11/26/08 — Cherry workers found guilty of assault, seek trial

View Archive

Cherry workers found guilty of assault, seek trial

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 26, 2008 1:46 PM

Two former Cherry Hospital workers accused of beating a patient were found guilty of misdemeanor assault on a handicapped person on Tuesday, Wayne County District Court officials said.

Before a "very small audience," Judge David Brantley weighed evidence presented by state Assistant Attorney General Doug Thorne and two attorneys for the defendants, a court clerk said.

Taniko Dominique Upton, 33, and William Kenneth Johnson, 52, were fired this summer after being accused of beating a male patient on Aug. 18. According to the arrest warrant, which was served by Cherry Hospital police, the pair were accused of striking the victim "on or about the abdomen area, knocking same to the floor, kicking and punching him in the head and side areas."

That was around the time federal investigators released a reported detailing the separate death of Steven Sabock, who died after allegedly being ignored by hospital staff for more than 22 hours.

The defendants had both pleaded not guilty to charges of misdemeanor assault on a handicapped person.

Attorney John Agner represented Johnson, and Upton was represented by lawyer Will Bland.

Agner was in court on Wednesday morning and could not be reached for comment.

Bland said that both defendants intend to seek an appeal, and that when the trial continues in Wayne County Superior Court, the case will begin anew.

"(The defendants) told the investigators at Cherry Hospital that they did not commit the assault, they have insisted upon their innocence from the beginning, and they entered a plea of not guilty," Bland said.

The attorney said although he is not representing both clients, their situations are similar.

Bland said that although the district court judge found them guilty, he believes that a jury trial is necessary.

"They're asking for a trial by jury, which is their right, and every citizen's right when accused," he said.