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Published: Wednesday, 12/24/2008

Defense contests nurse's confession

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SANDUSKY - The former Perkins Township nurse who confessed earlier this year to sexually abusing more than 100 elderly nursing-home residents over the course of more than 20 years was in court again yesterday, this time seeking to keep a jury from ever hearing that confession.

The criminal trial of John Riems, 49, of Sandusky is set to begin Jan. 20 in Erie County Common Pleas Court.

Yesterday, however, defense attorney Troy Wisehart asked Judge Tygh Tone to suppress his client's confession, claiming Mr. Riems suffers from a mental disorder that makes him susceptible to police coercion and that police violated his client's rights during an interrogation Jan. 21.

Judge Tone did not rule on the confession's admissibility, and court officials said no ruling will occur before prosecutors determine their response to defense testimony.

"We've still got this issue and a couple others that we got to look at," Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said.

Mr. Riems was indicted earlier this year on three counts of rape, three counts of felony sexual battery, and three counts of patient abuse related to the suspected assault of two patients at Concord Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Perkins Township, just south of Sandusky.

A family member of one of the alleged victims reported the suspected abuse Jan. 19.

Allen Jenkins, a former Perkins Township police detective, and Erie County sheriff's Detective Jared Oliver testified during a Jan. 31 preliminary hearing that when they called Mr. Riems in for questioning Jan. 21, he told them he molested more than 100 patients during his career.

The deputy and former officer told the same story yesterday to Judge Tone in a courtroom filled with Mr. Riems' relatives as well as family members of his alleged victims.

Mr. Baxter said the judge also watched a four-hour videotape of Mr. Riems' confession and listened to testimony from a neuropsychologist who said she examined Mr. Riems.

The neuropsychologist determined he was intimidated by police during the questioning and told them what he thought they wanted to hear.

A conviction may be impossible if a jury can't hear Mr. Riems' confession, Mr. Baxter said.

"I don't know yet. I haven't got there yet and I haven't made that kind of decision," he said. "It's a significant part of the case for sure, primarily because most of the victims can't communicate."

Mr. Riems' attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.

Since his arrest, two former nurses at the Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center where he worked came forward saying they received complaints about him from patients, some of whom refused treatment from him. Several family members have sued the nursing home on behalf of their loved ones.

Prosecutors in August filed 14 additional sexual-assault charges against Mr. Riems based on evidence they gathered over the course of several months, noting that some of his alleged victims from 1994 to 2007 since have died.

Mr. Wisehart said the former nurse maintains his innocence. He remains in the Erie County jail, where he has been since his arrest, in lieu of $500,000 bond.

Mr. Baxter said the date for another hearing on the motion to suppress Mr. Riems' confession has yet to be set.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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