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Man Escapes Jail Time for Molesting Paralyzed Woman

May 16, 1998| From Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — A hospital worker who pleaded no contest to sexually molesting a paralyzed patient will not serve jail time because the victim, who identified her attacker by blinking at his picture, is too ill to go forward with the case, her lawyer said Friday.

Her amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, recently stole her ability to blink her eyes, and that was the last way she could communicate. ALS is a degenerative condition that destroys muscle control.

The woman, who relies on machines to live, is identified in court papers as Jane Doe.

"She's dying. They have done what they can with the situation," lawyer Owen Eagan said Friday.

James Duke, 42, of East Windsor, pleaded no contest Thursday to two counts of sexual assault. Prosecutors said he agreed to a sentence of 10 years' probation, to be issued at his sentencing in July.

Duke, a former respiratory therapist at New Britain's Hospital for Special Care, molested the 55-year-old mother of two children twice in 1996, police said.

The molestation was discovered after the woman's husband noticed tears rolling down his wife's face.

Using an alphabet board, she nodded or blinked at letters to state that she had been molested. She was shown a series of photographs and blinked "yes" at Duke's picture, police said.

"All she could do is watch him do what he did to her," Eagan said. "She knows what's been going on, but she can't respond."

The victim's family has filed suit against Duke and the hospital, seeking unspecified money damages.

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