According to court records and multiple news reports, Austin Gough, age 20, had been charged with three counts of sexual battery and three counts of attempted sexual battery as a result of multiple complaints that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with patients at the Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield. However, because the victims would have had a hard time articulating what happened to them in court, Gough was offered a plea deal which which he accepted that allows him to avoid any jail time and which will also not requirin him to register as a sex offender, according to reports. Instead, Gough admitted guilty to felony battery against a disabled person and was sentenced to one year of home detention followed by 545 days on “sex offender probation” and the six other felony charges were dismissed.
The incidents at the center of the charges are extremely disturbing. According to reports and court records, two patients of the Greenfield facility sobbed as they told police in separate reports that Gough had exposed his genitals and asked them to touch him. A woman reported that he was “doing things, with his hands, to her that he shouldn’t have been doing” which were “bad things … sexual things.” The court records and reports further state that he rubbed himself on one woman’s face — even as she told him “no.” Another patient with dementia and mental illness reported to police that Gough was his boyfriend and that he and Gough had touched each other, court records state.
Abuse of The Most Vulnerable Can Lead to the Lightest Punishment
This case illuminates how those who target our most vulnerable Americans for the most heinous crimes, can ironically be rewarded with lighter penalties because the patients are so vulnerable. Nursing home patients often have dementia or other mental of physical limitations which can prevent them from enduring the rigors associated with testifying against predators who abuse and neglect them. This is true not only in criminal cases, but also in civil cases where families sue bad nursing homes that allow their patients to be cared for by criminals or others who engage in neglectful or abusive treatment. Many patients can’t testify at all due to their cognitive or physical status. Moreover, because criminal and civil cases can take a long time to be prosecuted, often the patient’s health declines before the case ever reaches trial.
Too Often Criminals Are Permitted to Work in Nursing Homes
Unfortunately, family members who have entrusted Indiana nursing homes with the care of their loved ones may unknowingly be placing them into the care of individuals who should not be in positions as caregivers. A study conducted in 2011, showed that over 90% of U.S. nursing homes employ one or more people who have been convicted of at least one crime. Additionally, the study by the Department of Health and Human Services revealed nearly half of these nursing homes actually employed five or more persons with at least one conviction. These convictions ranged from crimes against property, such as theft of personal possessions, medications, or finances, to personal crimes such as assault and sexual assault.
Further Evidence That Indiana’s Nursing Home Industry Is Failing Its Patients
Indiana’s nursing home industry has long held the dubious distinction of providing some of the worst nursing home care in the U.S. For example, in 2009, Indiana was found to have more poorly performing nursing homes than any other state, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report. A series of recent incidents strongly suggest that things have not improved as nursing home employees have been found embroiled in several types of criminal activity:
- ● Voyeurism and sexual exploitation by nursing home staff.
Recently, several employees at nursing homes across the state have been charged with felony convictions of voyeurism after sharing inappropriate images of patients on social media. One such incident involved an employee at the Aperion Care Arbors of Michigan City who allegedly filmed an elderly dementia patient in the shower and then shared the video on snapchat. Yet another involved a former employee of the Waters of Scottsburg nursing home for allegedly taking a naked photograph of a nursing home patient’s back, buttocks and legs and sharing the photograph with others on social media.
- ● Physical & sexual assault of patients.
Last year, indictments were filed by a grand jury filed against a former employee of a Lawrenceburg, Indiana nursing home in connection to the death of a patient of the nursing home. According to news reports, a witness in that case told detectives that the employee violently pulled the patient from a walker, breaking the patient’s vertebra and causing death. In yet another case, a former employee of a Jasper, Indiana nursing home was charged with sexual battery, battery with injury, and intimidation based upon allegations that the nursing home employee performed sexual acts with a patient, and then threatened the patient if he told anyone about it.
- ● Theft of patient’s personal property, medications, and identity theft.
Last year, Greenfield and Indianapolis police departments were involved in the investigation of a massive identity theft ring with a Greenfield nursing home at the center of the investigation. According to the reports, there are more than 100 identities stolen and more than $100,000. Police, according to the reports, have indicated someone from inside the facility may be responsible. (see article: Police Investigating Massive Identity Theft Ring Centering Around Greenfield Nursing Home. Recently, we reported on the troubling increase in ‘drug diversion’ or prescription medication theft at Indiana nursing homes. This was evidenced by the January 2015 arrest and later conviction of an Indianapolis nursing home caregiver from Lawrence Manor Healthcare Center who was accused of stealing powerful narcotics from elderly patients.
What you can do
Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many forms. It is important that all families with loved ones in Indiana nursing homes learn how to recognize the signs of nursing home neglect and abuse. If you believe a loved one may have been the victim of nursing home neglect, you should not hesitate to have the matter investigated by filing a complaint. You can find more information about filing a nursing home complaint here. We provide free assistance to anyone who needs help filing a nursing home complaint. Just call us.
Jeff Powless is an attorney in Indianapolis who concentrates his practice upon nursing home neglect and abuse cases.