The first health care employee prosecuted in Anne Arundel under a state law designed to protect nursing home residents from abuse received a three-year suspended sentence yesterday.
Michele Olee Graves, a former nursing assistant at the Annapolis Convalescent Center, pleaded guilty yesterday in county Circuit Court to three counts of "vulnerable adult abuse." Graves, 21, of the 1200 block of Tyler Avenue inAnnapolis, had been charged with abusing 24 nursing home residents ranging in age from 57 to 94.
Graves admitted yesterday to kicking a 91-year-old woman in the leg because she placed her dinner tray on her bed, punching an 85-year-old woman who had resisted a request to go to sleep and tripping a 91-year-old woman who was trying to pass her in a hallway.
That woman, who was using a walker, fell into a wall after Graves kicked and tripped her, Assistant State's Attorney Nancy A. Harford told the court.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped charges that Graves threw several residents into their wheelchairs; slapped, shoved, pinched and punched several residents and threatened to "chop off" a 72-year-old woman's limbs.
The attacks and alleged attacks were accompanied by "verbal abuse, cursing and name-calling," court documents said.
Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. sentenced the woman to three consecutive one-year prison terms, but suspended the sentence and placed her on five years supervised probation with the condition she not work at a nursing home. He also ordered the woman to pay $440 in court costs and undergo counseling as deemed necessary by probation officials.
Graves declined to make a statement during yesterday's courthearing. Her attorney, Gill Cochran, said Graves attacked the residents because she "lost control" after working a number of double shifts when the nursing home was short-staffed.
He said she had been working there about a year before the attacks occurred between May and August 1990. She was fired from the job after she was charged in September of last year, Cochran added.
The lawyer said Graves had no prior criminal record.
Prosecutors said Graves was the first persontried in Anne Arundel under a 1989 law that addresses the abuse of avulnerable adult at the hands of a "care-giver." In the law, a vulnerable adult is defined as an adult who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for his daily needs.
Harford said two or three other cases have been prosecuted in other Maryland counties since thelaw took effect two years ago. The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Harford said she accepted a plea agreement in which Graves would receive no jail time because the ages and health of the victims in the cases cast doubt on their ability to testify in court. Harford added, "The most importantthing is to get this woman out of caring for older people and into counseling."