A former certified nursing assistant at a now-closed Bar Harbor nursing home was found guilty Tuesday of a misdemeanor count of violation of privacy for recording a video of a patient using a toilet.
Jessica Bunker, 25, of Cranberry Isles, was working at Sonogee Rehabilitation and Living Center last summer when she recorded the video of an 84-year-old woman who suffers from advanced dementia and then sent it to a friend, according to a statement released by Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster. Foster did not identify the “now closed” facility where Bunker was working at the time, but court records show the incident happened at Sonogee, which closed down this spring.
Bunker initially was charged with endangering the welfare of a dependent person, which is a Class C felony, but at a nonjury trial was acquitted of that charge by Judge Bruce Mallonee, according to Foster.
The district attorney’s office “argued that while one could never know the impact of Ms. Bunker’s actions on the victim’s actual mental welfare given the victim’s advanced dementia, what mattered was that any person’s mental welfare would be put at risk by having such a video taken and disseminated,” Foster said in the release.
Bunker was sentenced to serve 10 days in Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth as a result of the misdemeanor conviction, Foster said. She is expected to begin serving her sentence at 9 a.m. Monday, according to court records.
The district attorney said his office “vigorously prosecutes these types of crimes in order to protect our elders and other individuals who find themselves in positions of high risk for exploitation and victimization.”
Foster said the case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Heather Staples and that Officer Soren Sundberg of the Bar Harbor Police Department was the investigating officer.
Last September, regulators fined Sonogee $7,800 over the incident. According to ProPublica, regulators cited Sonogee more than two dozen times between February 2016 and February of this year for operational deficiencies that included improper record keeping, substandard resident hygiene and unsanitary kitchen conditions, among other things.
Bunker was fired after Sonogee officials learned of the video, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services incident report.
North Country Associates, the Lewiston-based firm that owned and operated Sonogee, has said declining occupancy of the shorefront Bar Harbor facility and a mandated minimum wage increase led to the decision to close it down.
The firm has declined to comment on regulatory violations that preceded the nursing home’s closure. An official with North Country Associates did not respond to messages on Wednesday.
Since the closure of the nursing home was announced, hotel resort firm Ocean Properties has said it is under contract to acquire the property but that it has no immediate plans to convert the former mansion into a hotel.
The incident at Sonogee is not the first in Hancock County in recent years in which the closure of a nursing home was preceded by a staff member victimizing a patient in a criminal act.
Four years ago, a Castine woman who had worked at a nursing home in Penobscot pleaded guilty to a charge of intentionally endangering the welfare of a dependent person after she was accused of assaulting a 74-year-old patient at the facility.
According to federal investigative reports about infractions at that facility, the assault was one of several incidents that prompted DHHS to revoke certifications for Penobscot Nursing Home, which subsequently closed in 2014.