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Nurse's aide admits she did nothing to help nursing home patient in distress

Defendant Leona Gordon, one of nine Medford nursing

Defendant Leona Gordon, one of nine Medford nursing home employees facing charges stemming from the 2012 nursing home death of an elderly resident, arrives at the court in Riverhead, Jan. 13, 2015. Photo Credit: John Roca

A nurse's aide admitted in court Tuesday that she did nothing for one hour as alarms sounded alerting the staff at a Medford nursing home that a 72-year-old patient was in medical distress.

Leona Gordon, 35, of Medford was assigned to the nurse's station to watch alarm monitors the night the woman died. She said that after one hour she notified supervisors, then did nothing more for a second hour and no other staff responded as the alarms continued.

The alarm that went off was monitoring the pulse rate and blood-oxygen level of Aurelia Rios of Central Islip, Gordon said. Rios was declared dead minutes after arriving at a hospital after being taken from the Medford Multicare Center for Living on Oct. 26, 2012.

Gordon, a certified nurse's aide, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and will not have to serve jail time as long as she cooperates with investigators from the state attorney general's office and testifies, if necessary, against the eight other employees facing charges stemming from an investigation that began with Rio's death. Gordon was indicted on a felony with a penalty of up to 4 years in prison. The nursing home has said no crimes were committed and that workers did not attempt to cover up the death.

However, Gordon admitted in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead that she gave a statement to investigators five days after the death, saying she continued to page supervisors until a nurse went into Rios' room. But she acknowledged to Special Assistant Attorney General Veronica Bindrim-MacDevitt that the statement was false.

Gordon spoke mostly in one-word replies, standing beside her lawyer, Edward Burke of Sag Harbor, as Bindrim-MacDevitt asked questions. State Supreme Court Justice John Collins asked her several times to speak up.

The judge told Gordon several times that a guilty plea could mean deportation because she was not a citizen. She said she understood, and pleaded guilty to a single count of endangering the welfare of an incapacitated or disabled person. Gordon is from Montserrat.

Charges are pending against the other six employees working the night Rios died: Kethlie Joseph, 62, of Brentwood, a respiratory therapist; nurses Victoria Caldwell, 51, of Medford, Marianne Fassino, 53, of Shirley, and Kimberly Lappe, 32, of Medford; and nurse's aides Christina Corelli of East Patchogue and Patricia DiGiovanni, 63, of Port Jefferson.

The supervisors -- who were not on duty when Rios died, but are accused of falsifying business records, tampering with physical evidence and obstructing governmental administration -- are David Fielding, 57, of Lido Beach, the facility's administrator, and Christine Boylan, 49, of Mastic, director of respiratory therapy.

The employees and supervisors have all previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.The nursing home and its five owners also are named in a separate lawsuit filed by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman alleging they "looted" $60 million from the home over a period of years by paying themselves salaries and profits, and by funneling Medicaid funds, money intended for residents' care, to their family-run charities while cutting costs.

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