Detroit News
6 more arraigned in abuse at Livonia mental health center
By Oralandar Brand-Williams
July 12, 2018

Psychiatrist Hanumaiah Bandla

Psychiatrist Hanumaiah Bandla

Livonia — Six more staff members at a Livonia psychiatric facility, including a doctor and a nurse, were arraigned Thursday in connection with the physical abuse of three male patients at the center.

Appearing in 16th District Court were Thomas May, 59, of Westland, Demetris Hunt, 28, of Wayne, Wynton Dixon, 57, and Victor Peterson, 60, along with staff psychiatrist Dr. Hanumaiah Bandla, 65, of West Bloomfield Township, and nurse Erma Owens, 80, of Inkster.

The six were arraigned a day after another worker, Kyle Jackson, of Oak Park was arraigned Wednesday on allegations of abusing patients at the Livonia COPE (Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies) facility.

Judge Kathleen McCann ordered personal bonds of $10,000 for Bandla and Owens, both of whom are charged with failure to report abuse of a mental health recipient, a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in jail and $500 in fines.

McCann ordered them not to have any contact with any “vulnerable people” and not to leave the country unless they get prior consent from her.

Bandla stood with his attorney, David Steingold, while Owens was not represented by an attorney. They were scheduled for a pretrial hearing Aug. 2.

May, who also did not have an attorney in court, said he “is going to attempt to have my own attorney.” He was scheduled for a July 19 pretrial hearing and a July 26 preliminary examination. May was given a $10,000 personal bond.

He was ordered not to have employment at any care facility or have contact with any vulnerable person. McCann also ordered that May not leave the country without prior consent from her.

Dixon received a $10,000, 10 percent bond. He also was ordered not to work at a facility where there are vulnerable people. He is due in court on July 19 for a pretrial hearing and July 26 for a preliminary examination.

Dixon, according to Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Dominic DeGrazia, has a criminal record.

Hunt was given a $5,000, 10 percent bond because, according to the prosecutor handling the case, he was seen on video “on more than one occasion” assaulting patients.

An additional worker, Victor Peterson, was charged in connection with the abuse of two patients; he faces counts of third-degree vulnerable adult abuse and assault and battery.

DeGrazia said Peterson also has a criminal record.Defendant Victor Peterson, 60, of River Rouge, ischarged with third-degree vulnerable adult abuse and assault and battery.

He was given a $10,000, 10 percent bond, and is due back in court July 19. His preliminary examination is scheduled for July 26. Like the other defendants, Peterson was ordered not to have contact with any vulnerable individuals.

DeGrazia said Peterson was seen on video threatening a patient.

Peterson’s and Dixon’s prior convictions were for nonviolent offenses and occurred more than 10 years ago, said said Dan Austin, a spokesman for COPE..

COPE’s policy on past criminal offenses of employees would have precluded them from working at the facility if their criminal records were less than a decade old and if the men had committed violent offenses, Austin said.

Peterson’s wife, Diane, told reporters following the hearing Friday that her 60-year-old husband was actually a victim and worked in an environment where patients were aggressive to the point where he came home with black eyes and that he’s had to defend himself from them.

“He’s been a good employee,” said Diane Peterson, who added that her husband has worked at COPE for more than 20 years.

Austin disputed Diane Peterson’s statements about violence at the center.

“These are the only cases of this magnitude,” he said. “Yes there has been cases where patients have had to be restrained but nothing like what has been alleged here.”

The patients, a 26-year-old from Redford Township, a 48-year-old from Romulus and a 51-year-old from Dearborn, were receiving treatment for mental health issues at the facility, in the 33500 block of Schoolcraft, at the time of the alleged abuse in March.

Jackson and Dixon allegedly choked the patient from Romulus.

The physician and the nurse were charged with failing to report the abuse.

May is charged with third-degree vulnerable adult abuse and assault and battery involving the patient from Dearborn Heights between March 9 and March 11.

Jackson and Dixon are charged with two counts of third-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult and two counts of assault and battery in connection with alleged abuse of the patient from Redford between March 16 and March 17.

Jackson and Dixon also are charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm by strangulation, a 10-year felony if convicted, and two counts of third-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult in connection with alleged abuse of the Romulus man.

Hunt is charged with third-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult and assault and battery involving alleged abuse of the Romulus man March 16.

Dixon is also charged with failure to report abuse of a mental health recipient involving alleged incidents from March 9 to March 11 involving the Dearborn Heights patient.

Hunt also is charged with assault and battery and failure to report abuse of a mental health recipient involving the patients from Romulus and Redford between March 15 and March 18.

Third-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult is a high court misdemeanor that carries up to two years in jail and $2,500 in fines. Assault and battery is a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in jail and $500 in fines.

“The alleged abuse inflicted by these defendants is shocking,” Worthy said in a statement Wednesday. “The victims sought psychiatric help and were met with the opposite of help. We have to be much better than this. People that seek assistance deserve compassion, respect, and treatment that is beyond reproach.”

COPE is operated by Hegira Programs Inc. Ed Forry, the president and CEO of Hegira, said Wednesday in a statement his organization has a “zero-tolerance” policy toward abuse.

“Recently, unfortunate incidents occurred at one of our facilities, which led to an investigation that revealed an extreme violation of our standards of care. The individuals in question were terminated as soon as we learned of the incidents in question, and we are fully cooperating with police as their investigation progresses.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of abuse, and the behavior of these former employees does not represent Hegira, our facility or the rest of our dedicated staff.

“Though all our employees undergo regular training and assessment, in light of this incident, we have fully audited our processes and have conducted additional re-training sessions. In our nearly half century of serving Michigan, this is the first time an incident of this nature has happened, and we are determined to ensure that it never happens again.”


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Hanumaiah Bandla