Toronto

York region health-care worker accused of harming elderly patients pleads guilty to 1 count of assault

A personal support worker charged with sexually assaulting elderly patients has been banned from working with vulnerable people after pleading guilty to a single count of assault in Newmarket, Ont., Wednesday afternoon.

The Crown withdrew 13 charges of sexual assault, 1 of assault against Shojaadin Mohammad Zadeh

Shojaadin Mohammad Zadeh, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of assault in connection with a senior patient in his care at a Richmond Hill hospital. The court withdrew 14 other charges against him. (York Regional Police)

A personal support worker charged with sexually assaulting elderly patients has been banned from working with vulnerable people after pleading guilty to a single count of assault in Newmarket, Ont., Wednesday afternoon.

In exchange, the court withdrew 13 counts of sexual assault and another assault charge levelled against Shojaadin Mohammad Zadeh, 53, in connection with his work with senior patients. (The health-care worker also goes by Soja Zadeh.)

Zadeh received a conditional discharge Wednesday, which includes three years of probation. He also must not work in a hospital, long-term care centre or in any job that would put him in a position of trust with a "vulnerable person."

He elected not to speak when asked by Judge Joseph Kenkel, uttering only the word "guilty" when the assault charge was read aloud in provincial court.

Zadeh was fired from this hospital in October 2015 following an internal investigation that found he'd inappropriately touched four patients. (CBC)

Slapped a patient's buttocks

The guilty plea is connected to an incident at MacKenzie Health hospital in Richmond Hill, Ont., in which Zadeh admitted Wednesday to slapping a patient on the buttocks in the spring of 2015.

Zadeh was fired from the hospital in October 2015 after an internal investigation there found that he had inappropriately touched four patients.

The hospital, however, never alerted police about the investigation and the patients' allegations.

And two months later, Zadeh was hired by Community & Home Assistance to Seniors (CHATS) in York Region.

The non-profit organization hired him to provide care for residents at Hadley Grange seniors apartments in Aurora, later telling CBC Toronto that they were unaware of the allegations that led to his dismissal.

Charged in February 2016

Police charged Zadeh in February 2016 with assaulting two women at the Aurora long-term care centre, but those were among the charges that were withdrawn Wednesday. 

Zadeh's five-week trial had been scheduled to begin on June 5, before the plea agreement was heard by the court.

Defence lawyer Lawrence Liquornik said later that his client had been in a "state of frustration" at work on the day of the slapping incident.   

"On this particular day, he became frustrated while fulfilling his duties with Jane Doe," Liquornik said. "As a result he crossed over the line to use excessive force, which included an open-handed slap on the buttocks."

​The judge said his sentence was based on that fact that Zadeh had no previous criminal record and that he accepted responsibility for his actions.

Shojaadin Mohammad Zadeh, right, leaves the Newmarket, Ont., courthouse on May 31, 2017, with his lawyer, Lawrence Liquornik. (CBC)

In his decision, Kenkel described the sentence as "appropriate" for the one act to which Zadeh pleaded guilty.

The decision will leave Zadeh without a criminal record. After the three-year probation, he will be able to work again as a personal support worker, his lawyer said, but he has no plan to do so. 

'A slap on the wrist'

"He felt that it's a dangerous job for him to perform, being a male in particular working with elderly female patients in particular," Liquornik told CBC Toronto. "Given his experience in the past 15 months he's decided to move on to a different career."

 'You entrust your loved ones to them to be cared for.'- Daughter of one of the complainants

He said Zadeh has "steadfastly maintained his innocence" with regard to the more serious criminal charges, which were withdrawn. 

Crown prosecutor Erin Thomas would not agree to an interview with CBC Toronto after the hearing. 

But the daughter of one of the complainants whose charges were withdrawn said she is devastated by the outcome. 

"It's a slap on the wrist," she said. "You entrust your loved ones to them to be cared for."

With files from Shannon Martin