For Immediate Release
Contact: Bernie Mulligan, 212.785.0157, ext. 140
VALLEY STREAM, April 18, 2012 – Donte Oakes lay in ambush and beat Long Island nurse Marie Sweeney nearly to death. Now he is headed to jail for 11 years – thanks to a N.Y. state law that makes assaulting a nurse a felony.
The sentencing on Monday of her assailant won’t bring about justice on its own, said NYSNA member Marie Sweeney, RN, “True justice will come when the hospital prevents such incidents from ever happening again.”
Psychiatric patient Donte Oakes, was sentenced in Nassau County Court to 11 years in prison for the September 2010 incident at Franklin Hospital, in which Oakes attacked Sweeney with a broken chair leg. The attack left her without sight in her left eye and with persistent, head, back, and shoulder pain.
“Monday was a very emotional day,” Sweeney said. “I hadn’t seen the assailant for a year and a half.” Sweeney read a powerful impact statement before the sentencing, discussing the terror of the attack and how it forever altered her life.
“Nothing in his remarks indicated he was sorry,” Sweeney said. “No remorse. No responsibility. His family wanted to apologize, but an apology needs to come from the individual himself.”
'"NYSNA will continue to be a strong voice to stop violence against nurses," said Nancy Kaleda, NYSNA's Deputy Executive Director (Labor). "All nurses, represented by a union or not, have the right to be safe on the job and treated with respect."
“The unfortunate part is that this attack was foreseeable,” Sweeney said. Nurses tried to point out potential hazards on their unit to management, yet their concerns fell on deaf ears.
This attack was not Oakes's first. Before, he had assaulted three of Sweeney's colleagues. The hospital was aware this individual had a history of violence and needed a higher level of security.
Meanwhile, Sweeney continues to work with New York State Assemblyman Rory Lancman’s office to promote violence prevention legislation and is working to obtain sponsors in the Senate.
This is, at least, the second prosecution of an assailant under the 2010 Violence Against Nurses law, which was a NYSNA priority bill for many years.
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 37,000 members, it is New York’s largest professional association and union for registered nurses. The association represents registered nurses, and some all-professional bargaining units, in New York and New Jersey. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.
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