03/10/10 — Worker to testify in Cherry assault charge

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Worker to testify in Cherry assault charge

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 10, 2010 1:46 PM

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James "Allan" Smith is seen in Wayne County Superior Court on Tuesday. He faces charges of abuse in the alleged beating of a patient at Cherry Hospital.

The trial of a man accused of dragging a Cherry Hospital patient into a bathroom and beating him is scheduled to continue today in Wayne County Superior Court.

James "Allan" Smith, 34, of U.S. 13, faces one count of felony abuse and neglect of a patient for an incident reported on Oct. 3, 2006.

Most of Tuesday was spent hearing testimony from the victim, Dean Smith.

The defendant and another health technician at Cherry Hospital, Eric Jerrod Isler, are accused of the beating.

Isler is scheduled to stand trial later this month.

The victim, a patient at Cherry Hospital, is a Type I bipolar disorder patient who said he was having a bad morning on the day of the incident. Dean Smith said his condition got the better of him that day.

"I know I'm a pain in the tail when I'm agitated, especially when my friends can't joke and calm me down," Smith testified. "It wasn't a good morning."

Smith admitted that he will sometimes engage other people in arguments when agitated.

Judge Arnold Jones has ordered that the names of patients and their medical conditions, besides the alleged victim, not be released.

One person Smith admitted to arguing with that morning was a former U.S. Marine who had been admitted to Cherry Hospital after breaking into the building of a former employer.

Smith said he became involved in a telephone conversation the former Marine was having, leading the man to ask him to leave.

"He was having an emotional moment, because of some turmoil I believe, just through the interaction that we had," Smith said.

The former Marine would later play a pivotal role in the investigation, when the health technicians would allegedly try to pay him off -- with two cans of soda and two packs of cigarettes -- to take the blame for the beating.

After a morning of verbal confrontations with a number of people at the hospital, Smith said he was tackled by two staff members he could not immediately identify.

"I was tackled from behind as hard as I've ever been tackled from behind. I was scooped up by these employees, and they shut the door. All I did was use a little profanity, and I got my ass whipped."

After the beating, Smith testified that there was a large amount of blood on the bathroom floor.

"There was quite a bit of blood on the floor, and they made me clean up the blood on the floor. I had a nice shirt on, that my mother gave me, and I had some cheap Goody's shorts on, and I mopped up the floor with that," he said. "They threw down a lot of brown paper towels down on the floor, and I continued to mop up the floor."

Smith said he then got up and washed his face in a sink.

The Marine testified that he heard the assault from down the hall outside the bathroom.

"You could hear some words, you could hear hitting, you could hear a beating going on," he testified. "I'd say it lasted for probably a good two to three minutes."

At some point, other health workers responded to the scene and brought ice packs.

The Marine later testified that he was approached by both Isler and Smith.

"(They said) 'We've got to talk to you.'" the Marine testified. "That's when Mr. Isler said, 'We need you to take the fall for this. It's a lot easier for a patient to get out of this than us.'"

The former Marine said he knew he had jail time to serve for breaking into his former employer's buildings.

"Being in the situation at the time, what did I have to lose? What did I have to lose? So it (my payment for taking the blame) was two packs of Camel Lights, and a couple of Mountain Dews, and it was agreed upon," he said.

He then spoke with a patient advocate and took blame for the incident, he said.

Later, he was approached by hospital police, who said he might be facing major felony charges, and he said he decided to change his story and tell the truth.

The trial was scheduled to continue with more testimony from the state today.