nurse receives 10 years in prison for the rape of a disabled woman in a care facility where she gave birth |


(AP) – A former Arizona nurse was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday for sexually assaulting a disabled woman in a long-term care facility where she later gave birth.

Nathan Sutherland received the maximum sentence under his agreement to plead guilty to sexual assault. He also received life probation for a conviction for abusing a vulnerable adult as a result of his treatment of the woman.

“It is hard to imagine an adult more vulnerable than the victim in this case,” said Superior Court judge Margaret LaBianca, adding that Sutherland had exploited his position of trust as a caregiver to sexually assault the victim.

The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 when an employee at the Hacienda health care facility in Phoenix was changing the clothes of the then 29-year-old victim and noticed that the patient was in labor. Employees told police they had no idea the woman was pregnant.

Police said Sutherland’s DNA matched a sample taken from the woman’s son. The victim’s mother is the boy’s guardian.

Before sentencing, Sutherland spoke to the judge about the problems in his life that resulted from being offered for adoption as a child. He also apologized to the victim and his family and said he understood the situation was not fair for the child either.

“To the victim, I’m sorry,” Sutherland said. “You didn’t deserve to be hurt, no matter what was going on in my personal life and the demons I was fighting. I was not allowed to do this to you.”

The surprise birth sparked reviews by state agencies, highlighted safety concerns for severely disabled or incapacitated patients, and resulted in the resignation of Hacienda’s CEO and one of the doctors in the victim.

This led to a lawsuit by the parents of the victim who alleged Sutherland looked after their daughter on hundreds of occasions from 2012 to 2018, despite promises from the state – which contracts with companies like Hacienda. to provide services to people with intellectual disabilities – that only women would care for her. An expert on behalf of his family said many of Sutherland’s encounters with the patient occurred overnight, with fewer staff and visitors.

Lawyers for the family said Hacienda had seen no signs the woman was carrying a baby, pointing out that she had gained weight, had a swollen belly and missed periods in the months leading up to the birth of the child. They said the victim, who has a feeding tube and whose nutrition was reduced in response to her pregnancy weight gain, gave birth to the boy while she was severely dehydrated and without pain medication.

The victim lived in Hacienda for 26 years, until the birth of the child. His medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and loss of vision. She was also left without functional use of her limbs.

Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, was fired by Hacienda after her arrest and has since relinquished her nursing license.

A judge approved a $ 15 million settlement against a doctor who treated the woman for 26 years while she lived at Hacienda Healthcare. The doctor’s insurer argued that he had no obligation to pay this amount.

The state of Arizona settled $ 7.5 million last summer.

Perry Petrilli, the current CEO of Hacienda Healthcare, issued a statement saying that employees have cooperated with law enforcement authorities, have kept the victim and her family in their thoughts and that “we are relieved may he never torment another innocent human being again. “

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