Veterans home nurse resolves charges of assaulting a resident
BENNINGTON — State officials who reviewed an incident at the Vermont Veterans’ Home on Sept. 11 in which a nurse struck an 82-year-old patient at the home have decided the nurse acted without malice and referred the criminal charges to the diversion program.
Mark G. Demasi, 58, of Bennington, was arraigned in Bennington criminal court in October on felony charges of aggravated assault and aggravated assault against a vulnerable adult.
On Friday, the charge was reduced to a single misdemeanor charge of simple assault and the case was sent to the diversion program. If Demasi completes the requirements of the program, his criminal record will be expunged.
Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage said she decided to recommend the case to diversion based on what was learned during the investigation by her office and through the investigations done by Adult Protective Services of Vermont, which oversees the care of vulnerable adults, and the state nurse licensing board.
While she said her office and the state agency agreed there was no reason to keep Demasi from continuing his nursing career, Marthage said she believed some prosecution was necessary to indicate that “perhaps there was a better way to react” to the incident.
“The state doesn’t believe that it ultimately was an intentional act of violence. It was something that was more reckless behavior on the part of the nurse. Otherwise, (Demasi) had a long history of being employed (at the veterans home) and being an exceptional employee,” she said.
Bennington Police Officer Andy Hunt investigated the incident Sept. 11. In an affidavit, Hunt said he spoke with a veterans home resident who said he “tapped (Demasi) at the waist while he was leaning over (the resident’s) bed” and that Demasi “turned and punched him square in the nose, causing it to bleed.”
In his written statement, Demasi said that by the time he interacted with the resident Sept. 11, there had been concerns that the resident was agitated and using foul language with the staff.
When the resident “swatted” him in the groin, Demasi told police, he reacted “instinctively.”
David Silver, a Bennington attorney who represented Demasi, said his client was interested in returning to work at the Vermont Veterans’ Home but was waiting for a decision from the home’s administrators about whether he could come back and under what circumstances.
Melissa Jackson, administrator at the home, which is the only state-run nursing home for veterans in Vermont, said Friday she couldn’t comment on personnel issues.
Silver said he and his client appreciated the state’s attorney’s office’s willingness to accept evidence and information about the “full circumstances” in the case.
Silver said after the details of the incident became public, there was an outpouring of support for Demasi.
“I received letters from individuals at every level of the professional hierarchy who have worked closely with Mark. … What emerged from these letters is what I found to be an accurate representation of Mark’s personal and professional character as an extraordinary nurse with an almost saintly reputation for grace under pressure, peacefulness, patient expertise and loving care,” he said.
The incident attracted special attention because it happened when the veterans home was facing the loss of its eligibility to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. That crisis has since been resolved.
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