05/31/09 — Cherry workers get 60 days in jail for assault on handicapped patient

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Cherry workers get 60 days in jail for assault on handicapped patient

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 31, 2009 12:23 AM

Two men convicted of beating a Cherry Hospital patient under their care will serve 60 days in prison for the offense.

After a jury returned a guilty verdict on Friday morning, Wayne Superior Court Judge Arnold O. Jones addressed the defendants, Taniko Upton and William Johnson.

Both were accused of assault on a handicapped person, a Class A-1 misdemeanor in North Carolina.

They were convicted by a jury of an Aug. 18, 2008, beating of Nelson Glover.

Under state law, the maximum sentence allowed for the offense is 60 days in prison. Jones said he believed the maximum sentence was appropriate.

Upton and Johnson were also each given a $250 fine.

"The acts that you committed are without explanation and without justification," Jones said. "These are misdemeanor sentences, so there's only so much of a sentence that you could get. The court hopes that these types of incidences will not continue. I do not condone any activity taken against someone who is in a position of being defenseless."

Attorney John Agner, who was representing Johnson, asked the judge if his client could wait one or two days before reporting to prison because his wife is ill and needs special care.

The judge refused the request but said Johnson would be allowed to make phone calls before reporting to prison.

After the verdict, defense attorney John Agner, who was representing Johnson, said he disagreed with the jury's decision.

"The jury has spoken. I don't agree with their verdict, but that's how it works," Agner said. "My client's and my position was that the stories of the witnesses were so divergent ... there had to be doubt. And that would be the only comment that I have."

Agner and attorney Will Bland, who was representing Upton, also added that eyewitnesses testimony did not "agree" with a video recording of a hallway that showed the victim and defendants entering the hospital.

The incident stemmed from an argument between Glover and another patient, who had asked Glover for a cigarette during a break at which both patients and caregivers were present in a breezeway outside a building at the hospital.

Two health care technicians who were present testified that Upton did not permit Glover to leave with the other patients and that he and Johnson struck Glover, causing him to fall to the floor.