Two former Direct Service Assistant’s at Melville Estates, a state run group home for the mentally disabled, were convicted of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person. James P. Brown Jr. was found guilty of violently and aggressively punching a 53 year old developmentally disabled resident at a bench trial before Suffolk County Court. In a separate legal action, Allexy Chambers pled guilty to severely punching a 56 year old resident, who did nothing besides sit in the chair, in February 2014.
A person will be found guilty of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the first degree when he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be harmful to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a person who is incapable of caring for himself or herself because of physical disability, mental disease, or defect. (N.Y. Penal Law § 260.25) This law is directed at protecting people who are incapable of caring for themselves for physical reasons, mental disease, or defects as they are an extremely vulnerable part of society.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated that it is unacceptable for health care workers to harm the disabled and other vulnerable members of our society and further emphasized that his office will continue to prosecute those who harm vulnerable individuals in order to ensure justice.
Brown and Chambers were both found guilty of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person. Brown was found guilty in the First Degree and Chambers found guilty Person in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor; both are awaiting sentencing. The difference between the two degrees is exclusively in the blameworthy mental states. The first-degree crime requires that the offender “knowingly” act in a manner likely to be harmful. “Knowingly” requires that the wrongdoer be “aware” that his or her conduct is likely to be harmful [see Penal Law § 15.05(2)]. The second-degree crime requires that the perpetrator recklessly engage in behavior, which is likely to be harmful. Under the statute, reckless conduct requires that the perpetrator is “aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that his or her conduct will be harmful [Penal Law § 15.05(2)].
Penal Law § 260.25 states that an “incompetent or physically disabled person,” is one who is “unable to care for himself or herself because of physical disability, mental disease or defect,” and the factual allegations of the information here established that the victims fell within this definition because the victims were severely impaired and intellectually disabled resident of Melville Estates. The victims lacked sufficient capacity to care for themselves within the meaning of Penal Law § 260.25 and James P. Brown, Jr. and Allexy Chambers knew it was likely that the victims’ physical well-beings would be endangered by violently punching them.
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N.Y. Penal Law § 260.25
Penal Law § 15.05(2)