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Leona Gordon, key prosecution witness in death of Medford nursing home resident, admits she lied in court

Leona Gordon, a former nurse's aide, testified against

Leona Gordon, a former nurse's aide, testified against her co-workers charged in the death of a Medford nursing home resident as part of a plea deal to avoid jail time and possible deportation. She is shown arriving to court in Riverhead on Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A key prosecution witness in the trial of five Medford nursing home workers charged in a resident's death admitted Wednesday she had lied to jurors.

Leona Gordon, 35, of Medford, testified on Tuesday that she had quit her job at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson because her duties required riding in an elevator, and claustrophobia kept her from continuing to work there.

Wednesday, Gordon told jurors that was a lie.

"Were you fired from St. Charles?" Scott Gross, attorney for Kimberly Lappe, one of the defendants on trial in Riverhead, asked Gordon.

"Yes," Gordon replied.

When Gross first confronted Gordon, she denied being fired. But Gordon backtracked after Gross showed Gordon her employment application at Medford Multicare Center, in which she wrote she was fired from her last job.

Gordon, a former nurse's aide, is one of 10 defendants arrested and charged in connection with the death of Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip. Rios, who died at the nursing home on Oct. 26, 2012, was a resident on the ventilator unit.

Gordon, a mother of two who is not a U.S. citizen, testified against her co-workers as part of a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time and possible deportation.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office alleged that Lappe, 33, a nurse from Southold, and three colleagues ignored audible and visual alarms that indicated Rios' pulse and blood-oxygen levels were low or nonexistent, and that their failure to provide her care contributed to her death.

Prosecutors also alleged that the four women and a fifth co-defendant attempted to cover up Rios' death or their roles in her death. In addition to Lappe, the other four employees on trial are Christine Boylan, 50, of Mastic, the former director of respiratory therapy; Kethlie Joseph, 63, of Brentwood, a respiratory therapist; and two nurses -- Victoria Caldwell, 52, of Medford, and Marianne Fassino, 54, of Shirley.

All five women face various charges, including neglect and falsifying business records. Joseph is the only one charged with criminally negligent homicide for allegedly failing to connect Rios to a ventilator.

Under questioning by Jonathan Manley, Joseph's attorney, Gordon said she had lied on several occasions to investigators from the state Department of Health and the attorney general's office. She said she also lied to her employer.

Gordon testified Tuesday that she summoned help only once during more than two hours when the system that monitored Rios' vitals signs continually sent visual and audible notifications, signaling she was in distress. She said no one responded.

Wednesday, Gordon said she lied when she told authorities earlier that she paged the nursing staff six or seven times. She lied to her employer when she said she continually summoned the nursing staff until someone went to check on Rios.

"It wasn't true," Gordon said.

The trial continues Thursday, with the testimony of another nurse's aide, Maria Borgatta, who is not charged in connection with the death.

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