A former nursing assistant at the Bedford VA Medical Center who played video games on the job — while a patient in her care took a turn for the worse and later died — will plead guilty to lying to federal investigators about her shocking negligence, records show.
A charging document, known as an information, and a plea agreement filed Tuesday in US District Court in Boston identify the former nurse’s aide as Patricia A. Waible, 52, of Nashua.
She’s charged with two counts of making false statements to investigators probing the July 2016 death of 68-year-old Bill Nutter, according to prosecutors. Nutter, a Vietnam veteran and retired police detective, isn’t named in court documents, but his family previously identified him during an interview with the Globe.
Waible’s lawyer didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. A date for her plea hearing hasn’t been set.
According to court documents, Waible was working the overnight shift on July 3, 2016 in Ward 4C of the hospital. She was tasked with conducting hourly bed checks for patients on the unit, including Nutter, identified as Patient 1 in legal filings.
“During her overnight shift on July 3, 2016, WAIBLE documented on the Hourly Checks sheet that she had conducted the 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m., and 6 a.m. hourly checks of PATIENT 1 on July 3, 2016,” the information says. “WAIBLE wrote her initials on the Hourly Checks sheet for these times, indicating that she had performed these hourly checks.”
But Nutter’s worsening condition went unnoticed.
“On the morning of July 3, 2016, at approximately 7 a.m., PATIENT 1, who suffered from several serious medical ailments, was found unresponsive and not breathing,” the filing says. PATIENT 1 was then transferred by ambulance to the emergency room at the Lahey Clinic, where he was later pronounced dead.”
Waible lied during an interview three days later with agents from the criminal investigations unit of the VA’s Office of Inspector General, according to authorities.
“During this interview, WAIBLE initially stated that she had performed the hourly checks for PATIENT 1 at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m., and 7 a.m. on July 3, 2016, as was indicated by her initials on the Hourly Checks sheet,” the information says.
Video surveillance footage showed otherwise.
“In fact, video surveillance footage from Ward 4C showed that nobody entered PATIENT 1’s room between approximately 2:44 a.m. and 6:57 a.m. on July 3, 2016,” the information says, adding that Waible came clean during a second interview with agents on Sept. 22, 2o16 after being told of the video evidence.
“Following a break in the interview, WAIBLE admitted that she did not tell the truth during her previous interview with OIG agents on July 6, 2016, and that she had not conducted the hourly checks for PATIENT 1,” the information says. “WAIBLE also provided a handwritten statement in which she admitted that she did not conduct the 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. hourly checks for PATIENT 1 ‘because [she] was doing computer work and time got away from [her].’ ”
It wasn’t computer work that occupied her time that morning, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the investigation.
That person, speaking under the condition of anonymity, previously told the Globe that Waible played video games on her computer during her shift.
Waible faces a maximum prison term of five years on each count she’s charged with, but the feds have agreed to recommend “a sentence of probation to the Court and a special assessment of $200,” her plea deal says.
A judge will make the final sentencing decision, and Waible will forfeit her right to challenge her conviction and sentence on direct appeal, according to the deal.
“Defendant acknowledges that she is agreeing to give up these rights at least partly in exchange for concessions the US Attorney is making in this Agreement,” the deal says. “The parties agree that, despite giving up these rights, Defendant keeps the right to later claim that her lawyer rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, or that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct serious enough to entitle Defendant to have his conviction or sentence overturned.”