FARMINGTON — The children of an assisted-living patient abused by a certified nursing assistant are seeking greater protections for other elderly residents.
“They just don’t take care of these people like they need to,” Kellie Bingham said before the sentencing of the aide who roughed up her 71-year-old father last year at a Clearfield assisted-living center.
Judge Michael Edwards on Monday afternoon sentenced Jason Harold Knox, 30, to a year in jail on two second-degree felony charges of aggravated abuse of the elderly or disabled. Knox also abused an 89-year-old female patient.
Edwards first sentenced Knox to two 1-to-15-year sentences but suspended them and imposed the jail time. Knox also will be on probation for 48 months.
The judge said Knox must never work in health care again and will be subject to drug testing. The state probation office also may require him to undergo moral reconation therapy and anger management treatment.
Knox had pleaded guilty in return for two other charges being dropped.
Bingham had placed a video camera in her father’s room at Chancellor Gardens, capturing incidents in which Knox slammed the dementia patient into the wall beside his bed and plunged his elbow into the victim’s abdomen.
“I suspected abuse but I didn’t know how bad it was,” said Bingham, of Syracuse, an elementary school teacher.
Her father, Richard Crossley, has Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer walk or speak. Bingham said he became afraid to go to bed at night.
“I started to see some things, but Alzheimer’s disease makes it hard to tell,” she said. “He is withdrawn sometimes, and maybe it was the Alzheimer’s getting worse. So it took me a while to figure out what was going on.”
During the sentencing hearing, she said she went to feed her father at the care center most nights, leading up to the discovery of abuse. She said she had seen several other patients there during that time complaining of bruises and were afraid to go to bed at night.
She said “silly laws” are slanted in favor of assisted living homes and their staffs. For example, she was required to post a sign in her father’s room before she was allowed to place the video camera.
“Who knows how long it went on,” she said of Knox’s behavior. “He thought the camera was unplugged.”
Chancellor Gardens fired Knox and cooperated with the police investigation.
Knox’s CNA certificate with the state had expired before the incidents occurred.
Police arrested Knox Oct. 7, 2018, after Bingham provided the video to Clearfield officers.
Bingham said she and other family members since have been contacting patients’ rights advocates and state legislators about getting more protection for vulnerable patients.
They brought their father to the sentencing. In his wheelchair near the front of the courtroom audience, Crossley reclined, hugging a stuffed animal to his chin. The Vietnam veteran and retired jet maintainer at Hill Air Force Base wore a flannel shirt, and dress slacks and shoes.
Some in the audience flinched and gasped as a prosecutor replayed video of the abuse to start the sentencing hearing. One video showed Knox making an obscene gesture at Crossley after changing his clothing.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office recommended prison time for Knox.
“This greatly affects the community,” Deputy Attorney General Jacob Fordham said of the abuse. “He was hired to care for the most vulnerable in our society.
“People need to be able to trust our health care workers and providers hired to take care of family members who have no way to defend themselves or speak for themselves,” Fordham said.
The prosecutor said the victims were “extremely vulnerable, just like an infant,” and Knox used his position to prey upon them in a “cruel and depraved” fashion.
Dallas Clark, husband of the second victim, tearfully asked Edwards to impose the maximum penalties against Knox.
His wife died six weeks after the abuse.
He said she had bruises in the fall of 2018 and the health care staff could not explain them.
“She developed a limp and did not want to go to bed,” Clark said. “I don’t know how any human being could do this abuse.”
Defense attorney Richard Gale said Knox has outlived his parents, who were drug addicts, and his twin brother also is an addict. But Knox had no criminal history and deserves a sentence short of prison, he said.
The abuse “is horrible, he knows it’s horrible, and he wants to make changes in his life,” Gale said.
Knox, clad in Davis County Jail stripes, told the court, “I am sincerely sorry and deeply regret my actions. This behavior is not who I am. I am embarrassed by my behavior.”
Outside the courtroom, Bingham said the jail sentence and long probationary period “was probably the best we could have hoped for.”
Knox, she said, “now can do no more damage, but there are still more people like that out there.”