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Former Medford nursing home workers freed from jail pending appeals

Kethlie Joseph, 63, of Brentwood, a former healthcare

Kethlie Joseph, 63, of Brentwood, a former healthcare worker at the Medford Multicare Center for Living, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, where she was sentenced for her role in a patient's death at the nursing home in 2012. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Two former Medford nursing home employees who spent nine days behind bars for their roles in the 2012 death of a patient were released from a Riverhead jail Thursday and will remain free pending their appeals.

Attorneys for respiratory therapist Kethlie Joseph, 63, of Brentwood and nurse Marianne Fassino, 54, of Shirley successfully persuaded an appellate court justice in Brooklyn to temporarily suspend their sentences while they petition the court to overturn the decisions of two juries.

"She's thrilled," said Joseph's attorney, Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge. "We fully expect a successful appeal."

Fassino's attorney, Joseph DeMatteo of Manhattan, said his client was very happy to be home.

A third health care worker, nurse Victoria Caldwell, 52, of Medford, who was supposed to start serving time next Thursday, does not have to surrender and was allowed to remain free pending her appeal.

The orders, issued on Thursday by Justice John M. Leventhal, allow the women 120 days to submit their appeals, which could take up to two years.

In September 2012, the patient, Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip was admitted to the Medford Multicare Center for Living to help wean her off a ventilator, which state prosecutors said she had depended on to help her breathe while asleep.

On Oct. 25, 2012, Joseph didn't follow Rios' doctor's order and failed to attach Rios to the ventilator, setting in motion a chain of events resulting in her death the next day. Joseph and the nursing staff, according to state prosecutors, ignored audible and visual alarms for more than two hours alerting them that Rios was in medical distress.

Rios was found dead in her bed at 3:30 a.m.

The jury convicted Joseph of criminally negligent homicide and other crimes and State Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins in Riverhead sentenced her to 9 months in jail.

A second jury found Fassino and Caldwell guilty of falsifying business records in an attempted cover-up. Fassino received 6 months, and Caldwell, who had no role in Rios' care but who also took part in the cover-up, was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

A whistleblower notified the state Health Department, which launched an investigation, then alerted Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office, which prosecuted the women, six of their colleagues, and the nursing home.

Nick Benson, a spokesman for Schneiderman, declined Friday to comment on the women's release.

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