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Former Whiting Forensics mental health worker sentenced for patient abuse

MIDDLETOWN — Tuesday marked the first round of sentencing for the former Whiting Forensics workers convicted of abuse.

Gregory Giantonio of Deep River, was sentenced to four months in prison and three years probation on a five year suspended sentence in connection to the 2017 patient abuse scandal at Whiting Forensics in Middletown.

Nearly 40 employees were fired and 10 were convicted.

“This man is worthy of redemption,” remarked Giantonio’s attorney to the judge. “So I ask that you take that into consideration as you impose your sentence today.”

Gregory Giantonio pled no contest. He addressed the court.

“I want to apologize to Mr. Shehadi and his family and friends and I want to apologize to my family and friends for what they’ve had to endure,” he said.

The scandal broke in 2017 after a whistle-blower sounded the alarm on pervasive patient abuse. Video surveillance that was not released — revealed disturbing acts.

For this case, Giantonio kicking patient William Shehadi out of a bed during a two hour window of abuse. Shehadi’s Brother Al pushed for a year in prison.

“How do you abuse another human being unintentionally for almost two hours straight? How do you choreograph with a coworker to unintentionally kick a person out of their bed?” asked Al Shehadi.

Giantonio’s wife, Shivaun, addressed the court.

“Greg, none of this defines you as a person or defines the life that you can have,” she read aloud.

And then his former co-workers defended him.

“He’s protected me on several occasions from patient aggression including patients charging into the nurses station and trying to hurt me,” stated Sarah Luckman, a nurse at Whiting Forensics. “He’s protected me. And I trust him completely with my life.”

The scandal set off a firestorm in Hartford as questions swirled surrounding accountability. Since then, Whiting Forensics — which was under the umbrella of Connecticut Valley Hospital has been restructured under private ownership.

“They now have their own medical director. They also have their own CEO if you will who is in charge,” said former State Senator Terry Gerratana.

Gerratana was part of the committee that wrote the legislation that slapped more oversight on the maximum-security facility. She told FOX61 about the specific changes made.

“There’s the bill which now mandates reporting from all staff people there. As you know in the past that wasn’t true. Only certain healthcare professionals. There’s 24 hour video monitoring which is looked at in real time,” said Gerratana.

FOX61 reached out to the Commissioner for the State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for comment.

“Abuse of any kind is not tolerated at DMHAS, I remain committed to working to ensure that the more than 100,000 individuals we serve annually receive the quality, compassionate care they deserve,” said Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon.

The judge also ordered Giantonio to undergo mental health screenings, perform community service and banned him from ever working with vulnerable people. 40-year-old Carl Benjamin of Hamden is expected to be the second former Whiting Forensics worker sentenced later this month.

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