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NASGA is a public interest civil rights organization founded by several victims and for victims of unlawful and abusive guardianship and conservatorship cases. Please visit our website at for more information on how you can help stop guardian abuse.

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    A case involving a charge of financial exploitation of the elderly has been delayed as both sides gather more evidence.

    Michael Anthony Stewart, 43, stands accused as the owner of Budget Home Repair. Prosecutors said a 60-year-old woman was told to pay $25,700 to repair a sump pump and seal a basement water problem. She was told she’d have no choice but to tear her house down if she didn’t make the repairs, according to the charges.

    Richard Shelton, a St. Joseph Police Department detective, stated in court documents that Stewart overcharged for work not needed and did so by making false claims.

    Stewart was originally represented by Michael Insco. However, he withdrew. Sean Pickett, a Kansas City attorney, now represents Stewart.

    Ron Holliday, the assistant Buchanan County prosecutor, reported investigators uncovered additional information about the case.

    Pickett announced he’s in the process of also uncovering additional evidence.

    Circuit Judge Patrick Robb gave the defense 45 more days to file the new discovery and provide it to the prosecution.

    Holliday also told the judge that Shelton would be out of the country during the trial and asked to have the date changed.

    Robb agreed to cancel the trial scheduled to begin on Monday, Oct. 23. The judge ordered the four-day jury trial to be reset to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

    Full Article & Source:
    Trial delayed in elderly exploitation case

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    Click to Watch Video
    New charges of abuse have again rocked the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital.

    Three more Whiting employees — in addition to the 31 suspended and nine arrested in the spring and summer for patient abuse — have been transferred from their jobs and are under internal investigation for an alleged assault of the same patient in a Whiting bathroom within the last 30 days, a source inside the maximum-security psychiatric hospital said. This comes months after surveillance video tape captured extended abuse of that 62-year-old patient, and led to the suspensions beginning in March and the arrests earlier this month.

    Officials with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services did not comment directly on the new allegations.

    Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon said in a statement that the agency “is committed to being transparent regarding alleged patient abuse at Whiting Forensic Division while still maintaining the integrity of ongoing investigations.

    “As we have discussed DMHAS takes violations of work rules very seriously and investigates them fully.”

    The department oversees Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, which includes Whiting.

    The patient’s co-conservator told The Courant on Thursday that she’d recently received a call from the Whiting administration that had unnerved her.

    Karen Kangas said she was told that a Whiting nurse had received a call on her cellphone advising her that the patient might be the victim of further abuse and to check the bathrooms.

    Kangas said Whiting officials confirmed to her on Thursday that the workers had been shifted from their jobs and were going through “due process” as the officials assessed the allegations.

    “My first thought was, ‘This can’t possibly be happening now, after all this,’’’ said Kangas, a mental health advocate and a former official with DMHAS.

    “It’s shocking, and it makes me question whether they are taking this seriously. I have to wonder if [the patient] is safe,” Kangas said.

    It could not be determined if mental health officials have notified state police investigators about the most recent allegations. Detectives have charged nine of the suspended Whiting workers with cruelty to persons, a felony.

    No charges have been filed against the three additional workers.

    Sen. Heather Somers of Groton, the Republican co-chairwoman of the public-health committee, has called for a hearing on the abuse at Whiting, as well as on what she sees as a leadership vacuum and out-of-control costs, including large amounts of overtime for treatment workers.

    The daily cost of care for each patient at Whiting is $1,500, or $547,500 per patient annually.

    Treatment workers and nurses routinely double their salaries in overtime — a situation that state auditors said raises both safety and financial concerns. The 31 suspended workers collectively earned several hundred thousand dollars in overtime alone in the last fiscal year.

    Full Article & Source:
    3 Whiting Workers Investigated Over Allegations Of New Assault On Abused Patient

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    Kathleen Prunier
    ELLSWORTH — A Trenton woman was acquitted Tuesday of theft from an elderly man with dementia but still faces a civil lawsuit filed by the man’s family.

    Kathleen Prunier, 59, had been charged with theft by unauthorized taking for misleading the elderly Trenton property owner that a parcel of land she purchased from him was worth far less than its assessed value. The case was heard during a three-day bench trial in August in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court.

    The judge in the case, Justice Michael Roberts, handed down the verdict Tuesday, saying that he could “not find beyond a reasonable doubt” that Prunier committed a crime.

    Roberts called the case “somewhat unusual” in that it hinged upon the mental state of the property owner, Richard Royal. Prunier, who was friends with Royal, purchased the property in 2014. He died in July at the age of 85.

    “Mr. Royal suffered from cognitive impairment from 2012 forward,” Roberts noted. “The impairment became more substantial as time went on.”

    Testimony during the trial revealed Prunier brought Royal to the home of Trenton’s administrative assistant, who is a notary, on a day his caretaker was absent to have the sales contract notarized. Under the contract, Prunier bought the 5.27-acre property with right-of-way to the shore for $4,000, with a payment plan where she was to pay $49.38 per month with no interest.

    Royal’s cognitive decline led his doctor to conclude that he needed help with financial transactions. In response, his niece Lisa Harriman was given power of attorney. But according to a July 2015 letter from the doctor, Royal was still “capable of making decisions,” Roberts said.

    The value of the property was questioned during the trial. Roberts described the evidence presented as “all over the place.”

    Roberts stressed that Prunier was charged with a criminal act, which has a higher standard of proof than a civil action.

    Outside the courtroom, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who prosecuted the case, said this was the first case involving a theft from an elderly person that the financial crimes division has prosecuted.

    “This is new ground here,” she said. “Elder financial exploitation is growing. I think it was important to bring to trial.”

    Robbin described Roberts’ decision as “reasonable and well-thought-out.” She agreed that evidence regarding the true value of the property was “muddled.” Citing the town’s valuation, Robbin said it wasn’t simply a matter of showing that Prunier bought a $75,000 property for $4,000.

    Robbin said Prunier still faces a civil suit brought by Royal’s family and echoed Roberts’ comment that there is a lower standard of proof required in civil cases.

    Harriman also faces a criminal charge. She was indicted by a grand jury in October 2016 on a theft charge. She is charged with taking control of cash in excess of $10,000 during the period between November 2012 and July 2015. Robbin said the case “hopefully” will go to trial before the end of the year.

    Prunier is a veterinarian who once operated Your Pet’s Next Best Friend in Bar Harbor.

    Full Article & Source:
    Trenton woman not guilty of elder theft

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    Click to Watch Video
    SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - Across the country, billions of dollars are lost annually to elder financial exploitation, according to Vera House, Inc. in Syracuse.

    New York State Police are currently investigating a recent case of alleged elder financial exploitation.

    Police say a Canastota couple is being charged with grand larceny. They're accused of scamming an East Syracuse man in his 80's and getting money from him over the course of a year.

    Investigators say Kenneth Bennett, 58, was working as a handyman for the victim before they became friends. He then allegedly told the victim he was in trouble with the mafia and owed people a lot of money.

    Police say Michelle Beck, 47, would call the victim pretending to be from the mafia and telling the victim they would hurt him, if he didn't give them money.

    "Cases like this happen all the time in our community," said Jenny Ackley, a project coordinator for abuse in later life at Vera House. "It can be millions of dollars and we have had cases like that. We've had cases that are $100,000 and people lose their life-savings, lose their homes or it could be $1,000 but that is their life-savings and everything they have is now gone."

    Ackley says 90 percent of these cases are at the hands of a family member or someone else who becomes close to the victim.

    "Somebody who does things for that person and all of sudden they become reliant on them," Ackley said. "They trust them. Once that trust has been built that's when the abuse can start to happen."

    In Central New York, she says for every one case called in -- 34 go unreported.

    Vera House works on these cases daily alongside other agencies such as the Office for Aging, the NYS Attorney General's Office, Adult Protective Services and the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office.

    "If people are concerned about somebody they know, it never hurts to make a phone call here," Ackley said. "Or get on the phone with that individual that you're concerned about and call together, help them through that process because there's all kinds of abuse."

    Warning signs of elder financial exploitation:
    -Sudden use of an ATM by the victim
    -Large amounts of money withdrawn
    -More checks made out to "cash"
    -Someone new accompanying the victim to the bank

    -Vera House Inc. 24-Hour Crisis & Support Line: (315) 468-3260
    -Adult Protective Services: (315) 435-2815
    -Office for Aging: (315) 435-2362
    -NYS Attorney General's Office: (315) 448-4800

    Full Article & Source:
    Vera House: Money stolen from the elderly happens every day in CNY

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    MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — A Paducah nursing home could potentially be paying out $28 million for neglecting one of their patients and trying to cover up an injury.

    Recent court documents show jurors in the McCracken County Circuit Court found McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation guilty of negligence and other charges earlier this year.
    According to the court documents, Cecil Gary fell while in the nursing home’s care but the nursing home did not report it to his family which is required by law. It is not mentioned in the documents when the fall happened.
    Along with negligence, jurors also found the nursing home guilty of losing or destroying medical records, causing physical pain and suffering, and not treating Gary with dignity and respect.
    The $25 million awarded by the jurors is a recommendation only and is not legally binding. A judge will take the recommendation into consideration and decide how much McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation has to pay.

    McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation is locate at 867 McGuire Avenue in Paducah. The case against the nursing home was brought by a guardian of Cecil Gary.
    Attorneys for the nursing home sent Local 6 this statement:
    “We do not agree with the verdict and were disappointed in this wildly excessive $28 million judgment awarded by the jury.
    We maintain that our staff provided appropriate intervention in an urgent situation, keeping our residents’ best interests in mind. We stand by the facts and testimony in the case, and are evaluating all our legal options moving forward.
    This is yet another example of the extreme risk involved with operating a nursing facility in Kentucky, where the industry remains under attack from aggressive Plaintiff’s firms that distort the facts and where any jury in any county can, at any time, render an unlimited verdict purely at their own discretion.
    McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is a good facility, staffed by dedicated caregivers who go above and beyond for their residents every day.”
     (Click to Read Court Document)

    Full Article & Source:
    McCracken County nursing home found guilty of negligence

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    Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Three years ago, J.J. Hanson received a diagnosis that no one wants to hear. He had terminal brain cancer, and doctors said his time was short – he likely had about four months to live.

    “The surgeon said my cancer was inoperable and three different doctors told me there was nothing they could do,” Hanson said.

    He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same type of brain cancer that led Brittany Maynard to choose to take her life through assisted suicide in a high-profile case in California in 2014.

    “I would have easily met the criteria for accessing assisted suicide if I lived in a state like Oregon or California, where assisted suicide is legal,” Hanson said.

    “In a dark moment, I might have opted for it, but I am fortunate to have a supportive family, and was given the opportunity to pursue cutting edge, experimental treatment instead,” he said. “Here I am three years later, enjoying the arrival of our second son and living life to the fullest.”

    Today, Hanson is president of the Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes efforts to legalize assisted suicide. The group is currently backing a Congressional resolution objecting to assisted suicide on the grounds that it puts all people at risk.

    “When assisted suicide becomes accepted public policy it threatens the lives of everyone, especially the poor, elderly, mentally ill, disabled, and terminally ill,” he said. “Why? Well, for starters, abuse is unavoidable and doctors are fallible. Assisted suicide policy also injects government insurers and private insurance companies with financial incentives into every single person’s end of life decisions.”

    House Congressional Resolution 80, proposed by Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) on Sept. 26, has nine co-sponsors from both parties. Besides Hanson’s group, other supporting groups includes the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Not Dead Yet, ADAPT, and Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Fund.

    Rep. Wenstrup and the resolution’s sponsors said doctor-assisted suicide “undermines a key safeguard that protects our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and people experiencing psychiatric diagnoses. Americans deserve better.”

    “When governments support, encourage, or facilitate suicide – whether assisted by physicians or others – we devalue our fellow citizens, our fellow human beings,” the legislators said. “That should not be who we are.”

    The proposed resolution says that assisted suicide “puts everyone, including those most vulnerable, at risk of deadly harm and undermines the integrity of the health care system.” It notes that the purported “safeguards” limit the laws to patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live, but such people “outlive their prognoses every day.”

    The federal government “should ensure that every person facing the end of their life has access to the best quality and comprehensive medical care,” including palliative or hospice care, says the resolution. It says the federal government “should not adopt or endorse policies or practices that support, encourage, or facilitate suicide or assisted suicide, whether by physicians or others.”

    States with legal assisted suicide have come under criticism for lacking adequate safeguards to protect those who are depressed or pressured into requesting assisted suicide. Reporting standards for assisted suicide are substandard, according to the resolution. It also objects that some states require physicians to conceal assisted suicide and to list the cause of death as the underlying condition.

    It adds that the low cost of lethal medication will make it more likely to be recommended to disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

    Full Article & Source:
    Three years later, this terminally ill man is glad he rejected assisted suicide

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    Roxann Bucchan-Straker
    SILVER SPRING, Md. - A Maryland caregiver who pleaded guilty to abusing an elderly woman has been sentenced to a year in prison after being captured on video striking the victim several times.

    Several videos shows Roxann Bucchan-Straker hitting the 95-year-old woman, who uses a wheelchair, in the head with a cell phone at least twice along with slapping the woman multiple times while she was eating her meals.

    The physical abuse happened at the Springvale Terrace retirement community in Silver Spring in 2015.

    Bucchan-Straker was given three years probation in addition to her prison sentence.

    Full Article & Source:
    Caregiver sentenced to year in prison for abusing 95-year-old woman

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    Michelle Alexander
    NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) A court-appointed guardian has been charged after allegedly stealing more than $51,000 from a man she was caring for.

    Police say that in August of 2015, 45-year-old Michelle Alexander became the caregiver for a Kendallville man who was in declining health.

    During October to December of 2015, police say Alexander used the victim's disability checks for her own financial benefit.

    In 2016, a new guardian was appointed due to a lack of communication from Alexander. A short time later, an audit revealed discrepancies in the victim's finances.

    Alexander was arrested on theft charges and later released on bail.

    From Indiana State Police:

    A 45 year old woman from Reading, Michigan was recently jailed on a charge alleging she stole more than $51,000 from a man she was supposed to be caring for.

    The investigation by Indiana State Police Detective Mike Carroll revealed in August of 2015, Michelle Lynn Alexander, 45 of Reading, Michigan was appointed by the Noble County Circuit Court as a court appointed guardian of a then 59 year old man from Kendallville who suffered from declining mental and physical health.

    During the time period between October 2015 and December 2015, it is alleged that Alexander accessed the victim’s bank account and used his disability checks for her own financial benefit, and not the benefit of the victim. The total loss incurred by the victim totaled more than $51,000.

    In July of 2016, the victim was transferred to a mental health facility in Jay County by Alexander and shortly thereafter, a new guardian had been appointed because of a lack of communication from Alexander. An audit was then conducted and the significant discrepancies in the victim’s finances were discovered. Carroll was made aware of the theft in May of this year, and following a four month long investigation, the case was presented to the Noble County Prosecutor’s Office who filed the following charge:

    • Theft, Level 5 Felony

    Alexander turned herself into the Noble County Jail on September 24, 2017 and has since been released on bond.

    Full Article & Source:
    Court-appointed guardian charged with stealing from man in her care

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    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The suspension of a former York County probate judge's law license for two years for ethics violations will go into effect on Oct. 1.

    The Maine State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it won't reconsider the suspension of attorney Robert Nadeau.

    The court cited a series of ethical lapses and breaches of judicial conduct. Among other things, he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a client and trying to ban several lawyers from getting court-appointed work because of a personal vendetta.

    The court Nadeau was unable to show he was treated more harshly than others having identified no other Maine lawyer "with a history of professional misconduct violations as extensive as his own."
    Nadeau declined comment Friday afternoon.

    Full Article & Source:
    2-year suspension upheld for former probate judge

    See Also:
    Former Probate Judge Nadeau suspended

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    Bossier City resident Deshae Lott was 5 years old when she started having trouble walking — the first symptoms of a rare and serious disease that would mark her life.

    By age 11, she could no longer climb stairs. By 17, she couldn't walk. And by age 31, she couldn't breathe on her own.

    Lott’s diagnosis of Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy is rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the best research has been done in England, where two out of about every 100,000 people had some form of the disorder.

    But Lott said her specific subtype, involving a rare recessive gene inheritance pattern, exists in only 13 known cases internationally, according to a conversation she had with a genetics counselor at Emory University's genetics lab in 2016.

    Now 46, Lott is a red-headed woman with bright blue eyes, elfin features, a warm smile and gentle voice. She also is confined to a wheelchair and unable to breathe without a ventilator, which beats a metronome-like staccato heard throughout her quiet Bossier City home.  

    Under a doctor’s directive, she requires 24-hour daily care from skilled nurses who can handle her medical needs, which include administering a minimum of four to six breathing treatments, operating coughing and lung suctioning machines at least six times daily, and doling out four to five different medications over every 24 hours.

    Until recently, the majority of her care was provided by licensed practical nurses through a state-licensed home health agency and the state-funded New Opportunities Waiver program.

    But in late August, Lott and her husband, Jeff Sadow, received a formal discharge letter in which the agency said it no longer could meet her needs. The couple spent several desperate weeks searching for other options, with Lott concerned that her services would stop and that she would die.

    A glimmer of "true hope" came Thursday — four days before the scheduled end of Lott's services. A representative from the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities called to say that a new home health agency had committed verbally to taking Lott's case and to beginning services Tuesday.

    Details hadn't been finalized, Lott said. But she hopes that sharing her story can help others in a similar situation throughout the state.

    "The one comfort I have had during this process is that my case and any attention it receives could help bring about some needed constructive reforms," Lott said. "Lives depend on it."

    While Lott’s medical condition puts her at the extreme end of those seeking home-based health care, she is not alone.

    As of June, more than 30,000 elderly or disabled Louisianians were on a waiting list to receive Medicaid-funded, home-based services instead of through a nursing home, according to The Advocate.

    And the waiting list for New Opportunities Waivers — through which Lott receives her services — runs to more than 15,800 people, said Louisiana Department of Health spokeswoman Samantha Hartmann.  (Click to Continue)

    Full Article & Source:
    She needs 24-hour nursing. Then she was told it would end

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    Mark Cusson, the supervisory forensic nurse on third shift at the maximum security Whiting psychiatric hospital, seemed to lead by example, with other workers either joining him as he rained abuse on a patient in the early morning hours, or watching mutely as it happened, according to warrants unsealed Wednesday in the widening abuse scandal.

    Cusson, 49, of Southington, was observed on video kicking the patient repeatedly, dousing him with an unspecified liquid, straddling the patient in bed and placing his groin and then his butt on the patient’s face, the warrant states. Most of the time, the patient was in bed when the early morning abuse began, the arrest warrant states. Sometimes, Cusson would just roll into the room from the hall on his office chair or stride into the room and walk around the patient’s bed. When the patient sat up and began to watch Cusson, the head nurse would dart in a different direction and suddenly feint toward and away from the patient, causing the patient to follow his movements in apparent anticipation of another attack.

    Cusson maintains his innocence and his lawyer, Brian Woolf of East Hartford, has said he and his client expect a favorable outcome of the criminal case.

    The warrant affidavits for the nine staff members arrested in the case are each a little different — tailored by state police detectives to the maltreatment they observed in hours and hours of surveillance tape shot from a camera in the 62-year-old patient’s room. Allegations in the other warrants include workers placing a dirty diaper on the patient’s head and wrapping a sheet around his head and over his face.

    Cusson was charged with eight counts of cruelty to persons, a felony — the most of the nine defendants charged in a scandal that has seen 31 workers suspended. Another three Whiting employees, including another forensic head nurse, were transferred from their jobs as new abuse allegations involving the same patient, surfacing in recent days, are investigated internally.

    Writing in support of Cusson’s arrest, state police Det. Matthew Geddes said Whiting’s director of nursing, Renata Kozak, contacted police officers with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the agency overseeing Connecticut Valley Hospital and its Whiting Forensic Divsion, and said she had received a report from an agency employee “alleging abuse” against the patient.

    Kozak, who herself has been suspended, told DMHAS police that she was “requesting the video recording from the patient’s room” in unit 6 at Whiting “be downloaded and saved onto a DVD disc for viewing,” the warrant states.

    The warrant doesn’t answer a question asked by patient-rights advocates, the patient’s co-conservator, and critics of the way Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon have responded to the scandal:

    Why didn’t one of the many layers of DMHAS and Whiting management catch the videotaped abuse while it was happening or soon after?

    A recent investigation by the state Department of Public Health found that the video monitors and the tape-recordings were not routinely viewed, prompting Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, the co-chair of the legislature’s public health committee, to ask, among other things, how the state’s mental health system can have a surveillance setup and not use it.

    After detailing episodes of Cusson allegedly kicking the patient in bed, or trapping the patient’s neck between his legs in a “scissor hold,” or putting his foot on the patient’s head and pushing down, the warrant describes one of the more jarring acts attributed to him:

    “Cusson is seen entering the patient’s room, going straight to the patient, turning around and placing his buttocks very close to the patient’s face for several seconds. Cusson moves away from the patient for approximately a minute, then returns, mounts the patient’s bed and straddles himself over the patient, placing his groin in the patient’s face,” the warrant states.

    “Cusson then makes a back and forth motion toward the patient’s face with his groin … Cusson gets off the patient, comes around the patient’s bed, and again bends over and places his buttocks in the patient’s face.”

    Full Article & Source:
    Arrest Warrant Details Abuse Of Whiting Patient

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    Rob Zink, an officer with the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota
    An Op-Ed essay last month about the fraught encounter between an Arizona teenager with autism, Connor Leibel, and a police officer inspired thoughtful comments, so we invited the author, Steve Silberman, to address a few in this follow-up. Comments have been edited for clarity and length.

    Hen3ry in Westchester County, N.Y.: It’s not only police officers who need to understand how autistic people behave. Plenty of “normal” people should as well. What I’ve seen is this: People find young handicapped children adorable or great but once those children grow into tweens, teens and young adulthood they run from them. They also tend to react badly to developmentally handicapped adults and read various things into their behavior that aren’t there.

    A. I agree completely. This is a problem for people with many types of disabilities, in part because fund-raising organizations have historically put cute kids front and center to tug at donors’ heartstrings, going all the way back to Jerry Lewis’s annual Labor Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association featuring “Jerry’s kids.” Portraying disabled people as infantile, dependent and incapable of making their own decisions adds to stigma and fear, while sidelining the needs of disabled adults for suitable accommodations in employment, housing and health care in favor of an often elusive search for a cure.

    Even profoundly disabled adults (including those often described in the press as “wheelchair-bound”) can take a very active role in public life, as evidenced by the bold protests mounted last week in Washington against the Republican Party’s proposed cuts to Medicaid by grass-roots groups like Adapt.

    For decades, autism was defined by the psychiatric establishment as a form of childhood psychosis akin to schizophrenia, and teenagers and adults in this country were unlikely to receive a diagnosis of autism until the introduction of the concept of Asperger’s syndrome in the early 1990s.

    Furthermore, for most of the 20th century, the recommended course of treatment for autism was lifelong institutionalization, largely because psychiatrists mistakenly believed that autism was caused by cold and unloving “refrigerator mothers.” Removing the child from the allegedly toxic family environment was considered therapeutic, while parents were told that they should quietly remove their son’s or daughter’s pictures from the family photo albums and “move on.” Thus the first two generations of children with autism diagnoses disappeared behind the walls of state-run institutions as they grew into adolescence and adulthood.

    The fear-mongering messaging of parent-run advocacy organizations like Autism Speaks — such as a retracted 2009 video called “I Am Autism,” which featured images of children being stalked through playgrounds by a disembodied threat that works “faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined” — hasn’t helped to frame autism as what it truly is for a vast majority of those affected: a chronic condition that requires accommodations and support for life. The relentless focus on children also skews research priorities worldwide, favoring studies that focus on kids while neglecting the needs of adults, which include learning how to advocate for themselves once their parents are no longer alive.

    Fortunately, that’s starting to change in response to criticism from autistic-run groups like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autism Women’s Network. In 2015, Autism Speaks appointed two autistic self-advocates to its board, which is a small step in the right direction. Autistic people should play prominent decision-making roles in any organization that claims to represent them.

    From KidsDoc in New York:This article highlights the challenges special-needs people face daily. By no means do only autistic people face these difficulties. Imagine a hearing-impaired person not “responding” to an officer’s command. The real issue is not lack of training but lack of empathy and an overwhelming deference to law enforcement in this country. If you are a person of color and autistic, as many of my patients are, it is scary. The Americans With Disabilities Act mandates all kinds of accommodations, but it cannot mandate empathy.

    A. You’re absolutely right that these problems are not limited to interactions between autistic people and the police. Last month in Oklahoma City, Madgiel Sanchez, a deaf Hispanic man who carried a short pipe that he used to communicate, was fatally shot by an officer outside his home as his young neighbor shouted, “Don’t kill him, he’s deaf.”

    This killing is part of a larger pattern of law enforcement failing to uphold the mandates of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires the government to provide “effective communication,” “reasonable accommodation” and equal access to services for all disabled people. An online log of alleged incidents of discrimination by police officers, compiled by a nonprofit organization called Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf, contains troubling descriptions of officers intimidating, tackling, handcuffing and shooting deaf and hard-of-hearing people while failing to provide alternative means of communication, such as American Sign Language interpreters.

    This situation is even more dire for disabled people of color. Starting in 2010, a black teenager with autism named Reginald Latson, convicted of assaulting a police officer, endured a hellish four-year journey through the criminal justice system in Virginia, including stints in solitary confinement. The county prosecutor who handled the case dismissed the relevance of his diagnosis, determined to prove that the teenager was motivated by “racial hate” and “hate for law enforcement.” (Mr. Latson was transferred to a secure treatment facility in Florida after being granted a conditional pardon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2015.)

    Cases like Mr. Latson’s are not isolated incidents but a systemic problem. Last February, a jury exonerated police officers of wrongdoing in the case of Tario Anderson, a black autistic man who was taking a walk on Christmas Eve in 2014 when officers responding to a report of gunshots in the neighborhood shocked him with a Taser and arrested him. “These are police officers,” Mr. Anderson’s mother, Carolyn, said after the verdict. “We don’t stand a chance, especially when you’re poor and black.”

    You’re also right that laws like the A.D.A. can’t mandate empathy, and I agree that a pervasive lack of empathy for people with disabilities is one of the most serious challenges that we face as a society. The photographs of disabled activists being arrested last week for protesting potential cuts to Medicaid should shock the conscience and motivate our congressional representatives to develop a bipartisan approach to health care that doesn’t condemn disabled people to lives of misery and poverty. In a sense, however, it’s not the job of laws like the A.D.A. to mandate empathy. It’s their job to provide people with disabilities with the means to seek legal recourse when they are discriminated against. The A.D.A. is like any other civil-rights law in that way.

    Jonathan Baker in New York City:It was harrowing watching the video of Connor Leibel’s encounter with the police officer because I was expecting the worst possible outcome. But the boy’s caretaker wisely defused the situation, carefully and politely explaining the boy’s medical condition. The policeman was receptive and willing to adjust to that reality. It was a misunderstanding.

    A. I agree that Connor’s caretaker, Diane Craglow, handled a frightening situation with calm, grace, efficiency and good humor. One thing that struck me on reviewing the video was how many times Ms. Craglow said, “I’m sorry,” to Officer David Grossman, as if any of the events that had transpired were her or Connor’s fault. In fact, they’d done nothing wrong.

    But I also don’t blame Officer Grossman for overreacting to Connor’s behavior. I blame the kind of institutionalized neglect that puts officers on the street without the training that would enable them to recognize one of the most common ways that people with autism soothe themselves in tense situations: “stimming,” the repetitive movements that Connor was making that made the officer suspicious.

    Stimming and unusual movements are Autism 101, so to speak — they’re among the first behaviors you learn to recognize by observing people on the spectrum. Given how common autism is (1 in 68 schoolchildren are on the spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this is like putting cops on the beat who are unable to tell the difference between a drunken driver and a driver navigating through an unfamiliar neighborhood. It’s not fair to the policemen, and it’s not fair to the disabled people they encounter.

    These misunderstandings have serious consequences. The traumatic memories of this incident have had a lasting effect on Connor’s ability to feel secure in public, Ms. Craglow says. Connor has become fearful of men in general, and when Connor’s grandfather offered to shake his hand recently, the boy replied, “Will you hurt me?” Ms. Craglow also says that she can hear Connor verbally rehearsing the incident to himself, as autistic people often do, saying: “You pushed me into a tree. You shouldn’t have done that. That wasn’t nice.”

    Thomas Zaslavsky in Binghamton, N.Y.: There’s a bigger question here, behind the autism question: Why are the police confrontational? Why do they, as described here, provoke intensification of difficult situations? Why are they seeking out signs of guilt or of incipient violence? Behind that, why are we training them that way? Why are we providing them with face masks, or armored cars with mounted machine guns? What happened to community policing, when the police are part of the community, not enemies?

    A. I think you’re right that the militarization of local law enforcement — which has accelerated under the Trump administration— increases the temptation for the police to use excessive force, particularly when they confront the unknown. That’s why I believe programs to familiarize police with the challenges that people with disabilities face are so important. A new law in Florida that requires police departments to provide autism training for law enforcement officers took effect this week. Several programs are already in place to reduce the risk of interactions between law enforcement and people with disabilities escalating into traumatic incidents. One of the best is the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability, run by the Arc, one of the oldest and largest disability-rights organizations in the United States. The center provides an extensive list of resources for local governments, law enforcement officers, lawyers and advocates for the disabled seeking to address this problem. “We get hundreds of calls a year about this,” said Sarah Suniti Bal, the public relations director of the Arc. “It’s a very serious problem that deserves much more media attention.”

    Another resource available to law enforcement is the Ruttenberg Autism Center, which provides training on autism to police departments. The main challenge for the center, said its chief executive, David M. Maola, is “convincing departments that this is something in which they should invest.”

    Training programs alone, however, may not be enough to enable disabled people and their families to feel safe in interactions with law enforcement. A disability-rights activist, Kerima Çevik, the mother of a nonspeaking teenager named Mustafa, proposes the establishment of a 911-type number dedicated to handling mental-health emergencies, with community crisis-response teams at the ready rather than police officers.

    In my own thinking, I keep coming back to something that Ms. Craglow said to me in the wake of Officer Grossman’s interaction with Connor. “I had to try to calm the officer down,” she recalled. “Isn’t that his job?”

    Full Article & Source:
    Making Encounters With Police Officers Safer for People With Disabilities

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    <a href="">NASGA:  Al Katz, Indiana/Florida Victim</a>

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    Miami attorney Angela Marie Abell, also known as Angela Hill, has been disbarred following a Aug. 24 Florida Supreme Court order following allegations of gross negligence in guardianship cases and misappropriation of client funds.

    The state high court issued its two-page order of disciplinary revocation, tantamount to disbarment, with leave to seek readmission after five years. The Florida State Bar announced the discipline and the supreme court's order Sept. 27.

    Abell was already suspended following a state high court order issued July 13, which made her disciplinary revocation effective immediately, according to the August high court order.

    Abell also was ordered to pay $3,457 in costs, according the high court's order.

    In Florida court orders are not final until after time to file a rehearing motion expires. Attorneys disbarred in the state may not reapply for admission for five years. Even then they must pass through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.

    Abell was admitted to the bar in Florida on Jan. 22, 1988, according to her profile at the state bar website. Abell had no other discipline before the state bar for at least 10 years, according to his profile.

    On June 21, the state bar filed a petition for emergency suspension against Abell regarding allegations concerning seven minor guardianship cases and two probate cases, all connected, that she was handling in Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit, according to a petition filed July 11 with the state high court. All of the guardianship cases stemmed from an automobile accident that left the children, ages 3 months to 8 years, severely injured, according to the petition. All of the cases began in 1997 and all of the children came of age with some of the cases remaining open, according to the petition.

    Abell failed to terminate the open guardianship proceedings or convert the guardianships into adult proceedings and she allegedly "exhibited gross negligence in the execution of her duties and responsibilities as guardian," the petition said. A bar audit revealed at least $7,123 of misappropriated client funds and about $134,831 "of unsubstantiated transfers" from the client trust account to her checking account, according to the petition.

    Full Article & Source:
    Miami attorney disbarred following gross negligence allegations in guardianship cases

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    Hosted by Marti Oakley and including Luanne Fleming, Robin Austin and Brian Kinter.

    5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

    Abolishing Probate #3: Our guest will be Chris Forsyth of the Judicial Integrity

    "In the state of Colorado the discipline commission dismisses 97% of complaints against judges. That’s because our Supreme Court writes the rules for the commission and the executive director of the commission reports to the Supreme Court. Bad judges have little to worry about in Colorado.

    Although the American Bar Association and American Judicature Society recommend public judicial discipline proceedings, Colorado’s system is dark. 35 states have public judicial discipline proceedings because it creates public trust. But in Colorado it’s actually harder to obtain documents about a judge than any other public servant.

    Why? Because the judges made their own rules about their records and the legislature let the judges get away with it.

    There are other issues that need to be addressed in Colorado's judicial branch as well. From 'retired' unaccountable judges still serving on the bench to the judicial branch excepting itself from Colorado's Open Records Act, we have a lot of work to do to improve the system.

    And that's not even mentioning our state court administrator's office that has an annual budget that exceeds 500 million dollars. It's run by an unelected official who's already misled the legislature to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars." against court embezzlement unethical standards f.a.c.e.u.s.

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    Adult Protective Services held the 10th annual Crimes Against the Elderly Conference Sept. 26 at the Region 19 Education Service Center.

    About 650 people attended the free event, which included experts who spoke on how to protect seniors and disabled adults, white-collar crimes that target the elderly, guardianship abuse and mental health.

    APS presented the Community Partner Award to Margie Resendes with Texas 211. She was honored for her dedication and service to protecting a vulnerable population.

    Founding board members Mitch Ayala, Susana Reza and Mary Yanez were each awarded the Legacy Award.

    Last year, APS validated 1,973 victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation in the El Paso area. However, four of five incidents of elder abuse are never reported to the authorities, according to APS.

    Full Article & Source:
    Conference raises awareness of elder abuse

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    No matter how old you are, you need a power of attorney form on file.

    A bombshell report in the New Yorker detailed how one woman allegedly took control of strangers' financial and health decisions in Nevada.
    • Experts say the case represents a nightmarish scenario that stemmed from a lack of judicial oversight.
    • Two easily accessible legal forms — that don't require a lawyer to complete — can help prevent this type of abuse.
    It could happen to anyone.

    For 12 years, April Parks showed up at strangers' homes, court documents in hand, informing them they could no longer care for themselves, and that she would be taking over their financial and medical decision making.

    Parks and her workers would identify these people through physicians' offices and rehabilitation centers, arrive unannounced, whisk them away, and take inventory of their possessions, according to a harrowing report from The New Yorker's Rachel Aviv. Parks is accused of selling their property, cars, and belongings, and transferring their cash to a bank account in her name. All the while billing them an hourly rate for her services.

    But this alleged network wasn't comprised of burglars or kidnappers. Parks was a legal guardian, appointed by a judge to take care of over 400 people throughout her career, according to the New Yorker.

    Now, she and three of her associates her lawyer, husband, and business partner have been indicted, facing a total of 270 counts on seven different felony charges.

    Guardians are meant to make decisions for those who cannot care for themselves or their affairs, due to age, mental illness, or developmental disabilities. It's a role typically filled by family members or friends. But in rare instances when no one is available, or loved ones are deemed unfit, a court may appoint anyone who has completed the state's guardian qualification process, even if that person is a stranger.

    In Parks' case, the scheme was allegedly carried out in such a way that the victims' relatives didn't know what was happening until it was too late.

    April Parks guardian 
    April Parks, pictured, is accused of exploiting the people she was was supposed to be protecting. 
    KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas/Youtube
    It truly represents a worst case scenario, Jenny Flom, a New Jersey attorney at Cole Schotz who focuses on guardianship actions, told Business Insider.

    "The whole system isn't totally corrupt," Pamela Teaster, the director of Virginia Tech's Center for Gerontology, told Business Insider. "There are pockets of corruption, and when there are pockets of corruption it's a total mess and it is totally unconscionable."

    The nationwide system was far more fraught with abuse a few decades ago. The Associated Press helped expose the "ailing system" of guardianship in the 1980s, Teaster said. Today, she said the laws surrounding guardianship vary by state, but are "pretty darn good," generally speaking.

    In New Jersey, where Flom practices, she said there are certain safeguards in place. A person's relatives are always contacted early in the process. The court also requires certifications — including a diagnosis and prognosis — from either two physicians or a physician and a licensed psychologist, as well as detailed documentation of the person's assets. If a guardian is ultimately appointed, all financial accounts are monitored to ensure no monetary impropriety takes place.

    Still, Teaster said prudent guardianship — regardless of whether the guardian is a stranger or related to the person — requires monitoring, which involves "more time and more money than is presently devoted to it."

    Simple documents — like a power of attorney form and healthcare directive — can help you retain control, even if you are no longer able to care for yourself.

    "Nobody needs to not go to sleep at night or lock their doors or think the judiciary is going to, with its long, swooping arm, take you," Teaster said.

    The best way to protect yourself from experiencing similar mistreatment or abuse, according to Flom, is to make sure your estate planning documents are complete — and that means more than just a will. "Make sure your power of attorney and your healthcare directive are completed," Flom said.

    Supreme court of nevada 
    The Supreme Court of Nevada, the state where April Parks was operating.Wikimedia Commons
    A power of attorney form is a legal document that gives one or more people access to your financial accounts and the ability to make decisions with your money when you can't. A health care directive does the same for medical decisions. Both forms, which vary by state, can be found for free online and completed without the help of an attorney — though having a lawyer review the forms can help ensure they are legally sound.

    You can create your own power of attorney form with step-by-step instructions from LegalZoom, and make it official by having two people sign it as witnesses. Some states require the form to be notarized as well. AARP has free downloadable health care directive forms for each state. Keep a hard copy and a digital copy somewhere safe, and make sure your chosen caretaker knows where to find them.

    It's especially crucial that you keep updating those two documents, to reflect changes over time. If your chosen caretaker is no longer willing or able, then you need to choose someone else and complete new forms.

    According to AARP, more than half of Americans do not have have basic estate planning documents like a will or power of attorney in place. Among millennials, that number jumps to 78%.

    If you haven't completed the documents, according to Flom, it could leave the court no choice. "If you need someone to make decisions for you at that point, you're stuck in probate court in New Jersey and there's a guardian being appointed over you."

    Teaster said most guardians take on the role for the right reasons, but that more attention and resources should be devoted to the system in order to stamp out abuse.

    "When it works well, people are safer," she said. "When it works badly, it's a draconian action that strips people of their rights with little due process and oversight."

    Full Article & Source:
    There's a legal way for someone to take your home, your stuff, and your money — but everyone ignores the two documents that can help keep you safe

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    by Marti Oakley

    While many are applauding the provisions of S. 178: Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017 I do not share this view.

    Pay careful attention here to the word “ACT”. An ACT is something the government is going to do by force rather than by actual power granted to them in the Constitution. In this particular instance, congress is charging the DoJ with law making which is unconstitutional.

    Those of us who have actually read the bill and have at least a modicum of understanding of how legislation actually works and affects us, know that this bill is going to cause irreparable harm not only to the elderly, but to those family members and others who have waged this battle against the growing human trafficking of the elderly by professional predators working in tandem with unethical attorney’s , corrupt probate administrators, Adult Protective Services agencies, and professional predators who prey on the elderly and others, and who make a parasitic living off the targeting of the elderly to profit themselves.

    • Did you see one word in this bill that addressed the issue of identity theft that results from being declared a ward of the state?

    • Is there one word about stopping the assumption of identity by the predators who now present themselves as the victim and begin bleeding the estate dry?

    • Was anything said about the resulting abuse, neglect and exploitation by professionals and agencies that results from this civil death? ( by declaring the living human being a “ward of the state”, the victim has suffered a civil death, equal in its legal consequences to natural death) You are dead in the law, but still breathing.

    • Was anything mentioned about holding these administrators liable for violating the rights of the targeted victim?

    • Did you see one word directing these probate tribunals to follow rules of evidence?

    • To cap fees?

    • To stop the predators from isolating the ward?

    • Anything about stopping chemical restraint to silence the victim?

    • Any sighting as criminal activity the actions by these predators who make their living stealing the lives of their victims for profit?

    Are we really this ignorant?

    This bill is not a “good start”. It will not benefit the public in any manner. The provisions in this bill clearly relieve both houses of congress from any responsibility they had, to rectify the ongoing predator based system of elder abuse and exploitation we know as “kidnap, isolate, medicate and steal the estate”, by professional predatory guardians and their cohorts in these inhumane crimes and members of the BAR Associations who participate for profit resulting from the continued trafficking of the elderly. 

    This bill is clearly intended to target only the public, and all that will come of its future rules, regulations and statutes is that it will not apply to the professional predators in the system, but will apply (watch the careful wording they will use) only to possible family members who might abuse, or others in the community who might abuse the elderly. 

    If this bill was supposed to be the catalyst for changing the system….why are the only references to this system listed as miscellaneous? While the remainder of the bill is a reiteration of standing state and federal laws against internet scams, wire fraud, etc.? 

    Have we not been told repeatedly, that due to separation of powers that neither the judicial nor legislative branch can intervene? These are executive branch issues, meaning the president or your governor. 

    What the bill does do, is to further empower the very agencies and agents that we have been battling, and adds several more to the list who will now be funded and empowered to prey on the elderly. 

    Any state which receives block grants, is contracted to HHS on the Federal level. Each state has a memorandum of understanding which states the terms of the coming contract they agree to. This is followed by the formal contract and its accompanying funding…the block grant. In order to obtain your block grant, the state must follow federal guidelines and meet various standards which will now be legislated by the DOJ, a non-legislative body that is also directly connected to the system by virtue of their BAR Association. (Click to Continue)

    Full Article & Source:
    S 178… Probate is about to get far worse for families targeted

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    Click to Watch Video
    (CNN)A Florida nursing home where a dozen patients died after Hurricane Irma knocked out power has closed and laid off its 245 employees, according to a notice to state officials.

    The patients, between the ages of 57 and 99, died last month after The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills failed to evacuate them from the sweltering facility in the days after the storm, state officials said.

    The nursing home informed state officials in a letter dated September 27 that the facility had closed seven days earlier and its employees were out of jobs.

    "A 60-day notice could not be provided due to unforeseen business circumstances that occurred after the impact of hurricane Irma," the letter said.

    The 245 workers included occupational, speech and physical therapists, nurses and dietary aids, according to the letter.

    The exact causes of death have not been released, but a number of the 141 residents eventually evacuated were treated for heat-related issues.

    The deaths are part of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Hollywood, Florida, police department. State and federal agencies are also conducting administrative investigations.

    Nursing home residents were exposed to the heat after Hurricane Irma downed a tree that knocked out the transformer powering the air conditioning system. Many were moved into the hallways, next to fans and spot coolers.

    Despite multiple calls between the nursing home and state authorities, the facility did not report that its patients were in danger or that they needed to be evacuated, according to a report last week by the office of Gov. Rick Scott.

    Several families have filed lawsuits.

    Full Article  & Source:
    Workers laid off at now-closed Florida nursing home where 12 died

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    Russell Carwile
    URBANA — A Champaign County judge called an Urbana man’s abusive conduct toward his late mother “outrageous” before sentencing him to 10 years in prison.

    “As far as he was concerned, (she) didn’t die fast enough,” Judge Tom Difanis said of Russell Carwile.

    The 57-year-old was sentenced Friday for financial exploitation of an elderly person, having pleaded guilty to that in July. He admitted stealing more than $190,000 from his mother between November 2013 and Sept. 8, 2015, while he served as her power of attorney. The maximum he could have received was 15 years in prison.

    It wasn’t until a welfare check by Champaign County sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 7, 2015, that the deplorable physical condition of his then-88-year-old mother was discovered.

    Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Clifton had three deputies and a paramedic testify about what they saw at the woman’s mobile home in Urbana late on the afternoon of Labor Day 2015.

    Sgt. Dave Sherrick and deputies Ted Nemecz and Stacy Corray described the woman as malnourished, dehydrated and covered in urine and feces that appeared to have been present for weeks.

    Nemecz, responding to a welfare check phoned in by a neighbor, said he tried to get in via a sliding glass door but couldn’t get it open enough to enter.

    Hearing the faint voice of an elderly woman as he called out, Nemecz said he climbed through a window into the home, which he said “smelled like an unclean public bathroom.”

    He found the woman lying on a bed naked with a single cover, covered in excrement. He said she was blind, partially deaf, and asked him for water.

    Nemecz called for an ambulance and while he and his fellow deputies were present, Carwile drove up to the house, appearing “agitated” and “not compliant.”

    Sherrick said Carwile told the deputies in rather coarse terms that there was no need to summon an ambulance for his mother, who suffered from dementia. The son told deputies his mother had last seen a doctor seven months earlier and that he didn’t take her because there was nothing medical professionals could do for her.

    A neighbor told deputies that Carwile usually spent the night in his mother’s home but left her alone for several hours during the day even though she was unable to get food or water for herself or get to a bathroom. Neighbors said Carwile locked the doors from the outside to prevent his mother from getting out, Sherrick recounted.

    Sherrick identified pictures that showed the mother’s non-air-conditioned room and bathroom in horrible condition while Carwile’s bedroom and bathroom were relatively clean and cooled by a window air conditioner.

    Sherrick said he also found a brown rope with two loops in it, two plastic-bag corners containing cocaine, and 11 guns and ammunition in Carwile’s bedroom.

    Corray said he was informed by a nurse at Presence Covenant Medical Center that the woman was “extremely dehydrated, malnourished and had feces on her body” that had to be “scraped” off of her.

    She also had an open wound on her leg with a bandage that hadn’t been changed in a long time.

    Arrow Ambulance paramedic Michael Lynch said he saw maggots in the wound on closer inspection.

    Carwile was arrested that day and charged with criminal abuse or neglect of an elderly person and unlawful use of weapons. After the woman’s death on Feb. 13, 2016, the more serious charge of financial exploitation of an elderly person was filed against him in March 2016.

    Clifton said police learned after the woman’s death that, while acting as her power of attorney, Carwile took more than $190,000 of his mother’s money and used it to buy himself a home on East Main Street in Urbana.

    Clifton urged Difanis to impose the 10-year sentence he agreed to ask for when Carwile pleaded guilty.

    “This is the kind of offense that can and must be deterred,” the prosecutor said. “He could have easily taken her money and hired someone to care for her. Instead, he took the money for himself.”

    “It shows a callousness, disregard and egotism that’s almost unmatched,” Clifton said.

    Assistant Public Defender Tony Allegretti asked the judge to consider a lesser sentence, noting Carwile’s guilty plea, his agreement to repay his mother’s estate $190,350, and his poor health, which includes diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

    Carwile had an aggravated-battery conviction from 1978, three misdemeanor convictions after that and one for driving under the influence in 2007. He declined to say anything on his own behalf.

    Carwile is eligible for day-for-day good time in prison. He’s been out on bond since the charges were initially filed.

    “I think the Department of Corrections will take better care of him than he took of her,” Clifton said after the hearing.

    Full Article & Source:
    Man's 'outrageous' abuse of mother nets 10 years in prison

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