Trial for not reporting alleged assault resumes - East Valley Tribune: News

Trial for not reporting alleged assault resumes

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Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 8:12 pm | Updated: 11:49 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Employees at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital told investigators they believed that "something bad" happened as early as November to a 23-year-old incapacitated heart patient.

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A psychiatrist and other caregivers at the hospital described the woman, who was in the second-floor intensive care unit, as suddenly becoming scared, restless, angry and depressed, according to Scottsdale City Court documents.

The woman suffered a severe stroke, and could not speak. She could only draw and make gestures.

On Dec. 12, the former patient was able to draw some pictures for her speech therapist, Kate Leising, that showed her lying in her hospital bed with an "evil-looking man" standing over her that conveyed the message she had been the victim of a sexual assault on Nov. 17.

She described the man as white, in his 30s with short hair and wearing "scrubs," and he may have been a hospital worker. The woman described the assault as taking place for 20 minutes.

The alleged incident was not reported to police until Jan. 14, more than a month after the woman made claims of abuse.

Even though police closed the investigation in April due to lack of evidence, four Scottsdale Healthcare workers are facing misdemeanor charges of failing to report the alleged incident immediately and failing to provide a written report within the state-mandated 48 hours.

The trial began in Scottsdale City Court on Sept. 16 and is continuing this week.

INTERNAL INVESTIGATION

More than a dozen hospital workers became aware of the alleged sexual assault the patient indicated happened in her room that day, according to court and police records.

Gary Purcell, supervisor of hospital security, launched an internal investigation that lasted about two days - Dec. 12-13, and asked whether police should be called.

Purcell testified that Sue Livengood, associate vice president of Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn, told him to "hold off" on calling police and to keep the incident confidential.

"I was never told to cover it up, but to keep it confidential," he testified Monday.

Hospital attorneys said the woman didn't want authorities or her family to know about the incident, and because it was said to involve a hospital worker, hospital officials investigated the incident internally.

The hospital asserted that there was no reasonable basis to believe that an assault had happened. Hospital officials said the woman was shown more than 70 pictures of hospital workers, and none of them was identified as a possible assailant.

"I believed the woman thought mentally (she was assaulted), but I had my doubts that it physically occurred," Purcell testified Monday. "I didn't fully believe that it happened, and by the time I started looking into it, I didn't know if anything had happened." The hospital workers, Livengood, 53, Shelly VanVianen, 45, a registered nurse, Madlyn Costantino, 53, a rehabilitation coordinator, and Dr. Patricia Crellin, a psychiatrist, are facing charges in connection with failing to report the incident in a timely manner. The workers face up to six months in jail and $2,500 fines.

'SELECTIVE PROSECUTION'

Earlier this month, the judge denied the hospital's motion stating that the workers were not required to report the allegations because police failed in their investigation to apprehend a suspect.

Scottsdale Healthcare representatives contend that others should be standing trial as well, calling it a case of "selective prosecution."

"You have these individuals being held to a statute as to whether they did not report this, when there's even a stricter state statute that holds others to a higher standard - and they're not being charged," Stephen Roman, a spokesman for Scottsdale Healthcare, said on Monday in an interview with the Tribune. "We find that, in itself, interesting."

Scottsdale police officers were also required by state law to immediately report the incident to Adult Protective Services and provide a written report within 48 hours.

By the time police got wind of the incident in January, investigators received conflicting statements from hospital officials that clouded whether the incident could have really happened, officers said.

Detective Gregory Jiminez, the lead investigator on the case, testified Monday that Livengood told him in February: "There was no actual ability to discern there was a crime, but also said there was no reason to doubt the patient was sexually assaulted."

On Tuesday, officers Jennifer Cook and Michelle Mattlin and Detective Stacie Johnson testified they did not make any attempt to review medical records to determine whether the woman could have been sexually assaulted.

However, all three testified the hospital employees told them that they believed a sexual assault happened.

Those investigators, along with Jiminez on Monday, testified that they did not interview any of the woman's caregivers who worked the day of the alleged assault.

Scottsdale City Prosecutor Caron Close said after the hearing Tuesday that she couldn't make the decision at this time whether she would be filing charges against any others involved in the case, and would not discuss whether a rape kit was done on the woman.

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