Former Sunmount employees sentenced to prison

(Photos provided — New York State Police)

TUPPER LAKE — A Franklin County judge sentenced three former employees of the Sunmount Developmental Center at 11 a.m. Monday after they were found guilty in June for assaulting one of the facility’s disabled residents.

County Judge Robert Main Jr. sentenced Jerry W. Bush, 41, of Star Lake to an indeterminate sentence of one-and-a-third to four years in state prison, Franklin P. Mussen, 37, of Tupper Lake to a sentence of one to three years in state prison and Todd G. LaValley, 37, of Tupper Lake to a flat sentence of one year in Franklin County Jail, Assistant District Attorney David Hayes said.

In addition, Bush and Mussen, who are being held at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora while being processed, were sentenced to three years of post-release supervision.

“I was satisfied with the sentences handed out by Judge Main,” Hayes said. “There are serious repercussions for these actions, and the sentencing shows we will protect the vulnerable citizens of the county.”

The assault took place in October 2014 when the staffers took down a male resident in the dining hall of Sunmount’s Center for Intensive Treatment, a secure section of its main campus in Tupper Lake, according to state police.

State police investigators arrested and jailed the men in September 2015 after a Franklin County grand jury indicted them on charges.

“OPWDD takes the safety and security of the individuals we serve very seriously and we work closely with the Justice Center to ensure that instances of abuse and neglect are investigated and if substantiated, appropriate action is taken,” said Jennifer O’Sullivan in Albany, director of communications at the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which includes Sunmount. “Any abuse of individuals in our care is completely unacceptable.”

  The Franklin County jury found all three guilty in June of endangering the welfare of an incompetent person in the first degree; a class E felony, assault in the second degree; a class D felony and official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. Mussen was also found guilty of assault in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor.

Bush and LaValley also faced charges of third-degree assault but were found not guilty, and Mussen was found not guilty of criminal obstruction of breathing.

The trial, at the county courthouse in Malone, lasted six days and included 13 witnesses: eight for the prosecution and five for the defense. Chief Assistant District Attorney Gary Pasqua and Hayes were the prosecutors while lawyers Peter Dumas and David Haggard led the defense.

Howard A. Shorette, 49, of Colton, was also arrested with the men for the assault but was later found not guilty in a separate trial in May. Shorette was not in the dining hall at the time of the takedown but went there in response to a staff member’s distress alarm. He was fired from Sunmount after the incident, along with the other three workers.

The case is one of several in which Sunmount employees have been arrested for offenses such as assault and endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person. Sunmount residents have also been arrested, either for assault or falsely reporting incidents.

Sunmount Director Laura LaValley and Civil Service Employees Association Local 431 President Steve Delair declined to comment on the sentencing.

Calls to Dumas and Haggard were not returned by press time.