A former Medford nursing home administrator pleaded guilty Friday to falsifying business records, admitting that he attempted to thwart two separate probes into the death of a resident by withholding information from investigators.
The administrator, David Fielding, 58, of Lido Beach, pleaded guilty to the two felony charges against him as well as a third charge of willful violation of public health laws, a misdemeanor, for failing to report an act of neglect against Aurelia Rios, 72, a ventilator-dependent resident who died Oct. 26, 2012, at Medford Multicare Center for Living.
In exchange, Justice John B. Collins in Riverhead promised to sentence Fielding to no more than seven days in jail, significantly less than the 1 1/3 to 4 years he had faced. The judge did not explain his decision in court.
"I feel that justice, in the long run, is being served, and that moving forward people will be more diligent and this not happen to someone else," Rios' daughter, Michelle Giamarino, 53, of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, said Friday outside the courtroom.
In September 2012, Rios, who had a tracheotomy, was admitted to the Medford facility's short-term rehabilitation unit to help wean her off the ventilator, which she had depended on to help her breathe when she was asleep, state prosecutors had said. Every night, a respiratory therapist who cared for Rios connected her to the ventilator, until Oct. 25, 2012. On that night the respiratory therapist on duty failed to do so, leading to Rios' death the next day.
Fielding is one of nine employees charged in connection with Rios' death. Five workers were convicted at trial and three others have pleaded guilty. All are awaiting sentencing. The nursing home, which also was charged as a corporation, is set to go to trial Sept. 24, but the case is expected to be resolved without a trial.
Fielding, who once worked for the New York State Department of Health, admitted that he had information, alarm logs, that showed machines that monitored Rios' vital signs sounded for more than two hours the day she died and none of his staff responded. He also said he didn't provide the alarm logs to investigators from the state health department and the nursing home, causing a false account of Rios' death to be part of both reports.
On Friday, Justice Collins asked Fielding a series of questions designed to elicit admissions of culpability.
"Yes, your honor," Fielding said in response to each of the judge's questions.
Fielding has agreed to surrender his license to manage a nursing home, essentially giving up his job for the time he will be on probation, which the judge said would be no more than five years. He will be sentenced on Nov. 16.
Fielding, who remains free, declined to comment.
"Today, he made a decision to move forward and put this behind him," said Fielding's attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, whose office brought the charges against the nursing home and its employees, declined to comment.
Giamarino, accompanied by her husband, declined to comment directly on the amount of jail time Fielding will serve.
"Serving time is serving time," she said. "It's life-changing for him."