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Medford nursing home administrator sentenced to 7 days in jail in death of resident

David Fielding, former administrator of the Medford Nursing

David Fielding, former administrator of the Medford Nursing home, arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Fielding is expected to be sentenced to 7 days in jail for his role involving the death of a resident in the nursing home in 2012. Credit: James Carbone

A former Medford nursing home administrator who admitted he withheld information from health investigators in an attempt to cover up the true cause of a resident's death in 2012 was sentenced Monday to a maximum of seven days in jail.

David Fielding, 58, of Lido Beach, is one of nine health care workers, and the highest-ranking staff member of the nursing home, Medford Multicare Center for Living, to be convicted in connection with the death of the ventilator-dependent resident, Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip.

Fielding, who was not on duty the day Rios died, received one of the lightest sentences from State Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins. The judge presided over all the cases.

"I think you're a good person who made a terrible, terrible mistake," the judge told Fielding.

Fielding's wife, who sat in the Riverhead courtroom, wept as court officers handcuffed him and led him away to the Suffolk County jail, where he will serve his sentence.

Rios' daughter, Michelle Giamarino, of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania -- who was told by the nursing staff her mother died of a heart attack -- could not be reached for comment.

In September 2012, Rios, who had a tracheotomy, was admitted to the Medford facility's short-term rehabilitation unit to help wean her from the ventilator, which she had depended on to help her breathe when she was asleep, state prosecutors have 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.

Rios was found dead in her bed by a nurse's aide checking on her at about 3:30 a.m.

A whistleblower reported the suspicious circumstances surrounding Rios' death to health investigators who alerted Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office.

Minutes before the sentencing, Special Assistant Attorney General Veronica Bindrim-MacDevitt said Fielding had logs that showed that on the day Rios died no staff member checked on her even though machines that monitored her vital signs sounded for about two hours. Fielding, she said, had a legal obligation to report that failure to respond to the New York State Department of Health, where he once worked.

"For that, there must be some consequences," said Bindrim-MacDevitt, who had asked for harsher punishment.

Fielding pleaded guilty Sept. 11 to the two counts of first-degree falsifying business records and one count of willful violation of public health laws, a misdemeanor, for failing to report an act of neglect against Rios.

Fielding's attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City, said by pleading guilty his client has accepted responsibility for his role in Rios' death. "Ultimately, this was not a truly intentional act but a mistake for which Mr. Fielding has accepted responsibility," Griffin said Tuesday after the sentencing.

Fielding is expected to be released Thursday, at the latest, Griffin said. The day Fielding surrendered to authorities in 2014 is counted as a day in jail, and he is expected to receive a reduction, a third of his sentence, for good behavior.

The nursing home, which also was charged as a corporation, has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by Schneiderman's office.

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