A judge handed out the first prison sentence in connection with a patient abuse case at our state’s maximum security mental hospital.
NBC Connecticut Investigates broke the story about the abuse almost two years ago.
Supporters of 45-year-old Gregory Giantonio packed the back benches of the courtroom to watch a judge hand him a sentence of five years in prison, suspended after four months, plus three years probation, on a single count of intentional cruelty to persons.
Giantonio is one of 10 employees from the Whiting Forensic Division arrested in connection with charges they repeatedly abused Bill Shehadi, a patient then in his late 50’s, at the state’s maximum security mental hospital in Middletown.
Much of it was caught on the hospital surveillance system.
Al Shehadi says his brother suffered kicking, poking, and more with Giantonio in his brother’s room.
Tearing up at times, Giantonio was brief as he made his case for leniency in connection with his plea.
He told the court “I want to apologize to Mr. Shehadi, to his family and friends, and I want to apologize to my family and friends for what they've had to endure because of my actions, and I'm truly sorry for what happened.”
Fellow staffers who came to speak on behalf of Giantonio explained they work in an extremely difficult environment where they are often the ones getting hurt by patients, and Giantonio often showed compassion for Shehadi, someone they say is arguably the most difficult patient.
All told, the state put 37 people at Whiting on administrative leave in the Shehadi abuse case, and 35 no longer work for Whiting.
Of those, 26 were dismissed or terminated, four resigned, and five retired.