01/15/09 — Four more Cherry workers indicted

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Four more Cherry workers indicted

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 15, 2009 1:46 PM

The three former Cherry Hospital employees charged with beating a patient and one charged with sexually abusing another were indicted earlier this month by a Wayne County Grand Jury.

The three indicted for beating the patient -- James Allan Smith, 33, of U.S. 13 South, Eric Jerrod Isler, 31, of Tilghman Street and Billy Wynn of Daffodil Drive, Dudley -- were originally arrested in October 2006 by Cherry Hospital police and charged with one misdemeanor count each of patient abuse and neglect after being placed on investigatory leave with pay, according to court records.

Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory explained, however, that those charges were dropped so the felony charges could be filed.

"They were originally charged with misdemeanors in District Court, but our office decided they needed to be pursued as felonies," he said.

Vickory did not offer an explanation as to why it took two years to file those charges, which are Class F felonies, punishable by one to four years in prison.

However, the prosecution of the three men is not being handled by his office.

Rather, the state attorney general's office has taken them over, Vickory said.

This particular case, explained Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, is being handled by its Medicaid Investigations Unit at Vickory's invitation.

The Medicaid Investigations Unit -- led by special prosecutor Doug Thoren -- handles cases involving Medicaid fraud, as well as physical abuse of patients at Medicaid-funded facilities.

Ms. Talley explained that the new charges were filed after new information was uncovered by the State Bureau of Investigation.

"Some new information came to light and they went ahead with the felony charges," she said.

She would not, however, elaborate on that information.

The three men are alleged to have struck a male patient in the face and back, breaking his nose and ribs, authorities said.

They are scheduled for arraignment in early February, according to court records.

None of the three have any previous criminal convictions in Wayne County.

In a unrelated case from Cherry Hospital, Perry Junior Butler, 36, of South Church Street in Mount Olive, faces a charge of sexual activity by a custodian, according to court records.

That's a Class E felony, punishable by as many as two years in prison for most offenders, but as many as six years for some offenders, according to state law.

He was originally arrested in December on a felony sexual offense charge, after having been one of several employees temporarily suspended in August following the death of a patient at Cherry.

He has previously been convicted in Wayne County on charges including shoplifting, larceny, trespassing and writing bad checks.

Butler is scheduled for trial in March, according to court records. He, too, is being prosecuted by the Medicaid Investigations Unit.

Also being prosecuted by the state unit is Sheila Lane, charged on Dec. 3 with misdemeanor assault on a handicapped person.

Additionally, the unit is involved in the cases of Dominique Upton and William Kenneth Johnson who were convicted in District Court on Nov. 25 of misdmeanor assault on a handicapped person -- convictions that have been appealed to Superior Court -- and in the ongoing investigation into the death of Cherry patient Steven Sabock.

News-Argus assistant editor Matthew Whittle contributed to this story.