A former Arizona nurse charged with abusing a woman in a vegetative state who had been in his care and who later gave birth to his child, pleaded guilty to sexual assault on Thursday, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The nurse, Nathan Sutherland, who worked at a Phoenix nursing home, also pleaded guilty to one count of abusing a vulnerable adult, also a felony.
Mr. Sutherland, 39, faces up to 10 years in prison on the sexual assault charge, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said in a statement; the abuse charge carries lifelong probation. Sutherland is being held at the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix until his next court appearance, scheduled for November 4.
Mr Sutherland had previously pleaded innocent during a minute-long arraignment in February 2019. A lawyer for Mr Sutherland was not immediately available for comment Friday.
The criminal case began to unfold in December 2018, when a woman at a Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix who can’t speak or walk gave birth to a boy, much to the surprise of employees at the facility, which specializes in long-term care for people. with an intellectual disability.
In the weeks that followed, the investigation became the main focus of the Phoenix Police Department, the chief said at the time, and led to questions about the company’s operations and conduct. The company’s former chief executive resigned shortly after the arrest, and the facility became the focus of not only police investigations, but Arizona Department of Health Services investigations and state investigations into Medicaid fraud.
The state’s attorney general’s office eventually found that former officers with Hacienda had incorrectly allotted money, inflated expense reports, and applied incorrect billing, resulting in an overpayment of nearly $11 million from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to the facility.
The case also led to a lawsuit filed by the victim’s parents alleging that despite promises from the state that only women would take care of their daughter, Mr Sutherland cared for her hundreds of times between 2012 and 2018, reported The Arizona Republic.
According to medical records, the woman was in the same condition, unable to communicate or move since she entered the nursing home in 1992, when she was 3 years old. The family’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
During the investigation, Phoenix Police Department collected DNA from male staffers at the facility, targeting Mr. Sutherland for being one of the Hacienda HealthCare medical staff members who were on duty to care for the woman around that time in 2018. that the police thought she had been attacked. A DNA sample from Mr. Sutherland matched that of the child, a boy born in December 2018. mr. Sutherland was arrested the following month and sent to a Maricopa County jail on charges of one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.
Mr Sutherland, a licensed practice nurse, has worked at Hacienda since at least 2012 and was assigned to a unit for the treatment of the mentally handicapped in 2014, the company said in a statement in 2019. He was immediately fired after the company learned of his arrest. said that statement.
Since its founding in the late 1970s, Hacienda HealthCare has grown into one of the largest private healthcare providers in Arizona for people with severe cognitive and physical disabilities, operating mostly out of a single campus about six miles south of downtown Phoenix.
“After more than two and a half years, we at Hacienda HealthCare are all relieved that Nathan Sutherland has finally pleaded guilty to his horrific violations,” the company said Thursday.