Former Bartlesville police officer found guilty of assaulting patient
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
BARTLESVILLE — A Washington County jury on Tuesday found a former Bartlesville police officer guilty of assaulting a hospital patient while on duty.
A jury was seated Monday in the misdemeanor trial of Sonya Jean Worthington, 45, who was charged in December with assaulting a Jane Phillips Medical Center patient who was hospitalized on an emergency order of detention.
Another former Bartlesville police officer who faces an identical charge, Stacey Neafus, also will face trial in Washington County District Court, possibly later this week.
Worthington, Neafus and former Officer Carey Duniphin were fired by the city of Bartlesville following an investigation into allegations that the patient was assaulted by the officers on Sept. 18. District Attorney Kevin Buchanan and Tulsa attorney Shannon McMurray, representing Worthington, referred repeatedly during the trial to a video of the confrontation.
“I think we have shown clearly the force necessary was exceeded when (Worthington) slaps (the patient) on the head and then when she grabs him around the neck and starts twisting,” Buchanan told the court. “The question is not whether she exceeded police policies. She is charged with assault and battery. She used unlawful force and was violent.”
The charge alleged that Worthington struck the patient, placed him in a headlock, pulled and twisted his head, and violently forced handcuffs on him.
The patient was to be transported to another medical facility in Wagoner, and hospital security officers testified that they called the police because the patient was becoming agitated.
The jury heard testimony from Worthington, Duniphin and Bartlesville Police Officer Josh Patzkowski, who was at the hospital but retained his job following reviews of the matter by the city and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
The officers testified that the patient was belligerent, verbally aggressive and threatened to kill those present. Duniphin, who was Worthington’s supervisor, testified that he did not have a problem with her advancing across the room to the patient, who he said had been calling her names and threatening all of them.
Worthington, who weighs about 112 pounds, according to testimony, said she had to straddle the patient at one point to try to keep him in a chair because he had jumped up while talking to her and she viewed it as a threat. She said the headlock maneuver was an effort to move him away from her face because he was spitting and head-butting.
Buchanan questioned whether it was appropriate Bartlesville police policy for Worthington to pump her fist in the patient’s face while he was handcuffed to the chair. In her testimony, Worthington admitted to being angry at the time, but she insisted that her anger was not directed at the patient.
“No police officer likes to have to confront somebody,” Worthington said. “The situation is unpleasant. It makes you angry, but you aren’t angry at the person.”
Worthington and Neafus originally were to be tried at the same time, but the court approved a motion last week by McMurray to separate the two cases.