PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
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REBECCA SMITH stands with her attorney, Guy Louie, waiting for Judge Douglas Phimister hands out the sentence. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

News

Nurse gets five years probation

By From page A1 | January 25, 2013

The nurse, who pleaded no contest to elder abuse after a patient in her care died, was sentenced in court on Wednesday.

Rebecca Smith appeared with her attorney, Guy Louie, before Judge Robert Baysinger. After her case was pushed from the morning to the afternoon, Baysinger noted that the sentence proposed by the El Dorado County Probation Department was not the same as Smith had agreed to in her plea deal, but he “did not disagree with it” and called it “reasonable.”

Deputy Attorney General Steven Muni, the prosecutor, also gave Baysinger a three-page document regarding the sentencing, which he had written since the morning hearing was pushed back.

After reading it, Baysinger asked whether Smith was averse to him sentencing her, as she was legally allowed to be sentenced by the judge who accepted her plea, Judge Douglas C. Phimister. She agreed to an Arbuckle Waiver, allowing Baysinger to sentence her.

Before sentencing her, Baysinger noted that the case was “as unusual as it is tragic.” Muni confirmed that the facility Smith was a nurse at had been sold and was under completely new management. He also noted that victim Johnnie Esco’s husband, Don, had been awarded a “seven-figure settlement in a civil suit” before his death last October.

Stephanie Clark of the Probation Department also confirmed that the county had a compact with Louisiana, where Smith lives, concerning any probation she might be sentenced to, and that if there were any “issues,” she would be transported back to California.

A sentence of five years of formal probation was then given by Baysinger. Smith was to have no contact with the business, even in its new form, and, as she was now a convicted felon, she would be prohibited from owning firearms and, for the duration of the probation, be required to submit to any searches by any peace officers, regardless of probable cause or warrants. She would also be required to comply with any requests to testify in the case against Donna Palmer, the director of nursing of the facility at the time of the incident.

Smith was also sentenced to 360 days in El Dorado County Jail, with five days credit for already having been served. This was stayed pending successful completion of probation. Baysinger noted that Smith would be able to petition for an early termination of probation, pending good behavior, after three years. She was also ordered to serve 300 hours of community service. Over $1,000 in fines and restitution was imposed.

When asked by Baysinger, Smith agreed to the terms.

“There are no winners” in the case, Baysinger concluded. “I am sorry you got into this” for both her and Johnnie Esco’s sake, he said.

The charges against Palmer and Smith came as a result of the death of Johnnie Esco, who died as a result of fecal impaction in 2008 while under the care of the nurses at El Dorado Convalescent Hospital in Placerville.

Cole Mayer

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