A conviction for abuse of adult with autism: 2,000 videos supported the allegation

On April 22, 2013 a news article reported that a Vista, California registered nurse had been convicted of two felony charges and faces a sentence of “up to” eight years in prison. He will be sentenced in May.

His mother must have suspected that her 23 year old son who is nonverbal and has autism, was being abused, as she set up a hidden surveillance video camera in his bedroom. It is reported that 2000 incidents of abuse were recorded on the videotapes during a three-week period of time in August 2012.

She handed these over to law enforcement, after which both the 62 year-old registered nurse and his accomplice, a medical assistant were arrested. Both had worked for the family for over two years. The medical assistant is awaiting trial.

Since both are involved in a trial, they obviously did not plead guilty to their crimes. In all probability, this young man is not their only victim during this period of time, nor are they charged with other crimes they may have committed earlier. Both are qualified medical providers.

While it is great that the mother put action to her suspicions and made the recordings, it is phenomenal that so much abuse was committed within that period of time. It is hard to imagine what this 23 year old must still be suffering. It is my hope that the police informed the mother of the Victims of Crime Program which entitles victims to receive therapy for the trauma they suffer as a result of being a crime victim. I hope that the direct abuse victim is getting plenty of excellent therapy as well as his mother and others who may also be what the Victims of Crime program identifies as “derivative victims”…those affected indirectly by the crime.

This is example of what appears to be good hiring practices (hiring medically qualified people). But even medically qualified people must be monitored.  There is a saying: “Trust and verify.”  Hiring people who have technical and professional qualifications is good, but not sufficient to insure safety.  It was mother’s suspicion, and her decision to act on her intuition, that made the difference.

I wonder, though, what would have happened had she only video taped for one day and took her findings to the police. Would that be enough to convict?

We continue to learn lessons about detecting, recognizing and responding to suspected abuse through these news reports. What other lessons do you think can be drawn from this case of incredible ongoing and horrific abuse?