A judge sentenced a former Nassau County jail nurse to 3 years of probation Wednesday for official misconduct after a February arrest in which authorities accused her of starting a romantic relationship with an inmate and sneaking marijuana to him.
Hempstead District Court Judge Rhonda Fischer said nurse Carroll Ann Clarke Pilgrim, 32, of Far Rockaway, Queens, "chose to violate her oath" and "exercised incredibly poor judgment."
The nurse knew a romantic relationship with an inmate was forbidden, and “certainly knew that her decision to bring contraband” into the jail “was unlawful," Fischer said.
But the judge added that Clarke Pilgrim was a single mother who “accepted responsibility” by pleading guilty to official misconduct — a top-level misdemeanor — and that she had no previous criminal history.
Authorities on Feb. 28 arrested Clarke Pilgrim at the East Meadow correctional facility, alleging she smuggled banned substances that included marijuana into the jail multiple times for an inmate.
The nurse and inmate, identified in records as Laphael McClenic, “considered themselves husband and wife” after meeting in the jail, according to authorities. They also alleged Clarke Pilgrim brought McClenic items that included a ring sizer — because she wanted them to have matching rings.
Her sentence was part of a negotiated plea bargain with the Nassau district attorney’s office that included the judge dropping a misdemeanor conspiracy charge.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Jesse Aviram asked the judge Wednesday to follow her prior sentencing commitment.
But Brian Sullivan, the head of Nassau’s correction officers union, later criticized the district attorney’s office and judge outside the courtroom for what he called a lenient penalty.
“It’s a joke. It’s a miscarriage of justice. It shows how completely broken the criminal justice system is not only in Nassau County, but in New York State,” he said.
Sullivan added that Clarke Pilgrim is the second nurse caught bringing contraband into the jail in recent years and also the second to get “a slap on the wrist.”
Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, released a statement later saying Clarke Pilgrim “pleaded guilty to the top charge, took responsibility for her actions and was given an appropriate sentence for a misdemeanor crime."
Court spokesman Daniel Bagnuola said the judge was “prohibited from commenting” on the sentence.
“This was the defendant’s first time involved in the justice system, she accepted responsibility for what she did, and faces one year in jail if she doesn’t comply,” he added.
The terms of the plea bargain included the judge granting the nurse a certificate of relief from civil disabilities, according to Bagnuola. He said Wednesday the judge will monitor Clarke Pilgrim's progress on probation and told the defense to wait six months before making an application for it.
Such a certificate can remove the consequences of a conviction for an occupational license holder, according to a state court website. A nurse is required to disclose criminal convictions when applying to renew a New York nursing registration, and the state Education Department decides on a case by case basis if a person’s conviction will disqualify him or her from being licensed as a nurse in New York, according to another state website.
Clarke Pilgrim declined to comment Wednesday. Her defense attorney, Rajiv Syed of Fresh Meadows, Queens, said the case came to a "fair resolution."
He said his client now works elsewhere as a nurse.
“I hope this is a moment of growth and this is something she can use to improve and have a brighter future,” Syed added.