A LaSalle County judge did not make a decision Thursday on whether video recorded from inside a nursing home at the center of an alleged abuse case can be admitted at trial.
The case was continued on a procedural matter.
Doris Burke, 35, was working as a nurse’s aide at Pleasant View Luther Nursing Home, a senior living facility in Ottawa, when she was captured on video mistreating a resident, according to prosecutors.
Ottawa Police charged Burke with felony aggravated battery to a person older than 60 and felony abuse of a long-term healthcare facility resident. She has pleaded not guilty.
The video was set up and recorded by John Chiurato after the man’s father began complaining of a Pleasant View employee. Francesco Chiurato, 88, depended on around-the-clock care from staff. He passed away last November.
“(Burke) would make him clean himself up after accidents,” Chiurato described. “There’s one situation where she ran up to him and put her middle finger in his face…you could see her cleaning his genital area and then forcing the same rag into his face.”
A police report also detailed one incident when “Francesco fell back into the bed from a standing position, and his head went back and over the other side of the bed,” and Burke did not help him up.
According to the police report, in another instance, while the camera’s view is blocked, Burke’s “right arm jabs in a punching motion toward Francesco. He is heard moaning immediately after the movement.”
Burke initially told police in interviews that Francesco could “be aggressive and has tried kicking her before.” Burke denied to police that she ever threw anything at him or hit him.
Burke and her attorney, Darrell Seigler, declined comment as they were leaving the courthouse.
The defense has filed several motions, including one to suppress the video evidence. Seigler claimed Chiurato violated the law when setting up the camera. According to the Illinois Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act, facilities must first be notified in writing before installing a recording device.
Seigler also argued that the act states “a sign must be clearly and conspicuously posted at the entrance to a resident’s room where authorized electronic monitoring is being conducted.”
Seiger also raised the concern that the video had been altered and edited. Chiurato had recorded forty hours of video surveillance over the course of several weeks, which he condensed down to a ten-minute clip for police.
The LaSalle County State’s Attorney’s Office told the Chiurato family that it was preparing to reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors in response to the arguments raised by the defense.
Shortly after Chiurato contacted NBC 5 Investigates, Karen Donnelly, LaSalle County’s new State’s Attorney, decided she would take over the case.
“This kind of abuse should never occur, and this is going to send a strong message to other (certified nursing aides) that we’re not accepting this,” said Donnelly.
Assistant state’s attorney George Mueller said after Thursday’s court hearing that both he and Seigler agreed to a stipulation. The two sides will discuss the facts on how the tape was made before arguing the defense’s motions in court.
The next court date is scheduled for February 9.
Pleasant View Luther Nursing home has been fined by the Illinois Department of Health for failing to protect residents. The 90-bed facility paid $13,750 in fines.
Pleasant View said it immediately addressed the issue once a concern was raised but declined further comment because of the pending case.