Saturday, March 24, 2018

Assisted suicide laws are creating a 'duty-to-die' medical culture

Despite not hearing about it often, assisted suicide is a major issue in the U.S. right now. In more than 20 states this year alone lawmakers have introduced bills to legalize assisted suicide, and almost every single one of them has been struck down — with bi-partisan support. A recent bi-partisan Sense of Congress bill introduced in Washington, D.C., has opened up the discussion at a national level, and paved the way for upcoming bills and debates in 2018. If 2017 was a busy year for assisted suicide legislation, 2018 will be even more so.

Though assisted suicide is promoted as freedom of choice, the economic forces that drive insurance companies, and subsequently patients’ coverage options, greatly restrict self-determination for already vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. There is evidence that economic considerations limit choice when it comes to health insurance coverage. And the deadly combination of assisted suicide and our profit-driven health care system does in fact steer some patients toward lethal drugs, the cheapest form of “treatment.”

Dr. Brian Callister, a physician from Reno, Nev., was told by two separate insurance medical directors that assisted suicide would be covered for his California patients, but the curative therapies Dr. Callister had prescribed to save their lives would not. 

Callister confirms the concerns of health care advocates, saying that “since assisted suicide became legal in California and Oregon, the practice of medicine across the West has been irreparably harmed for patients who still want their diseases treated but are now simply offered the cheaper option of a quick death.” Patients Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup in Oregon had similar experiences.

Multiple studies show that people with disabilities, senior citizens, poor people, and people of color are more likely to be mistreated by medical professionals, and the likelihood of being mistreated increases if family members view them as an emotional or financial burden. 

When it comes to assisted suicide, we see in states like Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for two decades, the percentage of Oregon deaths attributed to a patient’s reluctance to “burden” their families rose from 13 percent in 1998 to 40 percent in 2014

This reveals that the right to die “option” for some vulnerable populations has quickly become more like a duty to die.

The legalization of assisted suicide also devalues the lives of people with disabilities because it creates a double standard — insurance companies and state agencies readily offer to pay for life-ending drugs for individuals with disabilities and serious health conditions when they ask for death, but provide suicide prevention services to non-disabled individuals who make the same request.

But there is more cause for alarm. In states where assisted suicide is legal, nothing prevents a relative who stands to benefit from the patient’s death from steering that person towards suicide, witnessing the request, picking up the lethal dose, or even administering the drug. The same goes for abusive caregivers. No witnesses are required when the lethal drugs are administered, and despite assurances by assisted suicide proponents, there are no checks or balances that would prevent abuses. 

On top of that, oversight and data reporting are difficult or impossible to enforce. At present, states that have legalized assisted suicide do not even require doctors to record the lethal medication they prescribed as the direct cause of death on the death certificate. Instead, they list the cause of death as, for example, the patient’s terminal illness thereby leaving behind a trail of misleading documentation.

When it comes to assisted suicide, mistakes by health care professionals, widespread misinformation, coercion, and abuse all limit the ability of people with disabilities to make informed and independent decisions. And in this profit-driven economic climate, is it realistic to expect that insurers are going to do the right thing, or the cheap thing? If insurers deny, or even delay, approval of costlier life-saving alternatives, then money saving but fatal measures become the deadly default. 

The truth is that assisted suicide as public policy is rife with dangerous loopholes and consequences, especially for the vulnerable in our society. We should reject laws that legalize the practice.

Helena Berger is president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Full Article & Source:
Assisted suicide laws are creating a 'duty-to-die' medical culture

Authorities arrest nursing home employee

Dianne Haddock Burton
A 54-year-old Milledgeville nursing home employee has been arrested by local authorities in connection to a March 15 incident where an elderly resident was hit in the mouth.

The case had been under investigation by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office since the alleged crime took place.

Detective Chris Burrell identified the suspect as Dianne Haddock Burton, of 182 Helen Circle, was taken into custody about 2 p.m. Tuesday at a residence by Deputy Chanda Hogan.

Burton was being sought on outstanding felony warrants on charges of battery involving an elderly person and exploitation or deprivation of a disabled or elderly person over the age of 65, Burrell said.

After being arrested, Burton was taken to the Baldwin County Law Enforcement Center where she was jailed on the charges. 

Burrell said his investigation revealed the victim told several employees at Chaplinwood Nursing Home, located at 385 Allen Memorial Drive, what had happened to her.

“The victim said the woman who took care of her at nighttime struck her in the face when she was trying to change her clothes,” Burrell said. “The CNA was trying to put dirty pants on her.”

At the time, Burton was working a 12-hour shift as a CNA, Burrell told The Union-Recorder.

The case detective said he secured the warrants for Burton’s arrest on Monday.

“She was already out on bond at the time of this last arrest,” Burrell said.

Burton had previously been arrested by Deputy Crystal Washington on charges of simple battery and three counts of cruelty to children in the third degree following a recent physical altercation with her niece, Burrell said.

“She was released after bonding out on March 13 and went to work around 1700 hrs. (5 p.m.),” Burrell said. “The incident at the nursing home happened on the morning of March 15.”

The victim said she was hit in the mouth by a woman who worked at the nursing home between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. on March 15, Burrell said.

The detective said he later learned that Burton was working and responsible for the victim’s care at the time of the alleged crime.

After several employees of the nursing home were made aware of what had happened, the incident was immediately looked into by administrator Meredith Ransom.

Subsequently, efforts were made to reach Burton by telephone, but such attempts failed.

About two hours later, Burton talked with nursing home officials pertaining to the incident, Burrell said.

During a conversation that Burton had with Ransom, Burrell said Burton told the nursing home administrator her account of the incident was that the resident leaned up and bumped her  elbow onto her mouth.

“She also told a nurse that there was some pinkness and redness around the victim’s mouth,” Burrell said. “She didn’t tell the nurse that there had been physical contact.”

The victim told multiple people on the staff at the nursing home that she was struck in the face by an employee at the nursing home, Burrell said.

The detective said when he went to the nursing home and talked with the victim he noticed significantly more bruising than he had seen in a photograph of the victim that had been taken earlier by Hogan.

“I do not believe it was just an accidental bump from her (victim’s) elbow,” Burrell said.

Full Article & Source: 

Quincy woman accused of exploiting elderly man

Laura E. Dodd
QUINCY -- A Quincy woman is being held in the Adams County Jail on $15,000 bond after being arrested Wednesday for allegedly using an elderly man's checking account without his permission.

Laura E. Dodd, 36, was charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person, a Class 3 felony. Charging documents allege that between Feb. 20 and Tuesday, Dodd accessed between $300 and $5,000 from the man's checking account. Dodd was the caregiver of the man.

During her first appearance Thursday in Adams County Circuit Court, prosecutors said Dodd is currently on probation for possession of methamphetamine and was out on bond in another case. She also is on probation for a case in Marion County, Mo.

Dodd's next court date is April 4.

Full Article & Source:
Quincy woman accused of exploiting elderly man

Friday, March 23, 2018

National Council on Disability (NCD) Report Examines “Civil Death” of the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Elderly under Guardianships, Calls on Department of Justice to Ensure Full and Fair Due Process Rights

Baltimore, MD – The National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent federal advisory body – today will release and discuss the findings and recommendations of a seminal national report that thoroughly examines guardianship – the process through which an adult can be found legally incapable of making decisions for him or herself and another adult appointed to make decisions on behalf of that individual – in view of the estimated 1.3 million Americans subject to guardianship and the goals of longstanding national disability rights policy. The report release presentation will occur in Baltimore, Maryland at the Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium.

“Former Congressman Claude Pepper famously said of guardianships, ‘The typical [person subject to guardianship] has fewer rights than the typical convicted felon… It is, in one short sentence, the most punitive civil penalty that can be levied against an American citizen, with the exception, of course, of the death penalty,’” said Phoebe Ball, NCD Legislative Affairs Specialist who worked extensively on the report. “NCD chose to examine this topic at depth given the implications for someone’s civil rights and liberty under guardianship – that an individual is losing the authority to make decisions regarding where to live, whether to work and where, where to travel, with whom to socialize, and how to manage money and property. We need to explore alternatives to guardianship such as supported decision making that enable people to avoid this civil death.”

The findings and recommendations in the report, Beyond Guardianship: Toward Alternatives that Promote Greater Self-Determination for People with Disabilities, are the product of qualitative research on the experiences with guardianship and decision making alternatives of people with disabilities, their families, and professionals within the guardianship system gleaned through interviews; in addition to an extensive review of relevant scholarship and recent studies.

Report Findings:
Amongst its key findings, NCD’s Beyond Guardianship study found that:
    *Guardianship is often imposed when not warranted by facts or circumstances, because guardianship proceedings often operate under erroneous assumptions that people with disabilities lack capability to make autonomous decisions and rely upon capacity determinations that often lack sufficient scientific or evidentiary basis.

    *Although guardianship is considered a protective measure, courts often lack adequate resources, technical infrastructure, and training to monitor guardianships effectively and hold guardians accountable, which at times allows for guardians to use their positions to financially exploit people subject to guardianships or subject them to abuse or neglect.

    *People with disabilities are often denied due process rights in guardianship proceedings.

    *Although most state laws require consideration of less-restrictive alternatives, courts do little to enforce those requirements. Similarly, though every state has a process for the restoration of one’s rights lost through guardianship, the process is rarely used.

    *There is a lack of data on existing guardianships and newly filed guardianships, which frustrates efforts of policymakers to make determinations about necessary areas for reform.

    "People with disabilities should be given the maximum opportunity to make decisions for themselves and to live the lives that they want to live," said Neil Romano, Chairman of NCD. "At NCD, it is our responsibility to offer policymakers the best information available so that they can make decisions designed to move people with disabilities toward full inclusion and equality in our society and help them fully realize their American birthright of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

    Report Recommendations:
    For each major finding, NCD offers recommendations to federal and state policymakers to address areas of concern.

    A small sampling of the report’s recommendations includes:
    *The Department of Justice (DOJ), in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), should issue guidance to states (specifically Adult Protective Services [APS] agencies and probate courts) on their legal obligations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    *The Administration for Community Living (ACL) currently funds the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making and several demonstration projects at the state and local levels. These grants should be expanded to be able to fund more geographically- and demographically-diverse projects and pilots that specifically test SDM models and use SDM and the court systems to restore people’s rights as a matter of law, particularly for people who are older adults with cognitive decline, people with psychosocial disabilities, and people with severe intellectual disabilities.

    *DOJ should make funding available to train judges in the availability of alternatives to guardianship including, but not limited to, supported decision making. This training should also include information about the home and community-based–services system and the workforce development system so that judges understand the context in which decisions are being made by and for people with disabilities.

    *A state guardianship court improvement program should be funded to assist courts with developing and implementing best practices in guardianship, including training of judges and court personnel on due process rights and less-restrictive alternatives.

    NCD REport Examines “Civil Death” of the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Elderly under Guardianships, Calls on Department of Justice to Ensure Full and Fair Due Process Rights
READ the report: Beyond Guardianship: Toward Alternatives That Promote Greater Self-Determination for People With Disabilities

Thousands Lose Right to Vote Under 'Incompetence' Laws

Stateline March21
When he turned 18, Greg Demer lost his right to vote because of his autism, joining thousands of other people with mental disabilities who were stripped of the right during guardianship proceedings. More than a decade later, a different judge returned to him the right to vote.
Linda Demer
Like many people with autism, Greg Demer is bright but has difficulty communicating. He has a passion for the history of military aircraft, but he can’t quite keep up a conversation with new people. When he meets someone, he’ll quote from movies or ask them about their favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

His mother, Linda Demer, worried that he wouldn’t be able to make complicated decisions about his finances and health care once he turned 18. So, in 2005, a judge in Los Angeles, where they live, granted her conservatorship over Greg.

“I wanted to protect him,” she said of her son, who is now 31.

But in the conservatorship process, the judge also stripped away Greg’s right to vote. He was not only unfit to make decisions about his health care and finances, the judge ruled, but he also was unfit to participate in the democratic process.

In being declared “mentally incapacitated,” he joined tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities who every year lose their right to vote during guardianship proceedings, according to the California-based Spectrum Institute, an advocacy group for people with disabilities.

Laws in 39 states and Washington, D.C., allow judges to strip voting rights from people with mental disorders ranging from schizophrenia to Down syndrome who are deemed “incapacitated” or “incompetent.” Some of those states use archaic language like “idiots” or “insane persons” in their statutes.

The states that do not have similar restrictions are Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Not only is there no agreement among legal and psychological experts over whether certain people with disabilities should be disenfranchised, but there is also no set standard for measuring the mental capacity needed to vote. There is a tension between protecting the integrity of the electoral process and the civil rights of a person under guardianship, said Dan Marson, a professor emeritus at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s department of neurology.

“What should we require as a minimal standard?” he said. “There is not a clear answer.”

Should There Be Limits?

Fear of voter fraud is a primary reason why certain people with cognitive impairments are kept from the polls.

Alzheimer’s patients, for example, could be given a ballot while awake but only partially alert, and their caretaker or family member could cast it for them. Or a staff member at an assisted living facility could fill out or influence the ballots for dozens of people with severe cognitive issues.

“You would have people essentially voting twice,” said Pamela Karlan, the co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at the Stanford University Law School. “Some people’s cognitive abilities are so impaired, they shouldn’t vote. They have no idea what’s going on.”
Karlan said people should not only express an interest in voting, but also understand what voting means.

A very small number of votes, and in some cases potentially “tainted” votes by people who don’t have the “mental capacity of understanding an election,” can make a big difference in a close race, said Paul Appelbaum, the director of the division of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University’s department of psychiatry.

That sort of situation is not so farfetched, he said. A congressional race in Pennsylvania this month was decided by around 600 votes.

“Imagine if it became known that all the residents of a nursing home in the district voted in the election,” he said, “and many of them were so impaired that they didn’t know what the election was about or didn’t know what filling in a bubble on a form was.”

But in those examples of voter fraud, it’s not the person with a disability committing the crime — it’s the caretaker or family member, said Michelle Bishop, an advocacy specialist at the National Disability Rights Network based in Washington.

“We don’t strip someone of their rights in the name of protecting their rights,” Bishop said. “They are literally the last people in the U.S. who can get their right to vote stripped because of their identity. Having a disability does not mean you are not competent to vote.”

While some may not be able to make sound choices about their health care or finances, they can still understand and participate in the electoral process, Bishop said. The capacity to make choices depends on the situation.

Why a Standard Is Needed

Most states lack a clear legal definition of mental incapacitation, so it’s often up to a judge to make that determination, according to Jennifer Mathis, the director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Limiting the vote to people who have the mental capacity “sounds reasonable,” Mathis said, “but it is applied indiscriminately.”

Some judges take away the right from every person who comes before them in a guardianship case, she said. Other judges won’t preserve the right unless the person with a disability can name the mayor or president — something many people without disabilities can’t do, Mathis said.

Without a standard for measuring capacity, people with mental disabilities need to be properly represented in court, said Tom Coleman, the legal director of the Spectrum Institute. Coleman analyzed six months of court records and found that 90 percent of people with developmental disabilities placed under conservatorship in Los Angeles County were losing their right to vote. Statewide, 32,000 Californians have lost their right to vote in the past decade, he said.

“They were being pushed through the system as a matter of routine.”

Coleman lobbied for the California law, which took effect in 2016 and says the right to vote can be taken away only if a court finds “clear and convincing evidence” the person can’t express a desire to vote.

Voting ‘Capacity’

California, in its new law, joined Maryland, Nevada and New Mexico in adopting a standard promoted by the Bazelon Center and the American Bar Association. The standard is simple, Mathis said: Can a person communicate, with or without accommodations, a desire to vote?

“Can you make a choice?” she said. “It’s self-selecting. If someone with dementia can’t make a choice, yeah, that person doesn’t have the capacity to vote.”

However, a 2001 decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine offered a stricter standard: Does a person understand the “nature and effect” of voting? Washington state uses that language in its statutes.

Appelbaum from Columbia University helped create that standard. He argued that people should know what they’re doing when they’re voting — both the process of casting a ballot and the consequence of that vote. If people don’t understand, it could “cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the process.”

The groups of people who are at the greatest risk of lacking capacity are those with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, his research shows. People with mild Alzheimer’s and nearly all people with a serious mental illness have the capacity to vote, his studies show.

Vague responses about candidates, like, “I just think he’s good,” are insufficient, according to the stricter standard. But Americans often vote for candidates for vague reasons, such as liking someone’s hair or thinking the candidate would be nice to have a beer with, said Jason Karlawish, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. People with disabilities shouldn’t have a tougher standard, he said.

The reason for wanting to vote for someone is sometimes as simple as, “She made me happy,” which was why Daniel Holm, a Nebraska man with Down syndrome, said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Mary McHale, his mother and legal guardian, sat down with the then-18-year-old and helped him fill out his absentee ballot, going candidate by candidate, consulting a chart she made about the candidates and their positions.

“I framed it in a way that he could understand,” she said. He reads at a fourth-grade level, and is making his way through the Harry Potter books.

When they finished, he signed his name and they mailed in the ballot. He was proud of his vote, his mother said, joining his cousins and other “typical people” who got to participate in the democratic process.

Stateline March21
Daniel Holm, a Nebraska man with Down syndrome, voted for the first time in 2016.
Mary McHale

Getting the Right to Vote Back

An estimated 1.5 million adults are under legal guardianship nationwide, according to the AARP, but there is no data indicating how many have lost their right to vote. There is little movement in state legislatures to eliminate restrictions on voting for people with mental disabilities, Mathis said.
So, in places such as California, Coleman is hoping to restore the right to vote for many others who had them taken away. He’s helped Greg Demer get his back.

A decade after a judge stripped Demer of his right to vote, he had it restored by a different judge bending to pressure from Coleman. He missed 10 years of presidential, gubernatorial and mayoral races, but at the age of 28, Demer could finally vote.

“It was a way for my son to be proud of himself,” Linda Demer said, “and return some of his self-esteem.”

Greg Demer now works at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying — one of his three part-time jobs — working to restore military aircraft, fulfilling his passion for aviation.

After he filled out his absentee ballot for the 2016 presidential election, the first election he could participate in, he put on an “I Voted” sticker. He then gave his mom a high-five.

Full Article & Source:
Thousands Lose Right to Vote Under 'Incompetence' Laws

Woman charged with exploitation of an elderly person

Ashley D. Ramsey
A 24-year-old Enid woman was arraigned Thursday on a felony charge accusing her taking money from the wallet of a 62-year-old man.

Ashley D. Ramsey appeared free on $2,500 bond for arraignment on a single felony charge of exploitation of an elderly patient. She faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on the charge.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, Enid Police Department Officer Nicole Binckley responded Feb. 12 to the home of a man who requires home health care services.

Binkley spoke with the man, Ramsey, the man's home health care provider and two of Ramsey's supervisors, all employed by Complete Home Health.

Binckley spoke with the two supervisors, and they said Ramsey had stolen $100 from the man's wallet, according to the affidavit. One of the supervisors said they both came to the residence to confront Ramsey and when they did, Ramsey admitted to taking the money.

One of the supervisors told Binckley that Ramsey said she was going to repay the money when she got paid, according to the affidavit. While speaking to the supervisor, Binckley noted in the affidavit that Ramsey looked up at her, and without asking, said, "Yeah, I took the money."

Binckley asked the 62-year-old man what had happened. He said he asked Ramsey to go to the store and get a few items. While Ramsey was gone, he fell asleep, according to the affidavit. The man said when he woke up his wallet had been moved and was not in its normal place.

The man said when he checked the wallet $100 was missing, according to the affidavit. When he asked Ramsey about the missing money, he said she admitted to taking it.

Ramsey's direct supervisor told Binckley that Ramsey had been complaining for the past two weeks about not having enough money to pay her bills, according to the affidavit. He said he was then notified about the 62-year-old man's money being gone and when he and the other supervisor asked Ramsey about it, she admitted to taking the money.

"By the time I started talking to Ashley, Ashely had stated at least three times that she had taken the money," Binckley wrote in the affidavit. Ramsey told Binckley she had put down a deposit to rent a house but needed another $100 to secure the house.

Ramsey said she saw the money in the man's wallet and took it to pay the rest of the downpayment for the house, according to the affidavit. Ramsey said she had every intention of repaying the man when she got paid.

Full Article & Source: 
Woman charged with exploitation of an elderly person

Chester County Orphans Court seeks guardian program volunteers

The Chester County Orphans’ Court is seeking volunteers to serve county individuals who require guardianship — assisting the court in maintaining contact with any person deemed by the court who cannot make decisions about their daily lives, where they live, or medical or financial matters.

The amount of volunteer time for visits to individuals who need guardianship is flexible, and training for the guardian program includes topics such as the guardianship process, individual’s rights, Alzheimer’s disease and information on public agencies that provide the guardianship services.

“Our trained volunteers are the eyes and ears of the court and help us to be alert to and deal with issues of fiscal safety for those whom we declare incapacitated,” explained the Honorable Katherine B. L. Platt, administrative Judge with the Chester County Orphans’ Court.

Anyone interested in becoming part of the Orphans’ Court guardian program is invited to take part in a free training session that will be held on Thursday, April 12, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Chester County Justice Center, 201 W. Market Street, West Chester. A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

For more information about the program or to request an application for the upcoming training, contact Diane Mulhearn at 610-344-5212 or email

Full Article & Source:
Chester County Orphans Court seeks guardian program volunteers

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Nursing home residents' rights measure scrapped

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Saying he didn’t want to make changes necessary to get it passed, Florida Constitution Revision Commission member Brecht Heuchan on Tuesday withdrew a proposal that would have guaranteed certain rights to nursing-home residents and allowed them to sue facilities if those rights were violated.

Heuchan said he met with commission members over the past several weeks to discuss their concerns and discovered that the portions of the proposed constitutional amendment (Proposal 88) that were most important for him were the same provisions that were most worrisome to other commissioners.

“To get this proposal in a place where it could enjoy the support that’s needed would leave it in a place that I wouldn’t want it, to be honest,” Heuchan said in announcing his decision to withdraw the proposal from further consideration.

Though his remarks were relatively brief, Heuchan fought rising emotion in his voice, noting that it was painful for him to concede that the proposal wouldn’t pass. The proposal faced opposition from the nursing-home industry.

“It’s very difficult, but it is life and it is this process and it’s the way things are,” Heuchan said.

Heuchan’s proposed constitutional amendment would have guaranteed residents whose rights were violated the ability to sue -- without limitations -- for losses, injuries and damages caused to them and their families. The owners, operators, employees and others who care for residents at long-term care facilities could have been liable under the proposal.

The proposal also would have required facilities to have the financial resources or liability insurance to provide compensation for damages, something they are not required to have today.

Heuchan’s proposal was supported by AARP Florida which backed enshrining the rights in the state Constitution. AARP spokesman Dave Bruns said the senior-advocacy group was disappointed that the proposal was withdrawn.

The Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years and has the power to place proposed constitutional amendments directly on the November ballot. It is meeting this week in Tallahassee to try to narrow a list of ballot proposals. Ultimately, 60 percent of voters would have to approve any constitutional amendments.

Heuchan is a legislative lobbyist for the Florida Justice Association, which represents plaintiffs’ attorneys, and the Tampa law firm of Wilkes & McHugh, which has long been a major player in suing nursing homes.

Heuchan’s connections led Conwell Hooper, executive director of the American Senior Alliance, to file an ethics complaint against him. Hooper’s group is a member of the Florida Health Care Association, the state’s largest nursing home association, which adamantly opposed the proposal.

But the Florida Commission on Ethics cleared Heuchan, saying nothing in the complaint filed against Heuchan showed he was paid to push the amendment or broke laws.

The Florida Health Care Association issued a statement Tuesday thanking Heuchan for withdrawing his proposal.

“We believe the Legislature is the proper place for these types of discussions and look forward to working together with Florida lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders on policies that prioritize resident care,” association Executive Director Emmett Reed said in a prepared statement.

LeadingAge Florida, another nursing home group, said it was pleased the proposal was withdrawn.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, the proposal would have done nothing to improve the lives of nursing home and ALF (assisted living facility) residents.  Instead, it would only have served to benefit trial attorneys and divert already scarce resources that should be spent on the care of frail seniors,” LeadingAge Florida President Steve Bahmer said in a statement.

While he is withdrawing the proposal, Heuchan said he plans to continue to “fight for the rights of the elderly in our state and would welcome all the help I could get.”

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home residents' rights measure scrapped

Bill would allow probate judges to commit 18-year-olds

MONTGOMERY — Earlier this year, Florence police responded to a call involving an 18-year-old woman having a mental health crisis.

She was a risk to herself and others, Lt. Brad Holmes said.

State law doesn’t allow probate judges, or the specially trained mental health officers in Lauderdale County, to commitment 18-year-olds to mental health facilities, Holmes said.

He said the state departments of Human Resources and Youth Services generally don’t intervene for 18-year-olds who are not already in their systems, as was the case with this out-of-state University of North Alabama student, Holmes said.

The young woman, who refused to stay at the hospital her friends had taken her to, was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, and held by police until her family members could get to Alabama.

What she needed was mental health care, Holmes said.

“If a service isn’t available that is appropriate, we still have to safeguard the public,” he said. “This individual should have been in a hospital, but we didn’t have the means to make that happen.”

Senate Bill 330 in the Alabama Legislature would end that “mental health no-man’s-land” for 18-year-olds, sponsor Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, said this week.

It would change from 19 to 18 the age at which people can be involuntarily committed to mental health facilities by probate judges.

However, officials with the Alabama Department of Mental Health said the bill isn’t needed because juvenile courts have jurisdiction over 18-year-olds.

There is not a gap in service per the letter of the law as to who has jurisdiction, mental health spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert said in an email Tuesday.

“ … should SB330 pass, a jurisdictional conflict would be created giving juvenile and probate courts jurisdiction to commit mentally ill or intellectually disabled 18-year-olds to the Department of Mental Health,” Valdes-Hubert said. “The department maintains the position that 18-year-olds are better served in juvenile court than probate court with adults.”

Valdes-Hubert said the department has committed to provide training on the law to stakeholders in the Florence area and to holding meetings to determine if additional steps need to be taken to ensure 18-year-olds are receiving the proper services.

A fiscal note on the bill says it would increase costs for the Alabama Department of Mental Health by an undetermined amount that would depend on the number of 18-year-olds committed, their diagnosis and needed treatment.

The bill has passed the Senate and will be in the House Judiciary Committee today.

The Department of Mental Health did not have a comment on Melson’s bill, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The Department of Human Resources didn't respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Lauderdale County Probate Judge Will Motlow said this week something needs to be done to make sure 18-year-olds get quick, appropriate mental health care.

“We haven’t had a situation where it’s ended in a tragedy, but it could,” he said. “We just want to make sure these 18-year-olds aren’t falling through the cracks. Whatever that takes, we’re in favor of.”

Full Article & Source:
Bill would allow probate judges to commit 18-year-olds

Alzheimers hitting New Mexicans like 'tsunami-like wave'

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The number of New Mexicans living with Alzheimer's disease has jumped up again. The Alzheimer’s Association released its latest report on Tuesday. It shows 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease. From 2000 to 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s went up 123 percent in the U.S. New Mexico numbers are among the worst.

"It is growing faster in New Mexico than it is in other parts of the country," said Gary Giron, Executive Director of the New Mexico Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The 2018 report says 39,000 New Mexicans who are 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s. That is up 1,000 from 2017, and researchers predict it will increase to 53,000 by 2025.

Alzheimers hitting New Mexicans like 'tsunami-like wave'

"It is a tsunami-like wave that is hitting New Mexico and affecting more and more families," said Giron.

Alzheimer’s often has a painful, draining impact on family members and caregivers. Giron says it can lead to financial burdens for the family and even health problems for the caregiver.

"The person with the disease exits the workforce, and then you still have the caregiver continuing to be able to run that family,” said Giron. “But over time, the burden of the disease takes more and more time from that caregiver and makes their job harder and harder, so what starts as a five hour job a week, turns to be a 40 hour job, a 50 hour job, a 60 hour job where they're not getting sleep, they're not taking care of themselves and it's hard for them to make ends meet.”

New research ties significant cost savings to an earlier diagnosis. Giron says for that to happen, the nation and the state need to start talking about Alzheimer’s as a public health crisis.

"We need to train our physicians to be able to be comfortable to make an early diagnosis, to be able to make referrals to the right kind of supportive services, to be able to get folks involved with all of our free services here at the Alzheimer's Association, to get a care consultation so that they can be able to navigate their way through this disease,” said Giron.

The Alzheimer’s Association is always hosting events and fundraisers so they can continue offering free support as families try to navigate their way through a deadly, costly disease with no proven treatment or cure.

"It really is a crisis in New Mexico that we have to deal with.

Full Article & Source:
Alzheimers hitting New Mexicans like 'tsunami-like wave'

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Burton Dunn To Chair Alabama Law Institute Committee

5 Points Law Group, based in Birmingham, AL, is proud to announce that Burton Dunn has been appointed to the Alabama Law Institute’s committee in charge of revising the Alabama guardianship and conservatorship statutes. Burton Dunn is the founder of the 5 Points Law Group and is an active member of the National Guardianship Association. He is proud and honored to have been chosen to serve on the committee.

He says: "I am very excited to work with the committee. I firmly believe that the work we do will be impactful. As an active member of the National Guardianship Association, revising those statutes is very close to my heart and I hope that I can make a real difference where it matters the most."

The committee is part of the Alabama Law Institute, which in turn is part of the Alabama Legislative Services Agency. As stated on their website, this agency "exists to provide non-partisan professional services support to the Alabama Legislature." It was established by Act 2017-214 for the provision of legal, fiscal, and code revisions services to the Alabama Legislature. Furthermore, "the Legislative Services Agency succeeds to and is vested with all of the functions of the Alabama Law Institute, Legislative Fiscal Office, and Legislative Reference Service." Burton Dunn's role will be to support this work and ensure that due diligence is followed at all times.

The 5 Points Law Group, meanwhile, focuses on a myriad of different areas of law. These include employment law, family law, and estate planning and probate law. Estate planning and probate law is Burton Dunn's personal area of expertise. He explains: "I bring the attention to detail and knowledge of intricacies of this area of the law that are vital to successfully navigating complex probate matters such as conservatorships and guardianships, contested wills and trusts, and estate planning. I am also experienced in navigating the bureaucracies of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security."

For further information, people are encouraged to review Burton Dunn on LinkedIn. This provides details on his background and education, as well as his passion and drive for the law in Alabama and conservatorships and guardianship in particular.

Contact 5 Points Law Group:

Burton Dunn
(205) 352-4455
2151 Highland Ave Suite 205, Birmingham, AL 35205

Full Article & Source:
Burton Dunn To Chair Alabama Law Institute Committee

Former Nashville judge indicted on obstruction charges in embezzlement case

A federal grand jury in Tennessee has returned a superseding indictment against a former Nashville judge on obstruction charges stemming from an alleged scheme to embezzle cash from a nonprofit drug treatment facility, the Department of Justice said.

Cason “Casey” Moreland, 60, was originally indicted in April 2017 on five counts of obstruction of justice.

The superseding indictment returned Wednesday adds five new counts, including two additional obstruction of justice counts, including witness tampering and destruction of documents, two counts related to theft from a program receiving federal funds and one one count of committing an offense while on pretrial release.

Mr. Moreland was a judge for the General Sessions Court of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County. He heard civil, criminal and traffic cases as well as presided over the General Sessions Drug Treatment Court, a specialized court designed to provide alternatives to incarceration for low-level defendants.

The Drug Treatment Court is supported by the nonprofit Davidson County Drug Court Foundation. Prosecutors allege Mr. Moreland began embezzling cash from the foundation in the spring of 2016. Mr. Moreland is alleged to have directed to the Drug Court Foundation’s director to deliver envelopes with the organization’s cash to him in exchange for allowing the director her compensation according to court documents.

The superseding indictment alleges that after learning of the investigation, Mr. Moreland took steps to interfere with the investigation. He is accused of ordering the Drug Court Foundation’s director to destroy documents that would show the amount of cash that had been paid to the Foundation and ultimately stolen by Moreland.

He is also alleged to have attempted to tamper with a witness by suggesting that she lie to the grand jury investigating his conduct, according to court documents.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Lauren Bell and Andrew Laing of the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cecil VanDevender of the Middle District of Tennessee.

Full Article & Source:
Former Nashville judge indicted on obstruction charges in embezzlement case

See Also:
Casey Moreland to stay in jail after second round of obstruction charges

Undercover Recordings At Center Of Moreland Case

Nashville judge faces federal criminal charges

Casey Moreland to take leave from bench

Judge dismissed tickets, fines for female friend

Metro General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland resigns as presiding judge

Ethics Complaint Levels Charges Against Two Judges, Lewis

Investigation underway into inmate/deputy relationship in judge’s court  

President Trump Signs the RAISE Family Caregivers Act

Providing care for a family member or other loved one is not an easy job, and it requires a great deal of support. Yet many caregivers’ needs have long gone unmet. As a result, many of these individuals are stretched thin and prone to burnout, which can hinder their ability to provide for their loved one. That’s why caregivers as well as advocacy groups have been shouting out for greater support so that caregivers and those in their care can live happier lives.

Well, the government is finally listening.

On Monday, January 15, President Donald Trump signed into law the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. This piece of legislation will support the family caregivers in the United States—of which there are more than 40 million.

Photo: Flickr/The White House
Photo: Flickr/The White House

More specifically, the law requires the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services—currently Alex Azar—to construct a plan that will provide much-needed aid to caregivers who are looking after “a family member with an illness, disability, or ‘functional limitation.'” The plan will make suggestions for community resources and the federal, state, and local government as to how they could assist caregivers—according to The Mighty, that will include “respite options, financial security, workplace issues, and training supports related to hospice care and palliative care.”

Azar has 18 months to make this happen, with help from an advisory council made up of federal officials, caregivers, people with disabilities, and others involved with this particular community. Once the plan is set in place, it will be updated every other year.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Jaren Wicklund
Photo: Adobe Stock/Jaren Wicklund

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act has garnered bipartisan support, as well as applause from advocacy groups like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and the AARP.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in America,” said AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer Nancy LeaMond. “We need to make it easier for them to coordinate care for their loved ones, get information and resources, and take a break so they can rest and recharge.”

We at GreaterGood also applaud this Act and are excited to see what it will do for the millions of caregivers across the country. 

Full Article & Source:
President Trump Signs the RAISE Family Caregivers Act

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Hospice Survivors and Victims

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

Pam Murray is going to share with us how her mother-in-law was murdered by hospice.

Her family was lied to by several involved in the unnecessary admission to Hospice. When this finally ended, she found that her mother-in-law was on 19 medications which included the lethal drug cocktail that hospice uses.

Morphine, Ativan, and Seroquel were used in combination in this particular case, along with so many other drugs.

Please remember that YOU have a right to refuse Hospice and to revoke it.

Also, keep in mind that HIPPA (patient privacy) does not exist to protect the privacy of the patient, but rather, to protect medical providers and others from exposure for misdiagnosis, medical neglect, unnecessary drug applications, and other wrong doing which may be evidenced in the medical records.

Please tune in to tonight’s show as we continue to try to save lives here on Hospice Survivors and Victims Radio!

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

An interview with Laura Checkoway, director of the Oscar-nominated Edith+Eddie

The Kartemquin Films release profiles nonagenarian newlyweds who were torn apart. 
By J.R. Jones
Laura Checkoway
Nominated for an Oscar this year, Laura Checkoway's short documentary Edith+Eddie tells the story of two nonagenarians in Alexandria, Virginia—Edith Hill, a black woman, and Eddie Harrison, a white man—who married in June 2014 after ten years of companionship. The happy couple resided in Edith’s home of 44 years with her daughter Rebecca Wright but, as the film records, had to be forcibly separated after a court-appointed attorney ruled that Edith should be moved to Florida to live with her other daughter. Checkoway, a Michigan native now living in New York, is a protege of local documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), who served as executive producer on the short and hooked her up with documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films. Edith+Eddie opens Friday at Music Box as part of two programs collecting this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary shorts.

How did you first hear about this story?
A photo of the couple was circulating online. They had gotten married at age 95, 96, and they were being called America's oldest interracial newlyweds. A friend texted the picture to me, and I just kept looking at it. I wanted to know more about them and what it would be like to fall in love at that time in your life, so I connected the dots to the family and they invited me down to meet them. Within a few days I was on a bus from New York to Virginia, and actually the opening scene in the film, where we see them dancing together, was the first time we met.

When you learned about their relationship, did you feel it was different from people who were meeting earlier in life, a different set of stresses and circumstances that shaped their relationship?
I feel like they cherished each other even more because every day was something to hold dear. At the same time, that tenderness and excitement that you feel [when you're] young, to see that that doesn't change, whatever that feeling is that we get inside when we're fond of someone, that that remains true and possible throughout your whole life.

How did you first get involved with Kartemquin?
Steve James is a mentor of mine. I met him while I was making my first documentary, which is called Lucky. . . . He could really relate to a lot of what he heard I was going through with the making of that film. He suggested I see his film Stevie, which [also] follows a difficult person. . . . I don't know how Steve feels about me saying this, but he has been like an angel in my life.

What have you learned from him, either in your personal contact or through his films?
What he saw in Lucky, which he could relate to in Stevie, is not shying away from difficult people who don't have a story necessarily of overcoming or assimilating. It's just as important to pay attention to the kinds of people we wouldn’t usually see onscreen. [I've learned from] his integrity and his openness and willingness to deal with the messiness of life and all the complications that we, as people, go through. And even though Steve started with Hoop Dreams, which is a classic, I also see him continue to step his game up in different ways with every film. To see that level of not just consistency, but getting better with time is really inspiring.

I understand that producing this was more or less a one-woman operation. Can you describe the process of creating the film?
I wouldn't say a one-woman operation. I typically have one other collaborator, either a cameraman with me or Corwin [Lamm], who was a collaborator throughout, helped with the editing and coproducing as well. We would get there by any means possible when I felt it was important to be there, stay over at people's houses, sometimes drive back that very same night. I edited it on my laptop. So yeah, it was really bare-bones. There wouldn't have been any other way to make this film. I'm thankful that it was created in the way that it was, because it feels like the power of the story is what really shines through.

Edith was ruled legally incapacitated in 2011, which was a few years before the marriage, for reasons of dementia. In the time you spent with her, did she seem to be cognizant of what was going on? Did she forget things? What was your take on her mental sharpness?
She was really clear in some ways and, like many of us, not always so clear in others. It's a really nuanced spectrum, and what we've learned is that often, when somebody is deemed to be incapacitated or that box is checked that says you have dementia, there's no thought or recognition of what a broad spectrum that is. She was very lucid about wanting to be with Eddie, and her love for him, and she often spoke almost in prayer. She would recite poetry, she would sing to him over meals. It was really beautiful to get to know her.

How much time did you spend with her altogether during the shoot?
It was just under three months from the time that we met until the end of the film. We continued to film for another year and some change, following Rebecca's fight to bring her mom back home and also recognizing that this is a bigger issue that's happening to elders all over the country. I spoke with activists and advocates all over and families who have been affected by the legal guardianship system as well. Then the story hit a standstill, and when the ending that we were waiting for never came, I went to edit and chose to make it a shorter film.

What did this project teach you about elder-care law? Do you think it should be reformed?
Absolutely. I wasn't aware of the legal guardianship system when I entered into this. It's alarming to learn that what happens with Edith and Eddie is happening to elders all over the country, and that it's often experienced in isolation, so families don't know what hit them. I have heard horror stories from all over, and there's a through line even though everyone's family and situation is unique. It's a system that was implemented with intentions of protecting elders and now has become a feeding ground. The people who are appointed to protect are exploiting and taking advantage of those very same people . . . There's no federal oversight—guardianship is a state-by-state system—so there's no statistics on it at all, and that's what allows this sort of situation to fester. It's estimated that there are between 1.5 and three million people in this country under court-appointed guardianship. That's a really big range, right? So there's not even the basic numbers here, let alone people watching over what's happening.

Full Article & Source:
An interview with Laura Checkoway, director of the Oscar-nominated Edith+Eddie

Fort Collins couple indicted in SD elder financial abuse case

PIERRE, S.D. — A grand jury in South Dakota has indicted a Colorado couple on charges of financial elder abuse.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said Tuesday that 62-year-old Sandra Lee Pazen and 63-year-old Paul Damon Pazen, both of Fort Collins, were indicted by a Butte County grand jury.

Sandra Pazen faces one felony count of theft by exploitation with a value of between $5,000 and $100,000. Paul Pazen faces one felony count of receiving stolen property with a value of between $5,000 and $100,000, and two felony counts of grand theft.

The charge against Sandra Pazen alleges she took funds from an elderly relative in an amount within the statutory limits. Paul Pazen is accused of receiving and taking funds from an individual within the statutory limits.

Both are due in court March 16.

Full Article & Source:
Fort Collins couple indicted in SD elder financial abuse case

Editorial: It’s a scary time for seniors in nursing homes

Disgraceful is the word that sums up the number of violations that nursing homes in Connecticut are racking up — and troublesome is the White House’s effort to hide those violations under a new set of policies.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the nursing home industry, recently issued new guidelines that ease what the industry viewed as “overreaching, burdensome and punitive,” but advocates see as “dismantling the enforcement system and making it more difficult and less likely for any enforcement against facilities with serious deficiencies.”

Advocates have good reason to be concerned.

Connecticut issued 73 citations against nursing homes last year, with fines ranging up to $3,000, according to the Department of Public Health. To be fair, that is down from 96 the previous year.
But it is a persistent problem.

The federal government processed some hefty fines for 128 Connecticut nursing homes over the past three years, according to the CMS website, with Apple Rehab Rocky Hill being smacked with fines reaching more than $160,000; Advanced Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Haven shelling out more than $75,000; and Orchard Grove Specialty Care Center in Uncasville fined nearly $50,000.

Nursing homes in Cheshire, East Haven, Hamden, Shelton, Torrington, also have been fined for violations due to lapses of care.

The violations have caused serious — and painful — injuries such as broken and fractured bones. Other violations include abuse and abusive behavior by staff toward patients; medication mix-ups and patients going up to six days without prescribed medications.

We believe these lapses in care highlight the need for more oversight — and we’re not sure how the industry thinks easing regulations is going to lead to less errors.

Those are not the kind of stats that leave seniors or their loved ones feeling confident about the safety and well-being of patients in these facilities.

And it is certainly something to think about in a state where seniors are a burgeoning population and turning 100 is becoming commonplace.

Connecticut has its own nursing home laws and regulations, and assesses fines against facilities that violate them. Under legislation passed in 2017, the limit for fines for each violation quadrupled to $20,000.

We do think that nursing homes have the intention to provide the best service possible for their patients — but we also believe they must pick up their game and do a better job.

Many seniors will have to go into nursing homes as their lives near the end.

They deserve to know they are going into a caring facility, not be in fear of entering one fraught with human error that is costing lives, serious injuries — and fueling fear among seniors.

Matthew Barrett, CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, which represents more than 150 of the 224 skilled nursing facilities in the state, says the easing of regulations will allow the industry to deliver better services.

The industry has what it wants now, so there should be no excuses. Injuries should drop and better services should be provided. That is what the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities promises that less oversight will allow its members to do.

We’ll be watching — because right now, it’s a scary time for seniors in nursing homes.

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: It’s a scary time for seniors in nursing homes

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Abolishing Probate: Minnesota, a Dangerous Place to Grow Old

5:00 pm PST…6:00 pm MST…7:00 pm CST…8:00 pm EST

Note: If you or a loved one was a victim of one of these uninvestigated claims of abuse here in Minnesota, please contact us at
The recent revelations regarding the uninvestigated claims of nursing home abuses numbering more than 21,000 in 2016 alone, has resulted in the resignation of the head of Minnesota Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, effective immediately back on December 12, 2017. The number of investigations was reduced even further when the facility’s were allowed to “self-report” resulting in only 1% of those allegations prompting an on-site inspection.

No mention was made, however, of how many of these abused residents were under involuntary guardianships to facilitate the theft of their estates, or who might have died as a result of medical kidnap and Hospice “hastening the end of life” practices. Since these residents are immediately isolated from family, friends and others as a result of predatory guardianships, we have no way of knowing how many might have died as a result of these particular kinds of activities.

These “revelations” were greeted with the usual “shock and awe” behavior by various members of the Minnesota legislature. Gee…What a surprise! Who knew! Well many of us out here did and had tried repeatedly to get the attention of our politicians, only to be greeted with the usual “zipping” (you are not in our district) so I can’t discuss this with you, and the stock answers….”I never heard of this before! It must be an isolated incidence” “I’ll get right on this! This is very concerning…I’ll get right on this”. Of course they never did anything until the Star Tribune published a scathing article detailing the dismal state of affairs in Minnesota nursing homes.

A Special Report by Star Tribune
“Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed in senior care homes. Their cases are seldom investigated, leaving families in the dark.”

Now all kinds of new legislation is supposedly coming out to combat the abuse of seniors. We’ll be watching that closely! Of most concern is the newly created Palliative Care Advisory Committee (stealth euthanasia via terminal sedation). I can hardly wait to see what the plan is there.

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Court documents: Sacramento County deputy sent woman, 75, to Philippines

A petition for conservatorship of a woman alleged to have been the victim of elder abuse by two Sacramento County sheriff's deputies says the 75-year-old suffers from dementia and did not remember why she was sent to the Philippines.

The petition, filed March 8 by Rosalie Achiu's nephew in Washington, said the woman "suffers from dementia" and is "unable to resist fraud or undue influence and lacks the capacity to provide informed consent and make medical decisions on her own behalf."

The documents describe the relationship between Achiu, Deputy Stephanie Angel, a 14-year veteran of the department, and Angel's partner, a six-year veteran of the department.

It says Angel and Achiu met in mid-January.

A commendation from the sheriff's department given to Angel for her help with Achiu states the two met Jan. 14. She would return a day later to check on her again, according to the commendation.

The petition goes on to allege that Achiu was "taken away from her own residence" and moved into one of the deputies' homes.

Angel was that deputy.

"She asked and pleaded to stay with me," Angel told KCRA 3 Thursday.

The records state that over the next few weeks, multiple withdrawals were made from Achiu's bank accounts and her home was listed for sale.

Angel and her attorney told KCRA 3 Thursday that Rosalie was intent on doing something with her home, whether that involved a sale, turning it into a rental or renovations.

"When it came to Rosalie's house, she basically just wanted what was most efficient to bring in the most amount of money. I mean, obviously. So, I consulted a Realtor that I knew and asked her opinion," she explained. "This Realtor said, 'I think you should do this. This will get you the most money. This is probably what you should do.' So, that's what I was trying to do -- what's best for her."

Next, the documents allege one of the deputies opened a joint bank account with Achiu. Then on Jan. 29, according to the records, the deputies took Achiu to the bank and "had the bank drill out the locks" to her safe deposit box.

"Rosalie needed items out of her safety deposit box to go with her to the Philippines. So, it was her request that we go to her safety deposit box and get those out," Angel said. "While we were there, Rosalie asked that she take all the items out and store them with her other belongings in the event she didn't want to come back from the Philippines."

That same day, documents say, Angel and her partner obtained a rush passport from

The following day, Angel obtained power of attorney over Achiu from a Roseville attorney, documents allege.

"He evaluated her. When you get evaluated for power of attorney, they obviously evaluate your mental competency and ability to make sure people aren't taking advantage of you," Angel said. "So, the lawyer spoke with her and did not see anything wrong."

The records go on to say that on Feb. 1, the deputies took Achiu to Sacramento International Airport, where she left for the Philippines on a one-way ticket.

Angel said Achiu wanted to go to the Philippines. In preparation for the trip, Angel said she mailed a letter to Achiu's family in the Philippines to explain how she'd been helping Achiu. She said she got Achiu's hair and nails done and prepared her personal belongings, including medications.

Thirteen days later, federal agents located Achiu in the Philippines and said she couldn't remember why she was there and wanted to return to the United States.

The records show she is now in an area hospital until a conservator can be chosen and an assisted living facility can be found.

Sheriff's department investigates

The sheriff's department received a complaint in January from someone concerned for the welfare of Achiu, who lived in North Highlands, officials said.

The complainant alleged that two deputies took advantage of the elderly woman, who possibly suffers from a diminished mental capacity and who had not been seen in several days, according to investigators.

The sheriff's department consulted with the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Marshals Service after the woman's whereabouts were unknown for several days.

During the investigation, detectives discovered that the woman was put on an airplane and sent to the Philippines to stay with extended family, sheriff's officials said.

At the request of the woman's family, officers went to the Philippines and found the woman, interviewed her and brought her safely home.

Angel: The investigation is retaliation

Angel believes the investigation by the sheriff's department comes in the wake of complaints she said she's made within the department pertaining to sexual harassment and the falsification of training records.

"There was the additional sexual text messages, innuendos, inappropriate touching," she said. "And I complained to five different supervisors over the last several months."

Angel said her partner, who is also being investigated, pleaded with a lieutenant three weeks before the investigation for the harassment to stop or they would consider filing suit against the county.

"We told them that, not only would we complain about the harassment retaliation, but the department is having us forge training records," Angel said. "And we told them that we would come out about that."

Sheriff's Sgt. Shaun Hampton issued this statement in response to Angel's allegations:
"If Ms. Angel alleged that she filed any sort of complaint last year alleging she was the victim of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, there is no record of any such complaint ever being filed.
"As to her remarks in defense of her conduct in the instant matter, unfortunately the investigations are still ongoing and no further information can be provided at this time."
The district attorney's office could not comment while the matter is still being investigated.

Full Article & Source:
Court documents: Sacramento County deputy sent woman, 75, to Philippines

Clark County DA Steve Wolfson kept quiet about aide’s theft

A longtime aide to District Attorney Steve Wolfson stole nearly $42,000 from his campaign four years ago to cover a gambling habit, but was allowed to pay back the money and avoid being charged, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation has found.

Audrie Locke, 45, the district attorney’s community liaison and spokeswoman, admitted in an interview that she took the campaign’s checkbook from Wolfson’s office without his knowledge and wrote a series of checks to herself in 2014. She blamed the theft on money troubles tied to her video poker addiction and fragile emotional state at the time over the deaths of her mother, three close friends and two dogs.

“I have a gambling problem … So there’s a lot of money issues that come with that, and that’s what happened,” she said. “The gambling spiraled. And if you talk to anybody who’s ever had a gambling problem, the first challenge that they have is recovering financially.”

The checks were written between February and August 2014 during Wolfson’s election run and about half of the money was stolen between July and August, a knowledgeable source said.

Wolfson’s failure to pursue potential felony criminal charges against Locke has raised concerns about whether she received favorable treatment because of her close personal relationship with the district attorney. Wolfson is running unopposed for reelection this year, and the candidate filing period ends Friday.

Locke said she had gambled away her paychecks and needed the cash to pay her bills, but dipped further into the campaign account during those two months hoping to win enough money playing video poker to pay back the $42,000.

At the time, Locke, who was using her maiden name Audrie Dodge , was on Wolfson’s campaign payroll performing a variety of duties, including for helping to maintain the campaign’s books and filing contribution and expense reports with the state. She also was earning about $80,000 a year in her high-profile job at the district attorney’s office.

Wolfson said in an interview that Locke has been a “trusted employee” for 14 years dating to his days as a Las Vegas councilman, and he still trusts her.

“She’s been the best employee I’ve ever had in 37 years, times 10,” he said. “If I could have a hundred Audries, I would love to have a hundred Audries.”

Wolfson defended his decision not to report the campaign theft to Las Vegas police, saying he was using his “discretion” as the victim to decline to pursue criminal charges.

“I believe that this is an aberration,” he said. “I believe she had an illness, and I believe that it’s the illness that caused her to do this … I decided to give her a second chance to prove to me that she would get treatment for her addiction.”

Locke repaid the $42,000 with the help of her family within two weeks after Wolfson discovered the theft in early August 2014, Locke and Wolfson said.

She also resigned from the office amid the hushed-up scandal on Aug. 25, 2014, and entered an intensive, six-week gambling addiction program before being hired back two months later.

Wolfson kept the reason for Locke’s sudden departure quiet, telling other staff that her resignation was for health reasons, current and former employees of the district attorney’s office said.

Decision criticized

His decision not to seek criminal charges has attracted criticism.

“I don’t know if he affords that same opportunity to other individuals that he prosecutes,” said Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who was present when the commission appointed Wolfson to the district attorney’s job in 2012.

Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, said the decision creates a perception problem for the district attorney.

“It looks bad,” he said. “I can’t speak to the legalities, but the real question is would someone else under similar circumstances have gotten the same treatment?”

Kathleen Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor in Las Vegas, agreed.

“He clearly showed mercy for a friend,” Bliss said. “I hope that he exercises his discretion to similarly show mercy for those who may have troubling situations like this woman, but who may not have the same kind of access to him as she obviously does.”

Added Robert Fellner, executive director of transparency for the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute: “The obvious conflict of interest in him determining not to prosecute her but to continue to employ her in the district attorney’s office is incomprehensible. It’s just mind-blowing to me.”

Wolfson said his office has occasionally abided by the wishes of victims of crimes and not prosecuted cases. He also said his decisions involving Locke were made after discussions with several people, including Greg Smith, the district attorney’s human resources director.

Smith said all office employees with addictions are treated in the same manner.

“She’s not the first and she wouldn’t be the last,” he said. “It’s just easier for our office to be consistent in our practices.”

Wolfson said he also spoke to his chief civil lawyer Mary-Anne Miller and then-Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller.

“I don’t think he cut her inappropriate slack,” Mary-Anne Miller said. “He was genuinely seeking direction from the people he reached out to.”

Wolfson also consulted with Dave Thomas, one of his campaign managers.

“I think he was very conscientious in analyzing the situation and trying to do the right thing,” Thomas said. “The root of (her conduct) is a mental illness, not a desire to do criminal activity … I give her money all the time, and I’m not concerned about it.”

Still handling money

Locke continued to be paid by Wolfson’s campaign — she got more than $1,000 — during her two-month absence, records show. When she returned to her job in the office on Oct. 20, she stepped up her duties as the district attorney’s spokeswoman and took on fundraising efforts for office social events and benefits for ailing employees.

Locke, who said that she has not gambled since the thefts were discovered, confirmed in an interview with the Review-Journal that she now handles money within the district attorney’s office.

Wolfson confronted Locke and informed her that he intended to report the embezzlement to his human resources director in an Aug. 5, 2014 personal email exchange obtained by the Review-Journal.

“I want to know all of my options as district attorney,” Wolfson wrote. “Therefore, tomorrow I plan to sit down with him to inform him of your acts of theft, forgery and whatever else is appropriate. As you know, you handled monies, whether in the form of cash, checks, etc. and he needs to be made aware of what has happened.”

Locke admitted the theft in an emotional email response that evening to Wolfson.

“I can’t emphasize enough the shame and regret I feel,” she wrote. “More than once I planned to come in and talk to you about the situation but never got the nerve. It is, and was always, my intention to return the money. I know that is a hollow statement at this point.

“The worst part is betraying your trust. I know I’ll never get that back, and that is unimaginable to me.”

Wolfson was appointed district attorney in 2012 and first elected in 2014 to an office the county website says has a $65 million budget and more than 700 employees.

So far, he has raised more than $615,000 mostly from casino, business and legal interests, his latest campaign contribution report shows.

Debt troubles

Locke’s financial problems had threatened to erupt over the years. The home she owned with her husband, John M. Locke, was on the brink of being sold at a trustee auction several times. In October 2009, the IRS filed a $78,298 lien on the property for unpaid taxes, county records show. The IRS lifted the lien in March 2013 after the couple sold the modest two-story home, according to the records.

Locke said she and her husband did not make any money on the sale.

That same month, a friend of Locke’s filed a complaint in Justice Court to recover a $5,000 loan he made to her in May 2009. David Koeb said in the complaint that Locke told him she needed the money to stop the foreclosure of her ailing mother’s house.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett-Haron signed a default judgment against Locke in April 2013, ordering her to pay Koeb $6,900, which included interest and court costs. Her wages at the district attorney’s office were garnished, and by the end of October 2013 she had paid back $5,211. Koeb did not return calls for comment, and Locke would not discuss the matter other than to say she paid back all that she owed.

In October 2010, payday loan giant Rapid Cash threatened to repossess Locke’s 2005 Dodge Magnum, which she had posted as collateral for more than $9,000 in loans she received from the company. Rapid Cash later filed court complaints to recover money but never pursued the cases.

When Locke returned to the district attorney’s office in October 2014, she started using her married name for the first time since her 1999 marriage, records and interviews show.

Eventually, Locke started handling money within the district attorney’s office as a fundraiser and social coordinator, according to emails obtained by the Review-Journal.

She was part of an office social committee, earning a reputation as the “cruise director” and “party planner.” She promoted bake sales, golf tournaments, weight-loss competitions and hot dog eating contests to raise money for office social events and ailing employees who were unable to work.

In one contest, staffers were asked to make donations for the right to guess the number of Starburst jellybeans in a large jar filled with the colorful candy. Whoever came the closest was to get half the donations with the rest going to the social committee for office events like the annual holiday party.

By the end of October, emails show, Locke boasted that the office had raised more than $10,000 for the victims of the Mandalay Bay shooting, primarily by raffling employee-donated gift baskets and selling VegasStrong T-shirts and hoodies.

She raised additional money for other office projects through the sale of tumblers, polo shirts, hats and sports bottles bearing the district attorney’s office logo, emails show. Sometimes, she would direct the staff to buy raffle tickets from her or to order merchandise through her.

Amid the office fundraising, Locke started her own graphics company in April 2015, allowing her to obtain more money from Wolfson’s campaign. She filed papers with the Nevada secretary of state’s office incorporating the company called Gemini Graphics, which printed logos on T-shirts. She listed herself as the resident agent and lone officer.

The secretary of state revoked the company’s license on April 30, 2016 for failing to provide an updated list of officers, but records show the company continued to receive money from Wolfson’s campaign.

Locke has personally received more than $25,500 under both of her last names for working on Wolfson’s campaigns dating to 2011 when he was a city councilman, according to figures compiled by the secretary of state’s office. Gemini Graphics has earned nearly $5,000 since 2015.

Most recently, Locke formed a new graphics company in August called Karmic Thread. She said in an interview that she has used the company to produce T-shirts and hoodies that were sold to office staff for various charities, including funds to help victims of the Oct. 1 shooting.

She said the district attorney’s office has reimbursed her expenses. She has made no profit for her work, she said.

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Clark County DA Steve Wolfson kept quiet about aide’s theft