WRAL Investigates

Commission to decide fired Cherry Hospital worker's fate

Posted October 21, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2010 10:46 p.m. EDT

— The State Personnel Commission held a hearing Thursday to decide whether a fired Cherry Hospital worker should get his job back following an altercation with a patient last March.

O'Tonious Raynor says he was protecting himself from a schizophrenia patient with an aggressive past. The hospital says he deserved to be fired for acting irresponsibly.

An administrative law judge overseeing the appeal agreed that Raynor used excessive force but said in his opinion that Raynor should have been suspended, not fired.

The personnel commission will make the final decision in the next 60 days, but the final argument may hinge more on a technicality than what was caught on surveillance tape.

The technicality lies in a statement made by the administrative law judge during the appeal. He said some of Raynor's actions were "not justifiable," even though he recommended a suspension. That statement could prevent Raynor from getting his job back.

Raynor says he'll take any job at Cherry Hospital, including housekeeping, so he can support himself and his three daughters, but the hospital wants to cut ties.

"Hindsight is 20/20, but when a guy assaults you and beats you in your face," Raynor said Thursday, his voice trailing off. "He's the reason I wear these glasses now."

A lawyer for the hospital said Raynor was only trying to get revenge.

"There's no room for vengeance in a state hospital against patients who are mentally ill and dangerous to themselves and others," said Charlene Richardson, an attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the written record, the altercation began in the overnight hours of March 10 into March 11 when patient Bernard Freeman wasn’t allowed to smoke and punched Raynor several times, injuring his eye. Raynor then pushed the 55-year-old patient down and pinned him against the furniture while standing on his hand, which was in a cast.

The scuffle happened in a common area, and then Raynor dragged Freeman down the hall to the bedrooms – out of view of the surveillance cameras, according to the written account and the tape.

"I didn't intend to hurt the patient. I felt like I was in danger, and I did the best I could under the circumstances," Raynor said. "He told me, 'When I get up, I'm going to kill you.'"

The Department of Justice looked at the case and never pursued any criminal charges. Raynor remains on worker's compensation for his eye injury.