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Nurse's aide pleads guilty, avoids jail in Medford nursing home death

Christine Corelli leaves criminal court in Riverhead Thursday,

Christine Corelli leaves criminal court in Riverhead Thursday, April 23, 2015, after pleading guilty to a willful violation of public health laws in connection with the death of a patient at a Medford nursing home. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

One of nine health care workers charged in the death of a Medford nursing home resident pleaded guilty Thursday and admitted she didn't call for help as equipment monitoring the patient's vital signs sounded, indicating she was in distress.

Christine Corelli, 35, a nurse's aide from East Patchogue, pleaded guilty to a willful violation of public health laws before state Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins in Riverhead. She will not serve any jail time.

Corelli was in the room with the resident, Aurelia Rios, 72, the day she died on Oct. 26, 2012, at Medford Multicare Center for Living.

Corelli's job was to monitor Rios for an hour, starting from about 2:15 a.m., and summon help when needed.

"Did you get help for the resident," state prosecutor Veronica Bindrim-MacDevitt asked.

"No," Corelli replied.

Corelli, however, did not say why she didn't call for help or what she was doing during that hour when prosecutors said Rios' pulse rate and oxygen in her blood were low or nonexistent.

Previously, Corelli said the alarms on the equipment that monitored Rios' pulse rate and oxygen in her blood did not sound and Rios was breathing during that time.

Corelli's guilty plea comes on the same day a jury was selected in the trial of a co-defendant and a former colleague, Kethlie Joseph, 63, of Brentwood.

Corelli is the second defendant to plead guilty in connection with Rios' death. Another nurse's aide had pleaded guilty in January.

In exchange for her plea, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office agreed to drop three counts of first-degree falsifying business against Corelli. Instead of sending Corelli to jail, prosecutors agreed to place her on 3 years' probation and bar her from working in any professions that require her to care for the infirm.

Prosecutors did not demand that Corelli testify against her colleagues.

"She does not have to testify against her co-defendants and she will not testify against her co-defendants," said Corelli's attorney, Nancy Bartling of Mineola.

Jury selection for four other co-defendants -- three nurses and the director of therapy -- is set to begin Monday.

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