BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) – Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis has approved a $9 million settlement for a lawsuit stemming from the abuse of William Shehadi Jr. by his medical caregivers.
This is the largest settlement ever paid to an individual by the state, officials stated.
Shehadi is a mentally ill man who nurses and other staff members of the Whiting State Hospital abused regularly for years, according to administrators.
In the span of just 24 days, over 50 incidents of abuse with Shehadi were captured on video. Shehadi had been living in the state hospital for nearly 30 years.
In one instance of abuse caught on camera, a male nurse had “gyrated his groin on Mr. Shehadi’s face,” according to the press release. Other instances included individuals dousing Shehadi with liquids, throwing food at him, and forcing him to wear a diaper on his head.
“It is hard to comprehend the level of systemic failure that allowed someone so incapacitated to be so brutally abused so openly for so long,” Albert Shehadi, Shehadi’s brother and legal conservator said. “This settlement holds the state accountable for the incredible level of systemic failure that allowed the abuse to occur.”
Along with the $9 million settlement, the state has also agreed not to collect more than $8 million that Shehadi Jr. owed for the cost of his three-decade residency in state custody.
An additional, but undisclosed, sum of money was also paid by the Whiting Chief of Patient Care Services to Shehadi Jr. Her employment at Whiting was terminated for her role in the abuse, state officials confirmed.
Nearly 40 Whiting employees have been fired for their roles in Shehadi Jr.’s abuse, and 10 staff members were arrested on criminal charges. Since their arrests, nine staff members were convicted and eight have been sent to prison.
Officials called Nurse Mark Cusson “the ringleader of the abuse,” and he has been found guilty of three felony counts of cruelty and five counts of disorderly conduct.
“Let this case be an example to all mental health workers in Connecticut and across the nation,” Antonio Ponvert, Shehadi’s attorney said. “Our laws and our nation’s Constitution protect ill and vulnerable people, people in custody, the weakest among us. Violate your sacred duty toward your fellow human beings, and you will go to jail. You will forever be known as a sadistic monster.”
“I hope the outcomes of the criminal cases against the abusers and the civil case against the state make it clear to state leadership of the need to dramatically improve the treatment of severely mentally ill individuals who are in the care of our State,” said Albert Shehadi.