A supervising nurse and key witness against an Oak Lawn man accused of sexually assaulting a then-93-year-old dementia patient at an Orland Park care facility has been fired from the facility and is now involved in a civil lawsuit, a defense attorney said Monday, Jan. 28.
Robert Phelan, 58, is out on $350,000 bond in connection to the July 24, 2011 alleged incident, where authorities say he sexually assaulted the elderly woman at the facility where he was working as a nurse's assistant. Phelan appeared quietly in a Cook County Judge Colleen Ann Hyland's Bridgeview courtroom on Monday with his attorney Howard J. Wise.
Assistant State's Attorney and special prosecutor Mary Lou Norwell told Hyland during Monday's hearing there is a "new development" in the case as there has been a civil lawsuit "filed by one of the parties in the matter."
Norwell didn't elaborate further in open court. In an interview with Wise after the hearing, however, the defense attorney said prosecutors told him a supervising nurse and major witness in the case has been terminated "due to actions taken on the investigation" and the witness is now involved in a civil lawsuit with the facility.
Wise said he doesn't have more details and isn't exactly sure what the actions were and how -- or even if -- those actions will affect his case.
However, "we've always maintained [Phelan's] innocence the entire time," Wise said. "He's a good CNA and has been his whole career. This is the most farfetched allegation there is."
Wise also pointed out the witness' involvement in the suit could be a "turning point for our case."
A preliminary search of Cook County court records didn't immediately yield a recent civil lawsuit involving Lexington Health Care of Orland Park. An administrator with the facility was not available for comment Monday afternoon.
In other outstanding discovery in the case, Norwell said both sides received encrypted photos that neither party can access; she said she would be meeting with some of the state's experts to help open them.
Wise also has a motion pending to throw out Phelan's arrest, which has been placed on hold until the next court date.
The next status date has been set for March 19.
By then, "we anticipate having all issues resolved," Norwell told Hyland.