Stand-up comic Paula Poundstone's alleged victims in a lewd acts and child endangerment case are her adopted and foster children, the director of the children's services agency confirmed Thursday.
"There's just not a whole lot we can divulge," said Anita Bock, head of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. "But I will say this: At this point, Paula Poundstone has to be considered innocent until otherwise proven."
Poundstone, 41, was arrested Wednesday in Malibu by Santa Monica police. She will be arraigned July 27 in Santa Monica Superior Court.
Poundstone was charged with committing a lewd act on a girl under 14 and with child endangerment for her treatment of four other children--two boys and two girls. Poundstone has three adopted and two foster children, her attorney said.
Poundstone's attorney, Steven Cron, said Thursday afternoon that his client denies the charges and plans to enter a not-guilty plea next month.
"She is very upset about the charges," Cron said. "The idea that Paula could have possibly mistreated any of the children in her care is beyond belief."
Cron said he has been aware of the allegations for more than a week, but still does not know where they originated. He added that he has received letters of support from fellow foster parents.
Calls to Poundstone's Santa Monica home Thursday were not returned. If convicted, the comedian could face up to 13 years and 4 months in state prison.
Court documents allege that Poundstone committed lewd acts against a girl on May 19, June 5 and June 6. The alleged child endangerment and additional lewd acts involving the other children occurred on June 6.
The children's service agency has taken the five children from Poundstone's home and put them in foster homes, Bock said. She added that the investigation is continuing.
The department began its investigation last month after receiving a report of the May 19 incident. Department officials would not say whether the report of alleged abuse came from a child or somebody else, but said they often receive complaints through a hotline.
The children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, according to Cron, all were in Poundstone's care. Their identities were not released.
Children's services spokeswoman Patty Matesic cautioned that not all complaints turn out to be legitimate. "It is not rare for kids to falsely report," she said.
Freed on $200,000 bail Wednesday night, Poundstone emerged from Santa Monica jail with her attorney, looking haggard and dazed. The comedian said she has "faith the truth" will come out.
Born in Alabama and raised in Massachusetts, Poundstone burst on the comedy scene in the 1980s, gaining a foothold doing stand-up in Boston and San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles.
Known for her dry, offbeat wit--and the fact that she sometimes did her "stand-up" routine lying down--Poundstone often touches on social and political issues.
Her fame grew in the '90s when she became a regular on national TV talk shows, including "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," where she received acclaim for her work as a correspondent at the 1992 political conventions.
As her career gained momentum, Poundstone began work that focused on children. She has written children's books, done voice-over work for TV cartoons--most notably the "Squigglevision" show on ABC--and appeared as a guest on "Sesame Street."
After volunteering in a group home in the early '90s, she began to take in foster children.
Poundstone told The Times in a 1992 interview that she decided to become a foster parent after meeting a board member at the Westside Children's Center, a private agency that has assigned foster children to Poundstone's home since 1993. Officials at the center declined comment on Thursday.