Herkimer, NY – NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Special Prosecutor Patricia E. Gunning today announced the guilty plea of a Brooklyn man on charges that he abused an individual with developmental disabilities in his care at a Frankfort facility operated by United Cerebral Palsy, Inc.

D’Anthony Southerland (DOB: 08/29/92) of Brooklyn pled guilty to Attempted Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree and Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree.  Sentencing is scheduled for February 23, 2017 and the recommended sentence is 60 days incarceration, three years’ probation and a no-contact Order of Protection for the victim for five years.

“Professional caregivers who are trained to care for individuals with disabilities should never resort to force and violence, and if they do, they will be held accountable, like this defendant,” said Special Prosecutor Gunning.  “We are grateful to the Brooklyn and Utica offices of the United States Marshall Fugitive Task Force for apprehending the defendant and to the New York State Police for their assistance.”  

The charges stemmed from an incident in February 2016 in which the defendant grabbed the victim and dragged him down a long hallway, threw him against a wall and down onto the floor. Southerland was terminated from his position following the incident.

Southerland entered his plea before the Honorable John H. Crandall of Herkimer County Court. The case was investigated by the Justice Center and prosecuted by Supervising Assistant Special Prosecutor Linda Gafford.

UCP is certified by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). OPWDD is one of six state agencies under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center. The Justice Center also oversees facilities or programs operated, licensed or certified by the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the Department of Health (DOH), the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), and the State Education Department (SED).

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.

Justice Center Individual and Family Support advocates provide guidance and information to victims, their families, personal representatives and guardians about the reporting and investigation process, offer support during criminal court proceedings and are available to accompany victims during interviews and court appearances.