Auburn, NY – NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Special Prosecutor Patricia E. Gunning today announced that a former counselor at Unity House of Cayuga County pled guilty to raping a resident of a Unity House facility.

Evonne Servais of Auburn pled guilty to the top count of the indictment, Rape in the Third Degree, a class "E" felony, and will be sentenced to 1.5 years’ incarceration followed by eight years of post-release supervision. Servais will also have to register as a sex offender upon her release. Servais entered her plea before the Honorable Thomas G. Leone of Cayuga County Court, and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2017.

“This defendant’s conduct in using her role as a counselor for the victim for her own sexual gratification was outrageous,” said Special Prosecutor Gunning. “People who are getting mental health services are looking to heal and to recover. Justice was served for the victim in this case, who felt betrayed by the defendant’s conduct.  The defendant’s acceptance of responsibility with this plea allows the victim to try to move forward in his healing process, without having to suffer the rigors of testifying at a trial.” 

The Justice Center’s investigation found that Servais had engaged in a sexual relationship with a client at the facility for several months. Under the state penal law, sexual contact of any kind between an employee and a patient, when the employee has reason to know his or her patient is a resident or inpatient at a facility operated or licensed by the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH), constitutes a crime.

Supervising Assistant Special Prosecutor Linda Gafford prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Justice Center with the cooperation of Unity House of Cayuga County. Special Prosecutor Gunning thanked the office of Cayuga County District Attorney Jon E. Budelmann for their assistance.

About the Justice Center

The Justice Center began operations on June 30, 2013.  It operates a toll-free hotline that receives reports of allegations of abuse, neglect and significant incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Anyone who witnesses or suspects the abuse or neglect of a person with special needs can make a report. Mandated reporters who have reasonable cause to suspect that a reportable incident has occurred by staff must report it to the Justice Center immediately upon discovery.  The Justice Center is not a first responder so if a report involves an emergency situation, the caller is instructed to hang up and dial 9-1-1.

The Justice Center is authorized to investigate all reports of abuse and neglect, pursue administrative sanctions against staff found responsible for misconduct and its Special Prosecutor/Inspector General shares jurisdiction with local district attorneys to prosecute criminal offense allegations. The Justice Center notifies local district attorneys of all potential criminal cases.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 13, 2017

Contact Bill Reynolds: (518) 549-0200