Authorities have issued arrest warrants for nine employees at Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital following allegations of repeated abuse against a 62-year-old male patient. Whiting Forensic is a state-funded, maximum security psychiatric hospital at which the man’s treatment plan consisted of a two-to-one staff to patient ratio and 24-hour daily supervision. A camera was mounted in the patient’s room and video footage captured numerous incidents of inappropriate behavior. Those issued warrants included eight forensic specialist technicians and one forensic nurse.
The nurse, Mark Cusson, has been accused of pouring liquid and running a used mop over the man’s head. Police also claim Cusson “mounts the patient’s bed and straddles himself over the patient placing his groin in the patient’s face. Cusson then makes a back and forth motion toward the patient’s face with his groin” according to court records. The records indicate that two other staff members were present in the room at the time.
Stephen Woolf, who is representing Cusson in the matter, stated, “He believes that he’s innocent, we believe we have a lot of information that is not yet available to the public,” adding that his client is “a very dedicated longtime employee of Whiting Forensic.” Gregory Giantonio, 43, who was in the room with Cusson during the incident in question said he never abused the man or witnessed anyone else engaging in inappropriate behavior toward him.
Another staff member, 48-year-old, Lance Camby, was allegedly captured on video placing a diaper over the man’s head, while Willie Bethea, 45, poked him. Bethea later recalled to authorities he “patted” him on the cheek because the “patient enjoys a degree of playful physical contact.”
Whiting Forensic Division is overseen by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Following the warrants, the department stated it “remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that justice is served for our client. The affidavits underscore the importance of the Department’s actions to immediately involve the Connecticut State Police in the investigation into alleged client abuse.”
Senator Heather Somers, a Republican of Groton and co-chair of the public health committee, said the abuse represents a violation of basic human rights. “I’d like to know who’s in charge. For this to have gone on for so long without raising a red flag is totally unacceptable on so many levels,” she said. She also addressed claims of excessive overtime being granted to Whiting’s health care workers. “How can a nurse work in a difficult environment with compromised patients for that long? It would not happen in the private sector. It’s not safe for the patients and it’s not safe for the providers.”
The other workers arrested were Carl Benjamin, 39, of Hamden; Clayton Davis, 48, of Hartford; Bruce Holt, 39, of Columbia; Robert Larned, 45, of Hebron; and Seth Quider, 34, of Enfield. All were charged with cruelty to persons and disorderly conduct. In total, thirty-one staff members — 29 direct care workers and nurses and two managers at the facility — were suspended earlier this year, and authorities claim other arrests are forthcoming.