Nursing home official sentenced to jail for failing to report a

Saturday, February 8, 2003

ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- The president of a business that operated nursing homes was sentenced to jail time Thursday for failing to report elderly abuse.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported it's likely the first case in Missouri where a nursing home executive has been incarcerated for not reporting patient abuse.

Charles B. Kaiser III, 45, received the maximum sentence of one year in the St. Charles County Jail and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge.

St. Charles Claywest patient Marshall Rhodes, 78, was beaten by a nurse's aide and died from his injuries on Aug. 7, 1999. Nurse's aide Karl Willard later pleaded no contest to elderly abuse, and is serving 15 years in prison.

At Kaiser's trial, a nurse's assistant testified that she and a co-worker told two supervisors they suspected an aide had beaten Rhodes in July and August 1999. In the August incident, Rhodes was taken to a hospital after nurses found him in his room with a split lip and wearing a torn, bloody gown.

Rhodes died less than a week after being hospitalized. After Rhodes died, two nursing home administrators, Betty Via and Cheryl Davis, were also charged with failure to report elderly abuse. Davis was acquitted in November 2000. Via's charge was dropped in exchange for her testimony at Kaiser's trial.

Kaiser's attorney, Deborah Alessi, argued that it was Via who played down the story to Kaiser because she did not want to be fired.

E-mail evidence

But prosecutors presented an e-mail that Via had sent to Kaiser. It said a local Division of Aging official told her the incident should be reported to the state hot line. Kaiser responded that it wasn't suspected abuse and didn't need to be reported.

Kaiser could not be reached for comment after the sentencing but in an interview with the Post-Dispatch Wednesday he said the idea of one year in jail was "indescribable."

"I've never, ever been in the criminal justice system. I've never been arrested, never been fingerprinted; I've never been in this situation."

Friends, colleagues and family wrote 40 letters to the judge attesting to Kaiser's good character. Two pre-sentence investigations had positive reviews. But following a trial in November, a jury recommended the maximum sentence for Kaiser.

Senior Judge Ellsworth Cundiff said he's never had a jury so upset by something. "I've had rape cases, I've had death penalty cases, this was the maddest, angriest jury I've ever seen," he said.

American Healthcare Management and Claywest nursing home were also convicted of failing to report the abuse to the state. They were each ordered to pay the maximum fine of $5,000.

Rhodes' daughter Marsha Coy said the case wasn't just about her and her father. She said it resonated with people who put their loved ones in nursing homes and the companies that run them.

St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas said he also hoped the case would lead to closer scrutiny of nursing homes.

About a dozen families, including Coy, have settled wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against American Healthcare Management and its nursing homes in the past few years.

Several of those family members attended the hearing. After the sentence was read, they kissed and hugged; some had tears streaming down their faces.

American Healthcare Management has since sold its nursing homes to a company in Texas.

Kaiser is appealing his conviction. He was told to report to jail Friday but is expected to post a $10,000 appeal bond. That will allow him to stay out of jail until his appeal is decided, a process that can take more than a year.

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