Update: Charged Dalton counselor had no state license, but could still legally practice

Images: Whitfield County Sheriff's Dept. / MGN)

The Dalton Police Department arrested a 63-year-old counselor and charged him with sexual assault.

DPD Spokesman Bruce Frazier says officers arrested Daniel Durward Staats on Friday.

He says the charge comes after an investigation of allegations inappropriate and illegal conduct by Staats with women who were in his care for court ordered psychotherapy counseling as part of their probation.

The investigation of Staats began in August.

A woman who was a patient of Helping The Hurting, a counseling service owned by Staats, came to the Dalton Police Department to report conduct by Staats that she felt was inappropriate during a counseling session.

Frazier says the woman reported that Staats was discussing sexual subjects with her, and told her that he and his wife were in an open relationship and that it would be okay for her to send him photos of herself.

Police say he also told the woman that he had a secret Facebook account under an assumed name and that they could use it to communicate. The woman received a friend request from the fake Facebook account and a few private messages. Frazier says the woman did not allege any physical contact with Staats other than a hug at the end of one session.

Frazier says the investigation into the matter continued and led to contact with a second woman who alleged sexual assault by Staats. This woman also was in Staats’ care as a counselor as part of her probation. She reported that during a counseling session in July, Staats sat next to her on a couch and began to ask inappropriate questions and also fondled her breast.

Frazier says investigators were told Staats then exposed his genitals and encouraged the victim to perform oral sex on him.

Read the full police report below in which the complainant describes Staats as "a little weird" and includes the Facebook messages she received from him:

Under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. 16-6-5.1, it is illegal for practitioners of psychotherapy to have sexual relations with people under their care. Frazier says Staats also had supervisory authority over the victim because the patient was taking part in therapy as part of her probation.

The months-long investigation concluded in December with a detective obtaining a warrant for Staats’ arrest on December 21st on a charge of sexual assault by practitioner of psychotherapy.

The Facebook page for the Helping the Hurting: A Ministry of Compassion organization says Staats "has over 20 years of counseling experience."

However, NewsChannel 9 confirmed with the Georgia Secretary of State's office that Staats was not licensed to practice by the state.

According to the report, one of those patients says a judge ordered her to complete counseling and she was given a list of area providers.

NewsChannel 9 learned that list, is given out by the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.

"If she's alleging that a list was given to her by our department, it would have been just simply a list of any resource providers in the area to kind of help her make a decision as to where she was going to go for counseling," said James will with the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.

Their spokesperson says they don't verify the licenses of the people on that list or do criminal background checks.

Thursday, NewsChannel 9 received the following statement from a public affairs officer at the Georgia Department of Community Supervision:

"Like we discussed on the phone, regulating independent service providers is outside the purview of DCS, and questions regarding the licensing of counselors would be better answered by the Secretary of State's office. DCS is committed to offering opportunities for success to those under our supervision, and to that end, we will often help provide contact information for local providers known to us. Providing such information is a courtesy and in no way endorses any specific non-DCS service provider, or removes an individual's freedom to choose a provider of their choice that meets their court-ordered conditions of supervision.

When the allegations surrounding Staats initially emerged, our Dalton office worked with our partners in the criminal justice system to ensure that no one under our supervision would receive care from Staats, or would endure penalties for withdrawing from his counseling services. Although Staats was not a DCS employee or contractor, DCS takes allegations of providers' professional misconduct extremely seriously--especially when such misconduct preys on the vulnarabilities of those we are sworn to protect. In this case, we acted swiftly to remove supervised individuals from Staat's counseling practice."

The Georgia Department of Community Supervision says as soon as they learned of the allegations against Staats, they pulled all of the people under their supervision out of his care.

The Georgia Secretary of State's office says Staats isn't licensed through the state of Georgia, but Georgia law says becasue he is an ordained minister he isn't required to have a separate license to provide counseling.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, If a minister is providing clinical pastoral therapy, a license is required

Daniel Staats bonded out of jail on Friday. The Superior Court says they are still working on a court date.

NewsChannel 9 tried contacting him at home and through his business.

We have not heard back.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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