Ex-nurse gets 10 years in prison for raping incapacitated patient

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Nathan Sutherland was responsible for the woman's care, authorities said

An Arizona man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who gave birth at a clinic where she was under his care.

Ex-nurse Nathan Sutherland was accused of raping the victim, who has severe disabilities, at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix.

He was arrested in 2018 after his DNA matched a sample from the newborn.

Sutherland pleaded guilty to abuse of a vulnerable adult in September.

The victim, who was 29 years old at the time of the baby's birth, had reportedly been in the care of the clinic since she was a toddler.

In addition to his prison sentence, Sutherland will be placed on probation for the rest of his life and will be required to register as a sex offender after his release.

In a statement quoted by US media, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said that the sentence was the maximum allowable under Sutherland's plea agreement.

She added that the sentence "took into consideration numerous aggravating and mitigating factors, including the vulnerability of the victim and the position of trust by the defendant".

The BBC has reached out to both the Maricopa County Attorney's office and to Sutherland's attorney for comment.

Recordings of 911 calls released to the media show that, at the time the victim gave birth, the Hacienda HealthCare facility was unaware that she was pregnant.

"One of the patients just had a baby, and we had no idea she was pregnant," a nurse can be heard saying on the call. "We were not prepared for this."

In May 2019, the victim's family filed a lawsuit against Hacienda HealthCare.

The lawsuit noted that a medical examination revealed that the woman had been "violated repeatedly" and may have been pregnant before the incident that led to Sutherland's arrest.

In June, an Arizona judge approved a $15m (£11.3m) settlement agreed between the victim's family and the estate of a doctor - who died last December - who cared for her at the facility.

The state of Arizona previously settled with the family for $7.5m.

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