During the altercation one of the disabled clients grabbed the other by the neck, pushed him and his wheelchair over then "violently" stepped on his head and neck after being egged on by Ms. McHenry, according to a felony complaint filed by the Southampton Town Police with the Southampton Town Justice Court.
Altercations are common, although not always to this extent, within the IGHL home in question, according to a sworn written statement by Mr. McDonald, who video taped the incident with his phone in order to share it with a friend before deleting it.
Ms. Vanni, the fourth employee accused of endangering the welfare of two developmentally disabled men at an IGHL home in Southampton Town, entered a not guilty plea during her arraignment Friday morning before Judge Barbara Wilson.
Bail was set at $10,000, which Ms. Vanni posted and was later released.
She is due back in court on Thursday, March 6.
Three direct care workers at an assisted living facility in Southampton Town were arraigned on felony charges Thursday afternoon for allegedly encouraging two developmentally disabled individuals under their care to fight each other, according to Southampton Town Police.
And a fourth care worker is now in police custody awaiting arraignment.
Erin McHenry, 28, of Brookhaven, Justin McDonald, 19, of Lindenhurst, Stephen Komara, 58, of East Moriches, and Rosemary Vanni, 44, of Eastport were arrested by Town Police and each charged with two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony.
The four employees were working at Independent Group Home Living Program facility somewhere in Southampton Town—police did not immediately disclose exactly where the incident took place—and arrested after an investigation. That investigation was initiated by a call placed to the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Vulnerable Persons Central Register Hotline on November 13.
The call alleged that the four employees watched and encouraged a developmentally disabled person under their care to attack another patient sometime between late October and early November of last year. In the incident, one intellectually disabled client, at the alleged urging of the employees, pushed over another patient who was in a wheelchair, knocking him to the ground, and then engaged him in a physical fight, Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said on Thursday afternoon.
Both clients are men in their 50s and have the mental capacity of an average 3- to 5-year-old, according to Det. Sgt. Costa. Neither reported injuries after the incident.
After the call, Town Police opened an investigation, in conjunction with the Justice Center, to look into the matter. Police obtained video footage of the incident recorded on a cellphone in which all four individuals can be seen or heard laughing during the fight, according to a press release from the Justice Center.
Mr. McDonald was arrested on January 12, Ms. Vanni was arrested on January 13, Ms. McHenry was arrested on January 16, and Mr. Komara was arrested January 17, Det. Sgt. Costa said. All four were arrested at Town Police headquarters on Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays.
Det. Sgt. Costa explained that they were not immediately arraigned because a date had to be set for a special prosecutor from Albany to appear in court on behalf of the Justice Center.
Ms. McHenry, Mr. McDonald and Mr. Komara were arraigned Thursday afternoon and then remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, each on $10,000 bail. Ms. Vanni did not appear in court, but she was arrested at 3:20 p.m. at her home in Eastport on a bench warrant and she will be held overnight for arraignment on Friday in Town Justice Court, Det. Sgt. Costa said.
All four were terminated from their positions with the Independent Group Home Living Program immediately following an internal investigation, Det. Sgt. Costa said.
Independent Group Home Living Program is based in Manorville and has homes and facilities throughout the East End that provide residential and daytime care to those with developmental disabilities. It is not clear what type of facility the incident occurred at.