Psych Crime Reporter

February 25, 2014

Psychiatric nurse jailed for four years for stabbing neighbor

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:59 pm

A PSYCHIATRIC nurse who stabbed his neighbour in a Limerick apartment block – after luring him out by setting fire to his door – has been jailed for two years.

John Michael Barrett, 49, who is originally from Liverpool and was residing in apartment 5 at Catherine Place at the time, pleaded guilty to arson and assault causing harm on March 31, 2013.

Judge Carroll Moran told the court that he was no jurisdiction to repatriate Barrett home to England to serve his sentence, after hearing that “life isn’t exactly a bed of roses for an Englishman in an Irish prison.”

His barrister said he is reminded daily of Anglo-Irish history by his fellow inmates.

Limerick Circuit Court heard he and a tenant in another flat had been drinking eight bottles of cider and Captain Morgan’s rum that Sunday before Barrett erupted in an “unusual and unique outburst of temper and rage”.

The court heard that the defendant lit his Liverpool scarf to start the fire at the door of his neighbour’s apartment to lure him out.

The injured party, aged 41, told gardaí that as he inspected the damage caused by the fire after being alerted by another neighbour, Barrett “snuck up and stuck a blade in my hip, then stuck it in my chest.”

He told gardai: “Barrett started getting gobby with me was getting in my face”, and physical blows were exchanged.

The bread knife’s nine-inch serrated blade bent after the first strike and the judge was told the stab wounds “weren’t terribly deep.”

The injured party grabbed the knife, bit Barrett in the arm to escape and ran down the stairs. He was outside the main door when the gardai arrived, and the knife was located in the hallway.

Barrett, who retreated back into his apartment and waited for gardai to arrive, was arrested at midnight on April 1, and was co-operative with gardai. He admitted to gardai that his actions weren’t in self defence, saying: “I attacked him in the hallway and I remember sticking a knife in his chest”.

Defending barrister Michael Collins said his client does not have any significant previous convictions, made full and drank admissions and expressed remorse for his actions.

He had been living in the flat for three months, but had been living in Limerick for three years, and was employed by an agency as a psychiatric nurse.

However, the court heard “he has no prospects of such a career now..his career is over”.

He had previously been residing in Sweden and England, but moved back to Ireland in 2009.

Both men were intoxicated when gardai arrived and an ambulance was called, but both men refused medical assistance.

He has been in custody since June of last year when he failed to appear in court for a remand date, and is now undertaking FETAC courses in psychology and accountancy in prison.

Mr Collins said Barrett, who has grown up children, “won’t be seen in this court or any other court again” and now has a different lifestyle.

Facing a maximum sentence of life in prison for arson and five years for assault causing harm, Judge Moran suspended the final two years of a four year sentence and bound him to the peace for four years.

Judge Moran said it was “very lucky” that the victim made a good recovery, both for the victim himself and the defendant’s predicament, as he could have faced more serious charges.

He took into account that there was “an element of temper and being out of control” in this case, rather than pre-meditation.

Source: Anne Sheridan, “Psychiatric nurse jailed for stabbing in Limerick,” Limerick Leader, February 22, 2014.

Child awarded $1.5 million in tardive dyskinesia malpractice case

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:58 pm

On February 11, 2014 a Chicago jury awarded $1.5 million to an autistic child who developed a severe case of tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia while being treated by psychiatrists with Risperdal and then Zyprexa between 2002 and 2007. The drug-induced disorder was diagnosed when he was fifteen years old and by then had become disabling and irreversible.

Tardive dyskinesia describes a group of persistent or permanent movement disorders caused by antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Invega, Abilify, Geodon, Seroquel, Latuda, Fanapt and Saphris. In addition to typical tardive dyskinesia spasms and twitches of his face, eyelids, and tongue, the youngster developed a severe case of tardive akathisia involving torturous internal agitation that drove him into constant, unrelenting motion.

According to Ithaca, New York psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, MD, a medical expert in the case, the boy was diagnosed with autism as a child and then started on SSRI antidepressants before the age of seven. He continued to be treated with the antidepressants Zoloft and then Paxil which caused his mental condition and behavior to deteriorate. Dr. Breggin testified in court that antidepressants very frequently cause severe emotional and behavioral disturbances in children. He used a flipchart to draw a diagram of the brain for the jury to graphically explain to them how the antipsychotic drugs work by blocking dopamine neurotransmission and how that leads to a compensatory reaction in the brain that causes tardive dyskinesia. Dr. Breggin’s complete trial testimony can be read here.

Instead of removing the child from the offending antidepressants, his first psychiatrist started him on Risperdal (risperidone). His second psychiatrist, Howard Segal, MD, who was the defendant in the case, continued him on Risperdal and then Zyprexa for two and one half years, despite the appearance of tardive dyskinesia symptoms. Dr. Breggin explained to the jury how antipsychotic drugs cause tardive dyskinesia at a high rate in children and adults, and how the doctor’s negligent actions caused the boy to develop severe tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia.

In response to the jury verdict, Dr. Breggin stated that psychiatric drugs do much more harm than good in treating autistic children and that he hoped the case would serve as a reminder and an alert that autistic children (like all distressed children) need caring psychological, social and educational interventions, and not psychiatric drugs.

Dr. Breggin is the author of many scientific articles and books. His most recent book is Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families. His website is

The Chicago attorney in the case was Francis P. Morrissey. The malpractice case was Angel v. Segal, State of Illinois, In the Circuit Court of Cook Count, Illinois, County Department, Law Division, No. 09 L 3496.

Source: “$1.5 Million Award in Child Tardive Dyskinesia Malpractice,”, February 11, 2014.

Five more woman file charges against “fondling” psychiatrist

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:52 pm

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors in southeastern Pennsylvania have filed additional charges against a psychiatrist already accused of inappropriately touching three women who came to his office for help.

The Bucks County district attorney’s office said five more women informed authorities that 42-year-old Dr. Basem Shlewiet fondled them in his Doylestown office.

He was arraigned Friday on 10 additional counts of indecent assault and released on $250,000 unsecured bond.

Doylestown police initially received reports from three separate young women from April to December 2013 alleging Shlewiet fondled them. After his arrest in January was publicized, prosecutors said five more patients came forward alleging similar misconduct.

Defense attorney Louis Busico said his client’s examination techniques may have been misunderstood.

Prosecutors said the eight alleged victims ranged in age from 14 to 33.

Source: “Pa. psychiatrist charged with fondling more women,” SFGate, February 21, 2014.

Despite 2013 law, China is still inflicting psychiatry on protesters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:50 pm

Those who complained against the ruling Chinese Communist Party were force-fed medication, tied up, beaten and humiliated, and subjected to electroconvulsive shocks in mental hospitals last year, a new report shows.

The report by a Hubei-based rights group details a litany of abuses of the psychiatric system in a process known as “being mentally-illed” that have continued in spite of China’s Mental Health Law, which came into effect in 2013.

The victims include activists who highlight human rights abuses in the country.

“We heard of 40-50 cases during 2013, and [we] have set up a database of Chinese mental health patients,” Liu Feiyue, report co-author and spokesman for the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, told RFA.

While the group’s database will gather information on any abuses of mental health patients, it will focus specifically on those without prior mental illness who are forcibly committed to psychiatric institutions, either by officials or family members with whom they come into conflict.

“Citizens with no mental illness are being forced into mental institutions and injected with medication,” Liu said. “This is cruel and inhumane.”

“These cases represent extreme violations of the victims’ human rights,” he said.

He said that China’s Mental Health Law hasn’t yet been implemented on the ground.

“The abuses continue,” Liu said. “Former victims have been re-committed, and new victims continue to be sent to mental hospitals.”

Appeal lodged over lawsuit

The report came as a Beijing-based engineer lodged an appeal in a lawsuit she brought against the the Huilongguan Hospital in Changping for committing her on her parents’ request without a diagnostic assessment.

Chen Dan, who had lived independently for many years, was sent to the hospital during a bitter dispute with her parents over her choice of partner.

She was later released after being examined by a psychiatrist, who said there was no reason for her to be there.

Beijing-based rights lawyer Chen Jihua, who represented Chen Dan during the initial lawsuit, said very few such cases against psychiatric hospitals were successful, however.

“It’s hard for such cases even to get accepted by the courts,” he said. “I came across a case like this in Harbin … and the court just wouldn’t accept it.”

He said he had been approached recently by several people wanting to bring similar lawsuits.

“I didn’t take them on, because they … take up all your energy for six months and then they don’t even get accepted,” Chen said.

Case ‘typical’

Meanwhile, Shenzhen-based public interest lawyer Huang Xuetao said Chen Dan’s case was “typical” of others he had seen.

“It’s very typical of cases in which the relatives try to interfere in a person’s life,” Huang said. “In China, this sort of interference can be very serious indeed.”

“From a legal point of view, it crosses the line into human rights violations, to make such cavalier use of psychiatric hospitals.”

In China, when people with alleged mental health problems are forcibly brought to the hospital, hospital staff typically disregard their will and objections, rights groups say.

Family members, employers, police, or other state authorities are allowed without question to authorize both the admittance as well as the discharge of a committed patient.

Huang said the problem lies with a loophole in the Mental Health Law involving “guardianship” of vulnerable adults, powers often assumed by relatives or officials without the patient’s consent.

“The guardianship system in China is a serious problem, because there hasn’t yet been a clear legal definition or procedure around guardianship,” she said.

“The person concerned has no right to appeal the decision to confer guardianship status.”

She said once a person had been appointed guardian, they were expected to take on the task of representing the vulnerable adult legally, causing a conflict of interest in cases like Chen Dan’s.

Florida therapist convicted of distributing child pornography

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:49 pm

On February 12, 2014, Florida marriage & family therapist Jonathan Roberto Alvarez pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography.

According to a “Statement of Facts” signed by Alvarez, he used the screen name “herekiddykiddy” on an internet account to share and distribute images of children engaged in sexually explicit activity, including one involving a child as young as five years old.

Alvarez faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release and $250,000.00 in fines.

The Florida Department of Health as filed an administrative complaint against him, alleging that he is unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety to patients. The state Surgeon Geneneral previously suspended Alvarez’s license on an emergency basis in this matter.

Las Vegas psych nurse aide accuses of sexually victimizing five female patients

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:46 pm

A former patient at Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center told jurors on Tuesday that she tried to take pictures with her cellphone in 2008 while a certified nursing assistant sexually assaulted her.

“I’m scared. I’m just terrified,” the woman testified. “I didn’t know whether to scream or holler. I couldn’t reach the call button because it was behind me.”

The witness pointed to defendant Steven Farmer in court on Tuesday and identified him as the man who assaulted her.

“He’s telling me that he wants to relax me and that it’s procedure,” the woman testified.

Farmer, 61, is accused of victimizing five female patients at the hospital in 2008. Two of the women reported that Farmer sexually assaulted them.

The former patient who testified Tuesday was 34 when she was taken to Centennial Hills Hospital after suffering a seizure on May 15, 2008.

She said she first encountered Farmer in the emergency room.

“He was great in the ER,” she said. “He was always there.”

At one point, she asked for Farmer’s personal information so she could write a letter of recommendation for him.

“It was a new hospital, and I was pretty impressed that every time I needed something that he was there,” the woman testified.

When she was formally admitted to the hospital, it was Farmer who moved her to her room. But his demeanor changed on the elevator ride, the witness said, and she recalled him telling her she should be tired because of the medication she was given.

“He just kept saying over and over that I should be sleeping,” the woman said.

In the elevator, Farmer began adjusting the blankets on her bed. Twice, she said, he rubbed her inner thigh.

She recalled trying to tuck a blanket under her leg, but Farmer discouraged her from doing so.

The woman said Farmer’s behavior was frightening her, and she was fighting to stay awake.

“His whole look changed, so I got really scared,” she said.

Once in the hospital room, the woman said, Farmer again began adjusting her blankets. She said he then reached under the blankets and sexually assaulted her with his fingers.

“He’s telling me that he wants to relax me and that it’s procedure,” the witness testified.

She said the assault was painful, and she “kept telling him to stop.”

The woman said Farmer then began squeezing her breasts under her hospital gown and telling her she was beautiful.

After that, she told the jury, he began performing oral sex on her. At that point, she started trying to take pictures with her phone.

“From my understanding, they didn’t come out,” the woman said.

She said she did not yell for help because she was afraid Farmer was going to kill her. After he left the room, she fell asleep.

When she woke up, she called her husband and asked him to come to the hospital.

“I told him something bad happened to me,” the woman testified.

She began to cry as she talked about the difficulty of making that call.

“He was my husband,” she said. “How do you tell your husband that another man touched you?”

When a female nurse entered her room, she testified, she asked to speak to the nurse’s supervisor. She said Farmer, who had returned to the room, “glared” at her before quickly leaving.

The witness said she told the supervisor what had happened.

“I felt like she didn’t take me seriously,” the former patient said.

She and her husband contacted police, and Farmer was arrested.

The woman later filed a lawsuit against the hospital, and the parties reached a confidential settlement in September.

During his opening statement to the jury on Friday, Deputy Public Defender Ryan Bashor said the case was about money and the media.

On cross-examination Tuesday, the woman was asked about several calls made from her cellphone to KLAS-TV, Channel 8, in the days after the assault. She denied calling news media and said, “It could have been my husband.”

The witness also was asked about the settlement and her previous financial difficulties.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth later asked the woman, “Did you make this up because you wanted money?”

“No,” the woman replied.

Another woman who accused Farmer of sexually assaulting her committed suicide last year. Prosecutors plan to play a videotape of her testimony to the jury.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal typically does not publish the names of sexual assault victims.

Source: Carri Geer Thevenot, “Former patient says hospital supervisor downplayed assault by nurse aide,” Las Vegas Review Journal, February 11, 2014.

February 13, 2014

State officials respond to complaint with surprise investigation of psych hospital

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 1:53 pm

The Independence Mental Health Institute is one of four state run facilities offering treatment to adults and children in need of acute psychiatric care in Iowa. The facility can care for around 95 patients at a time and generally has a wait list for its facilities. Shot in Independence, September 28, 2009. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals conducted a surprise two-day investigation last week at the Independence Mental Health Institute following an anonymous complaint.

The investigation focused on areas of patient rights and responsibilities and psychiatric services, DIA Spokesman David Werning said Tuesday. The investigation report should be complete within a week, he said.

The MHI probe is unusual because the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) declined to investigate the complaint under federal laws because of lack of specificity in the allegations. But the state decided to investigate under state licensure rules.

“Staff here felt we needed to look into it,” Werning said.

The Jan. 21-22 investigation follows a Jan. 12 Gazette report about MHI staff being injured by patients 70 times last year, with half of those injuries considered assaults. The Department of Human Services, which oversees MHI, said most injuries were minor with only seven referred for evaluation for workers compensation.

Assault charges filed in Buchanan County show a handful of adult MHI patients committing numerous attacks on patients and staff. Juvenile patients have also injured staff, employees said, because supervisors have discouraged staff from using restraints.

The Independence MHI is one of Iowa’s four mental health facilities that provide short-term psychiatric treatment for severe mental illness. The facility has 75 beds for adults and juveniles.

The institute is considered the last resort for some of the state’s most dangerous patients. About 90 percent of the patients at MHI last year were committed involuntarily, which means a court determines they are a danger to themselves or others.

Patient rights and responsibilities, one of the categories used for the DIA investigation, usually focuses on staff treatment of patients, Werning said, but it also can cover patients’ treatment of staff.

The psychiatric services category covers whether a facility is properly caring for patients who need those services.

Source: “Iowa officials investigate complaint at Independence Mental Health Institute,” The Gazette, January 28, 2014.

February 4, 2014

Psychiatrist loses license for “using woman for sex”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 4:22 pm

A PSYCHIATRIST who confessed to a seven-year affair with a vulnerable patient after she was found dead has been struck off.

Dr Andrew McBride started a sexual relationship with the woman while treating her for drug and alcohol abuse at the Rectory Centre in Oxford in 2003.

In a string of diary entries read out at a disciplinary tribunal, the woman described how she felt McBride was “using her for sex”.

The affair continued until her untimely death in December 2010 despite two Oxfordshire NHS investigations into the relationship.

McBride was able to persuade bosses he was the victim of unfounded allegations when his lover revealed details of the affair while under the influence of alcohol in 2004 and 2008.

But the psychiatrist finally owned up after his mistress, referred to as patient A, was found dead in her flat in 2010, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service heard.

McBride is thought to be the last person to see her alive and confessed to the true nature of their relationship in the subsequent investigation.

He stopped treating her professionally at the start of 2005, but continued to prescribe large doses of the sedative diazepam right up until her death.

McBride was not present or represented at the Manchester hearing where a fitness to practise panel ordered he should be struck off.

Panel chairwoman Joy Hamilton said: “The panel considers that Dr McBride’s sexual misconduct seriously undermines public trust in the profession and was behaviour unbefitting a registered medical practitioner.

“Dr McBride has demonstrated no insight into the inappropriateness of this relationship.”

The panel also found McBride guilty of clinical errors relating to his treatment of another three patients between 2004 and 2011.

Source: “Psychiatrist struck off for ‘using woman for sex’,” Oxford Mail, February 4, 2014.

Austin psychiatrist charged with involvement in narcotics ring

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 4:20 pm

An Austin doctor who police say wrote more than 400 prescriptions for narcotic pain medications in exchange for methamphetamine and cash is one of at least a dozen people charged in connection with an illegal drug distribution organization.

Richard Edward Sofinowski, 47, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 21 on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and other controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas. He was also indicted on two substantive drug distribution counts, the office said.

Sofinowski surrendered to federal authorities Monday and was released on a personal recognizance bond that day, the attorney’s office said.

Arza Demi, who authorities say helped Sofinowski give the prescriptions in exchange for meth and money, was indicted on the same charges, according to the attorney’s office. The 42-year-old remained in federal custody as of earlier this week.

“Prescription drug abuse has become increasingly prevalent in the community, and it is especially serious when a licensed medical professional violates his professional duties as well as federal law in illegally dispensing controlled substances,” U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman said in a statement. “If Dr. Sofinowski is found guilty of writing prescriptions for narcotics by the grand jury, he will face serious consequences for enabling others’ dependence on drugs.”

Police said Sofinowski was a “key member of a narcotics distribution organization” and wrote prescriptions to 24 people on a rotating basis. Those people would then fill prescriptions for painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication at pharmacies across the city and then return the medication to the organization in exchange for keeping some of the drugs.

Sofinowski admitted to police that none of the people were his patients and that he distributed the prescriptions through leaders in the organization, according to an arrest affidavit.

Police issued warrants on a charge of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud for Wayne Johnson, 39, Bonita Hawthorne, 50, Woodrow Matthews, 32, Amanda Isbell, 34, Richard Graham, 36, Ruth Thompson, 35, Jessica Falscroft, 39, Kimberly Holmes, 36, Erin Feltmeyer, 31, and Michael Sullivan, 34, court records show.

Hawthorne, Graham, Sullivan, Falscroft and Holmes had been arrested by Thursday.

As of Friday evening, none of the other suspects was in custody in Travis County, according to jail records.

Sofinowski was earlier arrested and charged with possession on Nov. 13 after authorities searched his home and discovered 11.5 grams of methamphetamine and several hundred tablets of controlled substances. He was booked at the Williamson County Jail and released the next day after posting bail, which was set at $20,000.

According to the Texas Medical Board, Sofinowski has been licensed as a doctor in Texas since 1992, with a primary practice of psychiatry.

Sofinowski has not been investigated by the board before, according to the organization’s website, nor has he been disciplined or had his licensed restricted.

In 2002, he received an employee excellence award from the Austin Travis County Integral Care, according to the board’s website, which lists him as having been a supervisor of the Austin State Hospital residency program since 2001.

On Tuesday, an Integral Care spokesman told the American-Statesman that the organization can’t verify that Sofinowski received the award because there is no record of it.

Source: Julie Chang and Ciara O’Rourke, “Police: Austin psychiatrist wrote prescriptions in exchange for meth and cash,” Austin American Statesman, February 4, 2014.

Psychiatrist gets “popped” for kissing vulnerable female patient

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 4:20 pm
According to records acquired by the Tampa chapter of Citizens Commission on Human Rights, psychiatrist Ioan Pop was criminally convicted and and may lose his license next month due to an act of sexual misconduct with a vulnerable female patient who had been involuntarily committed to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.
The records state that on April 27, 2013, Pop, who was in the patient’s room at Mount Sinai, kissed the patient on the mouth while holding her face and asked her sex-related questions. Pop also called the patient several times after she was released.
The DoH records state that the patient stated that thought she attempted to resist him, she was fearful of rejecting Pop because he was the only physician who could authorize her release.
Following her May 1, 2013 release, the patient went to the police as Pop was repeatedly calling her. She allowed a police officer to listen in on one of Pop’s calls where he stated to her “not to discuss the incident at the hospitalwith anyone” and that he “liked her anatomy and her liked her tongue very much”
On July 25, 2013, based on findings of sexual misconduct, the Florida Department of Health restricted Pop on an emergency basis from treating female patients.
On September 18, 2013, Pop was found guilty of battery and was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to stay away from the former patient.
The entry on Dr. Pop on the website of the Florida Department of Health states that Pop will be surrendering his license.
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