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No arrests in two reported rapes at Laurelwood Hospital

Lawsuit pending from 2006 incident

POSTED: January 16, 2009 11:45 p.m.

Authorities are saying little so far about the investigation of two rapes reported at a Gainesville mental health center where an alleged sexual assault two years ago resulted in a lawsuit that remains pending.

As of Friday, no arrests had been made in connection with the reports of sexual assaults at Laurelwood, a residential facility on Wisteria Drive which is a division of Northeast Georgia Health System.

Gainesville Police Lt. Brian Kelly said two female patients came forward Sunday to say they had been raped by the same male patient. Police did not release the ages of the people involved but said they were all adults.

One woman said she was raped at the facility Jan. 10 and another said she was raped Jan. 9, police said.

Kelly said the male patient was transferred to another facility pending the outcome of the investigation.

Northeast Georgia Health System spokeswoman Cathy Bowers said she could not comment on the allegations other than to say the hospital "takes them seriously."

The complaints come a little more than two years after two teens were charged with raping a 13-year-old girl inside Laurelwood. Charges against the defendants, a 16-year-old boy and a -year-old girl, later were reduced through negotiated guilty pleas.

The defendants in that November 2006 case claimed a sexual encounter inside a bathroom was consensual. The 14-year-old girl shared a room with the victim and was accused of pulling her into the bathroom for the boy to have sex with her. She pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and enticing a child for indecent purposes. Rape charges against the boy were reduced after crime lab test results for male DNA came back negative, according to a motion to dismiss the charge.

"There was no physical force used during the sexual assault, no weapon used, and no threat to the victim," according to the motion filed by Hall County prosecutors. Prosecutors had concerns that they would not be able to convince a jury of the boy’s guilt in a rape case, according to the motion.

The boy instead pleaded guilty to child molestation and misdemeanor statutory rape and was sentenced to 20 years probation, which included a year under house arrest. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

In November, the family of the 13-year-old victim filed suit in Hall County State Court against Laurelwood and Northeast Georgia Health System. Much of that lawsuit is sealed from public view, including the plaintiffs’ initial complaint.

Court records that remain public include a questionnaire asking the hospital to state whether any other crimes occurred within the facility over the last five years and what security measures it has in place.

Attorneys for Laurelwood have responded to the suit in court filings by saying the care that the victim received at the facility was consistent with the care she would have been given at other hospitals under the same circumstances.

The hospital’s response also says any injuries suffered by the girl were the result of criminal acts by another and that there were no actions or inactions by employees that resulted in her injuries.

The response by the hospital also says the girl "failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care" and assumed the risk of any alleged injuries.

A lawyer for the girl’s family said he could not discuss their lawsuit against Laurelwood.

Atlanta attorney Jeff Shiver offered his reaction to the latest investigation at the facility in a written statement, which read in part: "Multiple rape allegations at the same facility is, to say the least, concerning, and we hope the appropriate authorities will investigate the allegations and take appropriate action."



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