A jury convicted former Grand Rapids Home for Veterans nurse aide Laurie Botbyl of vulnerable adult abuse after a 13 Watchdog investigation obtained video earlier this year of a potential crime.
The jury in this case returned a unanimous guilty verdict after less than 30 minutes of deliberations, one of the fastest verdicts possible.
The video first obtained by the 13 Watchdog team late last year shows a skirmish as Botbyl attempted to get 83-year old Maynard Mathers, under control while he sat in a wheelchair. Seconds later, Botbyl placed both of her hands on the chair's handles, pulled the chair in tight and pushed Mathers' wheelchair forward out of her control. Mathers knees and right arm hit a desk and he's seen on the video grasping his knees after the incident.
In January, Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Becker indicated his office did not have crucial medical evidence to move the case forward in early 2016 and orginally denied charges against Botbyl.
But the case was re-opened after our investigative team obtained medical evidence indicating Mathers had multiple injuries including a "skin tear" on his leg when he was pushed into the desk in his wheelchair. The evidence we obtained prompted Becker to take a second look at the case which led to the criminal charge being filed against Botbyl.
Shortly after we broke the story in February, Botbyl was arrested and appeared in court for an arraignment. At that time, Botbyl put in a plea of "not guilty".
Botbyl worked for the state's contractor J2s and contended in an interview we did with her this winter that her actions didn't constitute a crime and that she didn't in tend to hurt Mathers.
She reiterated the same story to jurors on Thursday that she was remorseful for pushing Mathers wheelchair and lost the job she loved after being fired for this incident.
"I wasn't pushing to hurt him," Botbyl said.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Bartlett said Botbyl committed a crime by a "reckless act" that injured a vulnerable adult with dementia. She said Mathers undoubtedly felt pain but probably could not remember what happened because of his difficulties from dementia.
Defense Attorney Roland Lindh contended Botbyl knew she had done something wrong but didn't feel she should be held criminally liable.
"It was a shame this happened but it wasn't a crime," Lindh said.
Lindh also blamed the media's involvment in the case as a reason why Botbyl should be found innocent.
"The system was being hijacked by the media," Lindh told jurors in reference to the 13 Watchdog investigation. "They're (WZZM's investigation) on a noble mission, perhaps, but they are just trying to sell air time."
Craig Mathers, Maynard Mathers son, was in the courtroom for the trial and thanked our investigative team for taking a look at the case. His father, Maynard, died in late February, just a couple of weeks after the criminal charge against Botbyl was filed. Mathers told us he believes Botbyl should get time in jail.
"Instead of walking away, she attacked somebody that's helpless," Mathers said.
Botbyl will be sentenced for her crime within the next month.
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