kevin Franke, in which they documented the day-to-day lives of the couple and their six children.
In a shock turn of events, the mother-of-six was suddenly arrested on 30 August and hit with child abuse charges after her 12-year-old son allegedly climbed out of a window and desperately asked neighbours for some food and water.
Police said that the child “appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities”. Ms Franke was arrested after the police found another child in the house with similar wounds.
Jodi Hildebrandt – who ran therapy company Connexions Classroom and appeared in YouTube videos with Ms Franke – was also arrested on similar charges.
On Friday, Ms Franke told Utah Judge Suchada Bazzelle during a hearing to determine where her four minor children should be placed that one of her children may be a sexual predator.
She accused the child of abusing other children, sexually abusing a younger sibling and encouraging that sibling to abuse other children. She also stated that her child confessed to abusing 20 people – though she provided no evidence to back up these claims.
Now Ben Chew – Depp’s former attorney – has said that he believes Ms Franke’s claims about her child’s alleged sexual abuse could actually do more harm than good to her case.
“For her to make this kind of claim, I think it’s tremendously detrimental to her case,” Mr Chew told Law&Crime.
“If any of this were true, she should have reported it at the time rather than waiting to be arrested and arraigned.”
He added: “Now, I don’t know whether she identified the child, but it wouldn’t be hard to figure out since there’s a finite universe of six.
“I think it’s terrible for her defence. I think it also shows it doesn’t shine a very good light on her character, that she would say these things in public, even if true.”
Mr Chew also explained that the child could bring a defamation case against their mother if the claims are untrue.
The attorney also weighed in on the parent influencer’s decision to not file any defamation lawsuits over the years, despite multiple allegations being levelled against her.
Before she stopped uploading on “8 Passengers”, Ms Franke often faced criticism for her harsh parenting style and punishments.
“You can imagine, if you were accused of such a monstrous thing, or if I were, that would be my first inclination,” Mr Chew.
“She would probably have to prove actual malice, which is knowledge or extreme recklessness as to the truth. But I think you would take that on if you had been accused of this.”
Mr Chew also added that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) could be held liable in this case.
“DCFS will enjoy some measure of sovereign immunity. But it should not be impossible to sue them,” he said.
“I’ve had cases where we’ve sued a government entity, state government entities, and you have to navigate around immunity issues. But they absolutely can be sued. And it sounds like they have a lot to answer for in this case.”
Ms Franke will appear back in court on 21 September for a bail hearing alongside codefendant Ms Hildebrandt.