9:45 AM PDT, September 3, 2021
Nathan Sutherland will be sentenced in November after he pleaded guilty this week to one charge of sexual assault and one charge of vulnerable adult abuse, the Maricopa County Attorney said.
Sutherland faces 5 to 10 years in prison.
The unnamed victim was a resident of the hospital since she was a toddler, People reported.
The family of the victim alleged in a lawsuit that they were told their daughter would only be cared for by female caregivers.
The victim “lacks sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents for her medical, placement or financial estate,” medical records obtained by People said.
“After more than 2-1/2 years, all of us at Hacienda Healthcare are relieved that Nathan Sutherland has finally pleaded guilty to his awful offenses. We have cooperated in every way possible with law enforcement and investigators. … Our hearts are with the victim and her family,” the facility said in a statement to KPNX.
Investigators determined that Sutherland was responsible for caring for the victim when he allegedly sexually assaulted her at Hacienda HealthCare in late 2019, Chief Jeri Williams said when he was arrested in January 2019.
The woman, a then-29-year-old member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona, became pregnant as a result of the sexual assault, and on Dec. 29, 2018, gave birth to a baby boy.
“We owed this arrest to the victim [and] we owed this arrest to the newest member of our community, that innocent baby,” Williams said.
Sutherland’s arrest came after investigators determined he had access to and cared for the victim during the time she was assaulted. Phoenix police obtained a court order to take a DNA sample from Sutherland to compare against the DNA of the baby, and they were a match, Sgt. Tommy Thompson told reporters at the time of Sutherland’s arrest.
Sutherland has worked at the facility since 2011.
“Every member of the Hacienda organization is troubled beyond words to think that a licensed practical nurse would be capable of seriously harming a patient,” Hacienda HealthCare said in a statement obtained by KPNX-TV at the time of his arrest. “Once again, we offer an apology and send our deepest sympathies to the client and her family, to the community and to our agency partners at every level.”
At the time of his arrest, the victim’s family’s attorney spoke out saying, “she has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood.
“She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head and neck. Their daughter responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures,” the family’s attorney, John Micheaels, said in a statement. “The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings, likes to be read to, enjoys soft music, and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family.”
The victim’s family settled a $15 million lawsuit with Hacienda HealthCare, according to AZ Central. They also settled a $7.5 million lawsuit with the state of Arizona, which had a contract with Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, according to AZ Central.