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Some charges dropped in Medford nursing home patient's death

The Medford Multicare Center at 3115 Horseblock Rd.

The Medford Multicare Center at 3115 Horseblock Rd. in Medford is shown on July 31, 2014. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

A Suffolk judge has dismissed some charges against a Medford nursing home and two supervisors in a case stemming from the 2012 death of a resident, saying there is not enough evidence to support them.

State Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins in Riverhead tossed two of the charges -- tampering with physical evidence and obstructing governmental administration -- against Medford Multicare Center for Living; David Fielding, the facility's administrator; and Christine Boylan, its director of respiratory therapy.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office had alleged that Fielding and Boylan -- who were not on duty when Aurelia Rios, 72, died -- had attempted to cover up her death when they told a state health department investigator that the facility could not produce logs of Rios' pulse rate and oxygen level in her blood.

"It is clear to the Court that Fielding could not prevent the production of the alarm logs," Collins wrote in his March 6 decision.

The logs, the judge said, were available at Cardiopulmonary Corp., which made the equipment used to routinely record Rios' pulse rate and oxygen level in her blood, and those logs were available to the health department investigator had she asked for them.

"These charges are unfounded, and we are pleased that the court has thrown out almost half of them," Brian Griffin, Fielding's attorney, said Tuesday. "We firmly believe that a jury will dismiss the rest."

On Oct. 26, 2012, Rios, of Central Islip, died of a heart attack because, prosecutors said, she wasn't attached to a ventilator at night as ordered by her doctor. Prosecutors had said that for nearly two hours the nursing staff ignored audible and visual warnings that indicated Rios had a faint pulse and low blood-oxygen level.

The nursing home and nine of its employees, including Fielding, 57, of Lido Beach, and Boylan, 50, of Mastic, were indicted May 23, 2014, by a grand jury, holding them responsible for neglecting Rios -- which prosecutors said led to her death -- and covering it up.

One defendant has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her colleagues.

Boylan, who has maintained she did nothing wrong, was glad she had been partially cleared, said her attorney, William Kephart.

"The inability of prosecutors to sustain the charges at this low threshold speaks to how weak their case is," he said Tuesday.

In order to establish that Fielding and Boylan had attempted to prevent the health investigator from doing her job, prosecutors would have had to show they used intimidation, physical force or physical interference, the judge said in dismissing the second charge. "Here there is no allegation of any physical or actual interference by the defendants. . . . Fielding's 'suggestion' that the investigator interview the employee rather than view the video can hardly be described as intimidation," Collins said.

Pretrial hearings are scheduled for March 30 and 31.

"We look forward to presenting the People's case in court and pursing the complete set of felony charges facing these defendants," said a spokeswoman for Schneiderman.

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