New York Post reports on an important case Leitner Varughese is handling.
City-owned hospitals are letting killers loose on the streets: suits
By Kathianne Boniello January 13, 2018 | 5:20pm
City-owned hospitals are letting psychotic killers slip through their grasp, say a pair of recently-filed lawsuits.
Francisco Perez, who has a history of mental illness, drug abuse and violent behavior, threatened to kill his brother in October 2016 while he was a patient at Metropolitan Hospital Center in East Harlem, says a suit in Bronx Supreme Court.
But hospital staff failed to take Perez’s ravings seriously. The day he was released, he allegedly carried through on his threats and stabbed Luis Gonzalez to death.
Gonzalez’ daughter this month sued Metropolitan Hospital and its owner, the city Health and Hospitals Corp. She says her 63-year-old dad would be alive if not for the hospital’s “negligence.”
“Once they say they’re going to kill someone? Come on now, I don’t take that lightly,” an emotional Cynthia Gonzalez told The Post. “That’s a red flag.”
Gonzalez hopes her father’s death won’t be in vain. “It’s like an emptiness without him,” she said, weeping. “He was the spark and now it’s not there.”
The hospitals need to do more, said Luis Gonzalez’ granddaugher, Anayess Dominguez.
“They didn’t do everything they possibly could have done to prevent something like this from happening. In the future, if this continues to happen, it’s just a flaw that they’re not fixing,” the 19-year-old said.
Perez, 56, is due in Manhattan Criminal Court next month after undergoing a court ordered exam to determine his mental fitness.
“This is just a huge injustice,” said Gonzalez’ lawyer, Justin Varughese.
As The Post reported last week, Bellevue Hospital Center faces similar allegations of negligence in Manhattan Supreme Court, in a lawsuit filed two days after the Gonzalez suit.
Connie Watton, 49, a longtime housekeeper for Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman’s family, was pushed onto subway tracks in Times Square and hit by an downtown-bound 1 train.
Her alleged killer, Melanie Liverpool-Turner, landed in Bellevue about three weeks before before Watton’s November 2016 death with “a history of mental, psychological and/or psychiatric illness” because she’d previously claimed she pushed people onto subway tracks.
Bellevue released Liverpool-Turner without a proper psychiatric evaluation and either failed to recognize her “homicidal ideations” or ignored them, the victim’s husband, Robert Watton, charges in a Manhattan Supreme Court filing.
HHC declined comment on the three cases, citing patient confidentiality laws, but a spokesman defended the agency’s discharge procedures as “robust” and said patients are evaluated to determine if they are a threat to themselves or others.
Victims’ families face an uphill battle in trying to hold city hospitals responsible for mentally ill patients who kill.
In 2014, career criminal Kevin Darden pushed unsuspecting Chinese immigrant Wai Kwok in front of an oncoming D train in The Bronx. Darden was sentenced to 18 years in prison for manslaughter.
Two years after the sadistic shove, Kwok’s family sued HHC, claiming Darden was a paranoid schizophrenic who wouldn’t take his meds and that the city hospitals which treated him failed to take the danger he posed seriously.
Kwok’s family dropped the case after 19 months, partly because Darden wouldn’t give permission to release his psychiatric records, said Kwok family lawyer Preston Douglas.