Caretaker gets 4 months prison for abuse
The man pushed and insulted a mentally disabled janitor
A 62-year-old caretaker is facing a four-month prison term for abusing his mentally handicapped patient.
The conviction stems from investigations by the state attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which four years ago began prosecuting the little-used law against endangering the welfare of an incompetent person.
John Billam-Walker, who was a job coach and caregiver for a mentally disabled 34-year-old man in 2005, was sentenced on July 2 to 120 days in prison after a jury found him guilty of the misdemeanor charge.
The 34-year-old victim received services and worked as a janitor through Winners at Work. Billam-Walker was accused of psychologically and physically abusing the victim for five months in 2005 before he was reassigned.
The abuse included mean remarks, yelling and pushing, said Deputy Attorney General Gary Senaga, who prosecuted the case.
"Although he was reassigned to another client, he still ran into this boy and continued his agitation," Senaga said. "And in September, three months after he was reassigned, he was seen at a dance and he slapped the victim."
The victim "went into a fit," spitting and twitching after the slap. Senaga said he was eventually diagnosed with anxiety disorder, which is similar to post-traumatic stress and resulted from the cumulative abuse from Billam-Walker.
Billam-Walker also was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, undergo mental health assessment and receive counseling, if necessary.
Endangering the welfare of an incompetent person occurs when someone "knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical or mental welfare" of someone unable to care for himself or herself.
Senaga said more of those cases are going to court since the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was reorganized four years ago.
"Because we're already in the care homes investigating providers, we might as well include that charge in our jurisdiction," Senaga said. "Speaking for myself, I see about five to 10 cases a year, and there are two other deputies working on these investigations."
The law was created in 1972 because people with mental or physical handicaps had no protection from abuse outside of sexual assault.
"We use this section to go after caregivers who neglect someone who's helpless, including the elderly," Senaga said.
Because the law is very broad, Senaga said, many people may not outright know that insulting or being mean to a mentally disabled person is breaking the law.