State News

Fired Cherry Hospital workers charged again in beating

Posted January 15, 2009 7:01 a.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2009 12:31 p.m. EST

— A special state prosecutor has reviewed evidence and charged three former workers at the state's Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro with severely beating a psychiatric patient in 2006.

The Medicaid Investigations Unit of the state Attorney General's Office charged James Smith, Billy Wynn and Eric Isler with felonious patient abuse. Misdemeanor assault charges against them were dismissed nearly two years ago.

Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said the men have waived their right to public defenders, indicating they plan to hire private attorneys.

The latest charges resulted from a review of evidence and new information that investigators found, Talley said.

The Medicaid Investigations Unit investigates and prosecutes health care fraud committed by Medicaid providers and the physical abuse of patients and embezzlement of patient funds in Medicaid funded facilities.

Former patient Dean Smith, 45, of Roanoke Rapids, said he was excited that he might get to testify against the men.

"They beat me to a pulp. You don't forget something like that," said Smith. His bruised face was documented in photos taken by the hospital's police department.

Smith was being treated for bipolar disorder. He said he was punched and kicked and then coached to say he hurt himself in a fall.

The new charges were filed Jan. 5 by special prosecutor Doug Thoren of the attorney general's office, who obtained guilty verdicts last year against two other Cherry workers for beating a patient.

Talley said the Justice Department is pursuing several more cases involving state mental hospitals.