2 Craneville Place staff found not guilty in charges related to video mocking Alzheimer's patient
PITTSFIELD — A pair of former nursing home staff members have been cleared of charges that they video recorded themselves assaulting and mocking an Alzheimer's patient in 2013.
Jurors, however, never got to see the video, which was apparently deleted shortly after a handful of staff viewed it and it was never recovered, despite efforts by police to retrieve it.
Kayla Gaetani, 28, was accused of making a video recording of Stacy Wilds, 29, assaulting and mocking a 93-year-old patient at the Craneville Place nursing center in Dalton sometime in the latter half of 2013. The video was apparently posted to Facebook in January 2015.
Testimony began Wednesday in the trial in Central Berkshire District Court. A six-person jury deliberated for about 75 minutes before delivering their verdict: not guilty of one count each of assault and battery on a person over 60 or disabled and permitting abuse of a person over 60 or disabled.
Gaetani's attorney, Timothy Shugrue, rested his case without calling any witnesses. He called the decision "just."
Shugrue and Peter Alessio, representing Wilds, noted the lack of that video evidence in their arguments to jurors.
According to witnesses who said they saw the footage, Gaetani was not visible in the video, but was identified as the person who allegedly shot it and could be heard laughing in the background.
One witness testified the video was posted to Gaetani's Facebook page, and said she urged Gaetani to delete the video during a brief conversation on Facebook's messaging feature.
Shugrue suggested to jurors there was no proof it was actually Gaetani who posted the video or had the conversation, suggesting the account could have been hacked and said Gaetani had reported to Department of Public Health investigators looking into the matter her phone had been stolen sometime prior to the incident and she had reported that to police.
According to court documents, however, no report of a stolen phone was made by Gaetani to Dalton Police.
Investigators cross-referenced the times Wilds and Gaetani worked together in an effort to narrow down when the video may have been recorded. Those efforts showed nine instances in which the pair worked together on the unit where the patient resided between Aug. 18 and Dec. 27, 2013.
The state's case against the pair suffered an early setback Wednesday when Judge John McKenna struck down testimony from the prosecution's first witness, a Department of Public Health investigator.
The testimony involved answers to questions Gaetani purportedly gave — via a phone call and questionnaire — about the alleged abuse. But the judge ruled the state could not satisfy the court that the answers were actually given by Gaetani.
During cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, the defense attorneys pointed out apparent inconsistencies between some of their initial statements regarding the incident that described the contact with the patient as touching on the hand an knee as opposed to their testimony Wednesday, which included allegations of Wilds "elbowing," "jabbing," or "poking" the woman.
In his closing argument, Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Andrew Giarolo reminded jurors that despite what the contact was called, all of the state's witnesses said the contact was offensive and harmful to the patient.
Shugrue suggested some of the state's witnesses felt pressured to enhance their original statements due to a pending lawsuit against Craneville and said the women were being used as "scapegoats" as a result.
Alessio called four character witnesses to the stand who described Wilds as reliable, dependable and kind to the patients.
Wilds took the stand and denied being aware of any recording being made of her while she was working.
She said she liked the patient very much, though, due to her dementia and declining mental state, she would sometimes hurl insults at staff, which they would tend to laugh off, knowing it was a symptom of her disease and not to be taken personally.
Wilds said she would sometimes do things like paint the patient's nails to entertain her and calm her down when she was agitated, and denied ever assaulting, provoking or mocking her.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BobDun413 on Twitter, and 413-496-6249.
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