Image: AP

The New York Times reports that Nathan Sutherland, the nurse who allegedly raped an incapacitated woman under his care at a longterm care facility in Arizona, has entered a not guilty plea to charges of sexual assault and child abuse.

Phoenix police arrested Sutherland, 36, in January after an unconscious woman gave birth to a child at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix. The woman, in her late 20s, has been in a vegetative state since she was three years old. Sutherland was identified after his DNA matched with samples collected by police.

As Sutherland’s case unfolds, state officials and local authorities are finally paying attention to Hacienda HealthCare, a facility long plagued by accusations of fraud and whose former CEO Bill Timmons was accused of sexually harassing staff on multiple occasions during his tenure of over a decade. Timmons resigned days after the police began investigating the woman’s rape.

Former human resources manager Rhonda Pigati, who worked at Hacienda HealthCare about a decade ago, told the Arizona Republic that the rape incident “made me sick, but sadly, I wasn’t surprised.”

“I wasn’t surprised because of the culture [Timmons] created,” she said.

Yet Board President Tom Pomeroy defended the decision to keep Timmons, despite the numerous allegations. “In the wake of Timmons’ resignation, people have raised the question of whether he should have been fired years ago,” he said. “While in hindsight it may appear to be an easy call, it was not that simple in the moment.”

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Republican Governor Doug Ducey has called for an investigation into Hacienda HealthCare’s management regarding potential Medicaid fraud and civil rights violations. Sutherland is being held at Maricopa County Jail on $500,000 bail and will appear in court again next month.