It just doesn’t seem right. That’s the feeling many readers have expressed after a judge decided the nursing home workers convicted of abusively teasing patients in their charge should serve no jail time.
Is that justice? The families of the two helpless patients at Appalachian Christian Village who were sprayed with water by three former CNAs probably don’t think so. Neither do many of the readers who have kept up with the sordid details of this case.
Is it fair that a fourth woman who did not participate in the abuse, but witnessed the cruel behavior will receive judicial diversion?
As Press staff writer Becky Campbell wrote in Tuesday’s paper, Rebecca Blevins, 39; Jessica Ketterman, 22; and Jennifer Ketterman, 20, all of Elizabethton, were denied judicial diversion on Monday after pleading guilty earlier this year to two counts of willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of a dependent adult. Blevins was not eligible for diversion due to previous bad check convictions.
At that same hearing, Amanda Adolphi, 33, Gray, pleaded guilty to failure to report the abuse. As a result of the plea agreements, the women were each given an 11 month, 29 day sentence, which will be served on probation. Adolphi was the only one granted diversion. After her year of probation, the conviction can be erased from her record.
A fifth woman, Bonita Scott, 51, Chuckey, was also charged in the incident, but she pleaded guilty to her case shortly after being charged.
We won’t repeat what the defendants were alleged to have done to these patients, but we will say their actions were far from being what any decent person would consider “comical.” These were calculating and callous acts perpetrated on people who could not defend themselves.
“This case tears me up,” Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood said at Monday’s proceedings. “We have over here four, probably very nice people, who have been contributing members of society. It’s inscrutable.”
Judge Blackwood justified his decision to spare the defendants any jail time by saying their actions were not “horrific” in the sense that someone had died as a result of the abuse. Instead, he said their acts represented “a total disregard for the dignity of a human being.”
While we don’t presume to know the law as well as an experienced jurist like Blackwood, it does strike us that the crimes detailed in the allegations should merit some jail time. Was the sentence handed down truly just?
We’d would like to hear what you think. You can Sound off on this matter by sending your comments to Mailbag, Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on Opinion pages in the coming weeks.