Nurse charged with rape of disabled US woman who gave birth

Nathan Sutherland is shown in this booking photo in Phoenix, Arizona, US, provided January 23, 2019. (Maricopa Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Nurse charged with rape of disabled US woman who gave birth

  • Nathan Sutherland was arrested after investigators linked him to the case through DNA evidence
  • He was ordered held on $500,000 bail during a brief appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court
PHOENIX, USA: An Arizona male nurse has been charged with raping a severely disabled woman at the long-term care facility where he worked, a crime that came to light only after she gave birth, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Nathan Sutherland, 36, was arrested by investigators who linked him to the case through DNA evidence after the woman, who is in her 20s, unexpectedly gave birth on Dec. 29 at Hacienda Healthcare Skilled Nursing Facility in Phoenix.
“From the minute we first became aware of this crime, a sexual assault, we have worked virtually non-stop every day, every night, seven days a week trying to solve and resolve this case,” Police Chief Jeri Williams told a news conference.
Williams said the case, which has made international headlines, was solved through a combination of DNA and “good old fashioned police work.”
Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse who began working at Hacienda Health care in 2012, was charged with one count each of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail during a brief appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Reuters could not reach Sutherland’s defense lawyer for comment on Wednesday.
The Arizona Republic newspaper reported that attorney Dave Gregan said during the hearing that there was no direct evidence against his client, who had no criminal history, and that the defense planned to conduct its own DNA tests.
The woman, who has been disabled since very early childhood as a result of seizures, has spent most of her life in Phoenix’s Hacienda Healthcare.
Though she was initially described as comatose, her parents said in a written statement that although she was disabled she could respond to sound, make facial gestures and had some ability to move her limbs, head and neck.
“The important thing is that she is a beloved daughter, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities,” they said.
The parents declined to comment on Sutherland’s arrest in a separate statement issued through their attorney.
Hacienda employees were not aware that woman was pregnant before she went into labor, police say, and were first alerted to the case when the baby was born. Police then sought DNA samples from all male employees.
The facility said in a written statement that Sutherland was fired as soon as administrators learned of his arrest.
“Before he started work with Hacienda, he underwent extensive background checks, including an extended criminal history search; a search of multiple government registries, including sex offender registries and Arizona Department of Economic Security and Child Protective Services registries; and checks of his personal references,” it said.
The baby, a boy who is being cared for by family members, is doing well, police said. (Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix and Peter Szekely in New York Writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)


Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

Updated 24 February 2019
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Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

  • Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote
  • Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership

OKINAWA: Residents of Japan’s Okinawa were casting ballots Sunday in a closely watched referendum on the controversial relocation of a US military base to a remote part of the island.
The vote is seen as highly symbolic but is also non-binding, raising questions about what effect it will have, even if opponents of the move, including Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, prevail.
The ballot asks residents whether they support a plan to reclaim land at a remote coastal site for the relocation of the Futenma base from its current location in a heavily-populated part of Okinawa.
It was initially planned as a yes-no vote on the move, but a “neither” option was added after several cities with close ties to the central government threatened to boycott the vote.
Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote. The Jiji Press agency reported around 20.5 percent of eligible voters had already cast ballots in early voting by Saturday.
“They are using a lot of tax money and manpower for this referendum, even though the result will not have any legal power. So, we thought that we should take this opportunity and think very carefully about this issue,” said Yuki Miyagaki, after casting her ballot at a local school.
“We usually shout no to the new base construction. This is a good opportunity to tell the government directly with concrete numbers: ‘No’. This is an important vote,” 32-year-old Narumi Haine said.
Although the referendum is not legally binding, “it is significant that people in Okinawa can express their will through the vote,” said Jun Shimabukuro, a professor at Ryukyu University in Okinawa.
“It can be a test to gauge if democracy is working in Japan,” Shimabukuro said before voting opened.
The relocation of Futenma to Nago, 50 kilometers away, was first agreed in 1996 as the US sought to calm local anger after US servicemen gang raped a local schoolgirl.
But the plan has long been stalled in part over local opposition.
The Futenma base has stoked tension with local residents over problems ranging from noise and military accidents to crime involving base residents.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government says the relocation will address those concerns, but many in Okinawa want the base relocated elsewhere in Japan.
They argue that the region bears a disproportionate burden when it comes to hosting US military troops in the country.
Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area, but hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.
Anti-base rallies have been staged daily in Okinawa since campaigning for the referendum began in mid-February.
But the vote has not stopped reclamation work at Nago, with construction workers continuing to shovel dirt into the ocean offshore with bulldozers.
“We hope the referendum will boost the momentum of our fight,” demonstrator Masaru Shiroma told AFP on Friday, as more than 100 fellow activists tried to block trucks entering the construction site on Friday.
“The government is making a fool out of Okinawa.”
The ballot closes at 8:00P.M. with exit polls expected soon after and official results from as early as midnight.
Okinawa’s governor is required to “respect” the vote’s outcome if at least a quarter of eligible voters — around 290,000 votes — vote for any one option.
Tamaki has urged residents to turn out and cast their “precious votes” in the poll.
An opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper this week found 59 percent of people in Okinawa oppose the reclamation while 16 percent support it.
The survey also found 80 percent of respondents want Abe’s government to respect the results.
But there has been little sign Abe’s government will shift course if the vote goes against the move, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying there were no plans to halt the relocation regardless of the outcome.
Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership, and Okinawa’s location near Taiwan has long been viewed as having huge strategic importance for US forward positioning in Asia.