Nathan Sutherland, the Arizona nurse who raped an incapacitated patient, received what is being called a “slap on the wrist” after a plea agreement that offered him a sentence of five-and-a-quarter to 10 years in prison and lifetime probation on two charges, reported KPHO-TV.
Just under three years ago, Sutherland, a nurse at Hacienda Healthcare, was discovered to have sexually assaulted a woman living in the long-term care facility.
Sutherland’s crime was effectively uncovered after the 29-year-old victim was discovered to be in active labor while another attendant was changing her garments. The woman gave birth in December 2018.
The police were able to pin down Sutherland as the rapist after running a DNA test on the child, a boy. The victim’s mother is now the child’s guardian.
The victim had lived at the facility for 26 years after a drowning accident in childhood left her in a vegetative state. Sutherland had taken care of her from 2012 to 2018.
A day after the nurse pleaded not guilty to a sexual assault charge, the facility decided to close the Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled (ICF-ID) unit, where the incapacitated victim was housed.
On Thursday, Sutherland pleaded guilty to sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult.
A former employee expressed that other employees are outraged at the rather light sentence.
“This man did a heinous crime, and he’s getting a slap on the wrist, and it’s not right, and everyone I talked to that worked at Hacienda, they’re furious. None of us can believe that’s all he’s going to get is a slap on the wrist,” said Davena Ballard, who was a nurse at a Hacienda-affiliated facility.
Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse. Since his arrest, he has forfeited his nursing license.
Before the plea deal, he was facing up to 14 years in prison.
The final sentencing is slated for Nov. 4