Sutherland sentenced to 10 years in prison in Hacienda rape case

Dec 2, 2021, 2:40 PM | Updated: 9:50 pm
(AP Pool Photo)...

PHOENIX — A former Arizona nurse on Thursday was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who eventually gave birth about three years ago at a long-term care facility in Phoenix.

The sentence was the maximum under the guidelines of Nathan Sutherland’s plea deal, which could have seen him serve as little as 5 1/4 years. He was granted time served, which amounted to a little less than three years.

He will be placed under lifetime probation following his release.

“To the victim, I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve to be hurt no matter what was going on in my personal life and the demons I was fighting,” Sutherland said during the sentencing.

“I had no right to put you through that. No words can express how painfully sorry I am. I am sincerely sorry.”

Sutherland pleaded guilty in September to sexual abuse and abuse of a vulnerable adult in relation to the 2018 incident at the Hacienda Healthcare facility.

He was arrested in January 2019, almost a month after the pregnancy was discovered when a Hacienda employee was changing the garments of the victim and noticed the patient was in the process of delivering a child.

Employees told police that they had no idea the woman was pregnant.

“We are relieved that he will never again torment another innocent human being,” Perry Petrilli, Hacienda CEO, said in a statement. “As they have been since the moment we learned of Sutherland’s terrible actions, our thoughts and hearts are with the victim, the victim’s family and loved ones.

“We hope this last chapter of the Sutherland case brings them all greater peace.”

Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, had initially pleaded not guilty. He was fired by Hacienda after his arrest and has since given up his nursing license.

The case triggered reviews by state agencies, highlighted safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated, and prompted the resignations of Hacienda’s chief executive and one of the victim’s doctors.

It led to a lawsuit from the victim’s parents that alleged Sutherland had cared for their daughter on hundreds of occasions from 2012 through 2018, despite promises from the state — which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities — that only women would tend to her.

The victim lived at Hacienda for 26 years, until the child’s birth.

Her medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and vision loss. She was also left with no functional use of her limbs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sutherland sentenced to 10 years in prison in Hacienda rape case