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Published: Sunday, 1/18/2009

Ex-nurse sent to prison for patient sexual abuse


SANDUSKY, Ohio - A former night shift nurse accused of sexually abusing patients at northern Ohio nursing homes entered a plea arrangement to avoid trial and has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison.

John Riems entered an Alford plea Friday evening to four counts of sexual battery and one count of gross sexual imposition.

In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction but does not admit guilt.

"I do maintain my innocence, but I want to avoid the trauma of a trial," said Riems. "The people who know me know these things are not true."

Judge Tygh Tone handed down the sentence, which Prosecutor Kevin Baxter and Riems' attorney had agreed upon.

Riems, 50, was videotaped last January telling authorities that he abused about 100 patients at various nursing homes since the 1980s.

Judge Tone had ruled Thursday that prosecutors could use the video in Riems' trial, which was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Defense attorney Troy Wisehart had tried to keep the videotape out of the trial. He argued that Riems was coerced into the confession by aggressive detectives.

Linda Monegan, the fiancee of one of Riems' victims, called him an "ancient evil spirit of torment."

Joe Bilgen, whose late father also was a victim, compared the crimes to child abuse because the patients abused had similar states of mind.

"I don't think that anyone knows the hurt and the anger that I am holding for you," Mr. Bilgen said to Riems during the sentencing hearing. "It's something that I will never forgive you for."

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