Two women charged with endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person in early 2014 and eventually found not guilty say a state agency failed to fully investigate the allegations before putting out a press release about the arrests.
Yosmarvi Tovar and Dominique Mortimore this week were found not guilty in Niskayuna Town Court. They allege that the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs issued a press release at the time of their arrest lacking adequate investigation, resulting in job loss and misrepresentation.
“The release put out by the Justice Center ruined their reputations,” said Mortimore’s lawyer, Kevin Luibrand. “They never did anything wrong.”
The press statement released by the Justice Center in November 2014 detailed the charges and also included mug shots of both Tovar and Mortimore.
The pair of former counselors at a group home run by the Center for Disability Services in Niskayuna was accused of trying to get a resident to shower by opening a window during the winter to allow cold air into the room and tipping over the couch the man was sitting on.
The allegations were reported to Niskayuna police and the Justice Center through the center’s tips hotline. Niskayuna police charged the pair after an investigation.
“Both Ms. Tovar and Ms. Mortimore were subjected to a poorly investigated case, one that became not about claimed criminal behavior but instead press attention for the Justice Center,” a press release issued by Luibrand Law Firm PLLC stated.
The statement goes on to say that neither Tovar nor Mortimore was interviewed before they were charged, and they believe that the Justice Center used the accusations to publicize the state law of endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person.
The women were charged with one count of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, a class “E” felony, and one count of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the second degree, a class “A” misdemeanor.
In January, a grand jury dismissed the felony charges on the two women, and Niskayuna Town Court dealt with the misdemeanor count this past week.
The jury in Niskayuna found the pair not guilty. According to Luibrand, deliberations took less than 10 minutes.
“It’s ridiculous to begin with,” said Tovar’s lawyer, Demostene Romanucci. “It’s a poor case that never should have happened.”
The women insist a better initial investigation would have proven their innocence before the charges were even brought.
Despite the claims made by Tovar and Mortimore, the Justice Center maintains its initial stance.
“The Justice Center stands by the prosecution of the defendants in this case and respects the verdict of this jury,” a spokesperson said.
According to Luibrand, the women currently have no further plans of action. Their primary goal is to disassociate themselves with the controversy.
“This is to clear their names,” he said. “They’ve been cleared in the courts, but not in the public.”