Two ex-Sunmount workers get jail for false info

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TUPPER LAKE — Two former employees of the Sunmount Developmental Center were sentenced to jail Monday in Franklin County Court in Malone stemming from an October 2013 cover-up.

Jessica Rice, 29, was sentenced to 60 days in jail with five years of probation, and Suzanne Decheine, 51, of Tupper Lake was sentenced to 30 days in jail with three years of probation, said William Reynolds, deputy director of communications for the state Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs.

The case is one in several where alleged violence has taken place between Sunmount employees and residents.

In September, a jury found Rice guilty of one count of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, a felony, and one count of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, a misdemeanor, in September.

She was acquitted of other felony charges: one count of first-degree tampering with public records, one count of first-degree falsifying business records and two counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. The jury also found her not guilty of numerous misdemeanor charges: one count of second-degree tampering with public records, one count of second-degree falsifying business records, two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, one count of official misconduct and one count of third-degree falsely reporting an incident.

A jury found Decheine, a registered nurse, guilty in October of including false information on medical reports, the lesser misdemeanor charges of two counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

The jury found her not guilty of felony counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, and also cleared her of failing to report the suspected abuse to the Justice Center’s Vulnerable Persons Central Register.

Decheine was the last of five defendants to go on trial in regard to the 2013 incident, which resulted in three convictions.

Attorneys from the state Justice Center prosecuted the cases after the Franklin County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute the indictments in 2015.

Deputy Special Prosecutor Jacqueline Kagan was in charge of the prosecuting team which included Assistant Special Prosecutor Rachel Dunn and Supervising Assistant Special Prosecutor Deanndra Macomber. Joseph Brennan served as the defense for Decheine, and Otis Simon served as defense for Rice.

The charges against Rice and Decheine come from Oct. 5, 2013, when the Justice Center claimed Sunmount worker Corey Casciaro, 30, of Tupper Lake assaulted an 18-year-old resident and gave him a head injury, a seizure and a concussion.

Prosecutors said neither Casciaro nor his co-workers, Rice and Scott Norton, 37, of Tupper Lake, sought immediate medical assistance for the victim. The Justice Center alleges the trio intentionally covered up the facts and circumstances surrounding the victim’s injuries along with co-workers Jeff Defayette, 30, of Piercefield and Decheine.

Rice was convicted when she filed false paperwork with the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in an effort to cover up the alleged assault, which involved her live-in boyfriend and fellow Sunmount employee.

A jury acquitted Casciaro of all charges, which included one count of first-degree falsifying business records, a class E felony, and multiple misdemeanors: second-degree falsifying business records, third-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree falsely reporting an incident and two counts of official misconduct, following a five-day trial in August.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome Richards, sitting in for Franklin County Judge Robert Main Jr., dismissed Norton’s case in September, which included charges of official misconduct and third-degree falsely reporting an incident, both misdemeanors. Attorney Brian Barrett represented Casciaro, and Tom McCann represented Norton.

Defayette, however, was convicted in May of second-degree falsifying a written instrument for filing, a class A misdemeanor, but acquitted of a felony charge of first-degree falsifying a written instrument for filing.

Judge Richards sentenced Defayette to an intermittent four-month jail sentence to be served on weekends and three years probation in June. He was represented by the public defender’s office.

All of the employees were fired following the incident with the exception of Norton who was suspended without pay. As of September, he was seeking to be reinstated at the facility.

Calls to Kagan, who was out of her office for the day, Brennan and Simon were not returned by press time.

An email to OPPWDD spokeswoman Jennifer O’Sullivan was not returned by press time, and Sunmount Director Laura LaValley declined to comment.

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