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Trial Begins Over Hospital Sex Case

February 07, 1991|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a case that has raised questions about how a Glendale convalescent hospital screened its staff, a 45-year-old Burbank man went to trial this week on charges that he sexually assaulted an 82-year-old Alzheimer's patient while working at the hospital.

Roy Alton Seaton is being tried in Pasadena Superior Court on charges of sodomy and rape with a foreign object in connection with an incident that allegedly occurred shortly after 2 a.m. last June 27 at the Autumn Hills Convalescent Hospital.

After Seaton's arrest, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services levied two fines totaling $11,000 against Autumn Hills. County officials said the penalties were imposed because a patient had suffered abuse and because the hospital did not properly check Seaton's background, failing to detect a past criminal conviction for child molestation.

Tami Smason, an attorney for Autumn Hills, said Tuesday that the hospital has contested both fines. She said the hospital did not know that Seaton had a criminal record because he lied on his application form and because his conviction could not be detected through public records. She also said Seaton held a valid state license as a nurse's aide when he was hired.

Smason said Autumn Hills is awaiting a decision by the California attorney general's office on whether the state will pursue the matter in court.

At Seaton's trial on Monday, nurse Linda Maxwell testified that she was supervising him and three other aides on June 27. She said she entered the Alzheimer's patient's room when she heard the woman moaning.

Maxwell said she observed Seaton apparently engaged in a sex act. "I could see everything from the doorway," the nurse said.

She said she ordered Seaton out of the room and contacted hospital administrators.

During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Bruce Schweiger challenged Maxwell about the accuracy of her observations. His questioning was scheduled to continue today.

In his opening statement, Schweiger said there is little physical evidence to support the sexual assault charges. He also alleged that Glendale police pressured Seaton into confessing through harsh interrogation tactics.

"He was treated like a prisoner of war," Schweiger said.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark Collier said in an interview that he had a solid case against Seaton. "You have a nurse walk in and catch him in the act," he said. "How much better could your case be?"

He also said Judge Charles C. Lee ruled last week that Seaton's confession to police was admissible.

The prosecutor told the jury, "It's a case involving the worst nightmare" the victim "could have had while she was still of sound mind."

Collier later described the incident as "a particularly reprehensible crime. The victim was so helpless."

The woman's son testified that his mother could not communicate, move or care for herself because of the disease. The woman died several months after Seaton's arrest, authorities said.

If convicted on both counts, Seaton could be sentenced to a maximum of 16 years in state prison, plus an additional five years because of his previous conviction, Collier said.

Seaton remained in Los Angeles County Jail this week in lieu of $100,000 bail.

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