Albany, NY – NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Special Prosecutor Patricia E. Gunning announced that a direct care aide at Vanderheyden Hall in Rensselaer County has been arrested on charges he sexually abused a resident with intellectual disabilities in his care.

Justin Hope (DOB: 02/23/1985) of Guilderland, is charged with:

  • Criminal Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, a class “E” felony (2 counts);
  • Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree, a class “A” misdemeanor (2 counts);
  • Sexual Misconduct, a class “A” misdemeanor (2 counts); and
  • Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree, a class “E” felony.

The charges stem from an August 2016 incident in which the defendant allegedly signed the victim out of the premises of a Vanderheyden Hall residential facility without authorization and brought the victim to his apartment in Guilderland and to a local sporting event. While out, the defendant is alleged to have provided the victim with alcohol and marijuana and engaged in oral sexual conduct with the victim. 

The incident came to light when bystanders observed the defendant and the victim drinking in public and subsequently the case was reported to Vanderheyden Hall. Under the law, sexual contact of any kind between an employee and a resident of a facility certified by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is criminal when the employee knows or has reason to know that the resident is receiving services at the facility.

“Vanderheyden Hall provides services to youth and young adult residents with a variety of disabilities and diagnoses and many residents have suffered significant trauma in their lives,” said Special Prosecutor Gunning. “For an employee to abuse their authority, as this defendant is alleged to have done, subjecting a resident to sexual abuse is a criminal act that can interfere with the very treatment Vanderheyden is providing.”

The defendant was arraigned before the Honorable William Carter of Albany County Court and remanded to the custody of the Albany County Sherriff’s Office pending the appearance of counsel. The defendant resigned from his position at Vanderheyden Hall.

Supervising Assistant Special Prosecutor Rachel Dunn is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by Justice Center investigator Johanna Whitney. Special Prosecutor Gunning thanked the Albany Police Department for its assistance in the investigation and the office of the Albany County District Attorney for their support of this Justice Center led prosecution.

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.

Editor’s note: In compliance with Rule 3.6(b)(6) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, you are advised that a charge is an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 17, 2017  Contact: Bill Reynolds (518) 549-0200