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Beck makes initial appearance facing charges of child abuse

Josh Beck, the former director of Cook County's Health and Human Services Department
Josh Beck, the former director of Cook County's Health and Human Services Department

Facing felony charges of child abuse, former Cook County Health and Human Services Director Joshua Beck made his first courtroom appearance on Monday, Sept. 11.

A total of four charges have been brought against Beck, including domestic assault and engaging in a past pattern of child abuse against a minor.

Beck was in the courtroom for more than an hour on Monday, though the charges he faces in this particular case were discussed briefly while an omnibus hearing and trial dates were set. An omnibus hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26, pre-trial is set for Oct. 9, with trial dates scheduled for Oct. 11-13.

Assistant Lake County Attorney Lara Nygaard is listed representing the state of Minnesota in this case against Beck. Nygaard requested bail be set at the amount of $50,000 and that Beck have no contact with his children before an outcome is reached in the case. However, Judge Michael Cuzzo ordered that bail be set at $20,000 and that it not be enacted unless Beck violates a series of mandates the court ordered, including that he not contact his children.  

According to court documents obtained by WTIP, staff from the First Witness Child Advocacy organization based in Duluth interviewed two minor children involved in the allegations. A 10-year-old victim said Beck had been abusing her for years, and that he calls her names, throws objects at her and uses physical violence toward her.

On one occasion, she said Beck became angry, grabbed her by the neck and choked her until she could no longer breathe. A 12-year-old minor who is also listed in the report, said Beck “likes to cause him pain.”

Both victims also described an incident in Arizona that took place approximately two years ago, when Beck allegedly became angry and threw one of the victims to the ground. The act caused bleeding to the 12-year-old victim’s head. The other minor said she was also thrown during the incident, a violent act that injured her ankle and she was unable to walk for several days. Court documents say neither one of the victims were provided medical attention after all of the aforementioned incidents.

Two felony charges were filed against Beck on Aug. 1 by the State of Minnesota along with two other gross misdemeanors.

The charges include one count of domestic assault by strangulation, another count of assault in the third degree, and two charges for child endangerment. Beck resigned as the director of the Cook County Health and Human Services Department in July.

Court records list Beck’s attorney as Christa Groshek from Minneapolis. Though on Monday Beck was represented by Grand Marais based attorney Tyson Smith.

Also present during Monday’s courtroom proceedings was Priscilla Beck, the wife of Josh Beck. According to social service workers and attorneys who spoke during Monday’s hearing, Priscilla and Josh are still married and have intentions to remain married. However, Josh Beck has returned to Arizona and is employed by Gila County. Prior to his arrival in Cook County, Beck worked in the human services department in Gila County, Arizona. Priscilla, meanwhile, is living in Indiana near her mother, Karen Perkins.

Smith said his client returned to Grand Marais for Monday’s hearing at “a great expense” and will do so for all required courtroom appearances.

After the hearings and trial dates were set in the case against Beck, a second courtroom proceeding took place involving both Josh and Priscilla Beck, as well as Priscilla’s mother, Karen Perkins. This was essentially a custody case to determine where the Becks’ children should remain until the situation is resolved. So while Josh Beck is living in Arizona, Priscilla, meanwhile, is living in Indiana near her mother, Karen Perkins. The Beck’s children are in custody of Perkins until Beck’s charges are determined by the court, possibly through a jury unless a plea is reached.

Following a lengthy discussion between four attorneys and several social service workers, as well as Judge Cuzzo, it was determined that the children should remain in the custody of Perkins for at least the time being.

A separate hearing regarding custody or placement of the Beck children is scheduled for later in October.

Following all of the discussion surrounding the case against Josh Beck and custody of the Beck children, a brief hearing was held regarding a misdemeanor charge Karen Perkins faces for disorderly conduct, listed in the charges as “brawling or fighting.” This charge was also brought forth by the state of Minnesota. A second hearing is scheduled for Oct. 24 in that case.