Allegations of a cover-up of sexual assaults at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital have been leveled on behalf of one of the women who was allegedly assaulted there.
Attorneys for Sylvia Mathes, one of more than a dozen elderly women who were allegedly assaulted by a fellow resident, now claim an unidentified attorney for the Motion Picture Television Fund, which runs the skilled-nursing facility in Woodland Hills, CA, lied to them and tried to cover up the cover-up by claiming a key witness could not give her deposition earlier this month because she had pneumonia, when in fact she was ready and willing to be deposed.
As previously reported, the MPTF was accused of a “cover up” of numerous sexual assaults of female residents at its famed Alzheimer’s unit, known as Harry’s Haven.
Separate lawsuits filed by Mathes, the mother of writer-producer Gerald Sanoff, and retired costumer Nancy Renard, claim that they and 11 other female residents were sexually assaulted by Rafael Palacios, a former longtime employee of the Fund before becoming an Alzheimer’s patient there.
Palacios is named as a defendant in both suits, which note that “his dementia was becoming so severe that he simply lacked the mental ability and capacity to control his actions.”
Those complaints allege that the Fund has “long known, and covered up, that they freely allowed a sexual predator to roam their halls endangering residents” and, as a result of their “conspiracy of silence,” failed to protect the residents and allowed Palacios to “physically abuse and sexually assault” them.
In her suit, filed in August, Mathes claims she was “physically assaulted” by Palacios in July and that managers there had not taken adequate precautions to protect her from him, even though the police had been called on at least two previous occasions. Her suit states that in April, Palacios “was found on top of a female resident and the police were called” and that they were called again in May when he “was found on top of another female resident.” The suit alleges he was found on top of another female resident on June 16 and that, a few days later, he was “found on top of another female resident ‘humping.’ ”
But in an amended complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), attorneys for Mathes now claim a key witness to the alleged assaults and cover-up was kept from giving her deposition in the case through false pretenses.
The witness, Diane Shaw, is a longtime staffer at the facility, and had been assigned to watch over Palacios to make sure he didn’t assault any more of the women patients.
According to an amended complaint, Shaw “was assigned to provide not only ‘1 on 1 supervision at all times,’ but in reality was also required to take care of every other resident in the wing in the facility. This was a literal impossibility. And so predictably, Rafael Palacios entered the room of Sylvia Mathes again uninvited and without permission and was found fondling the breast of Sylvia Mathes and kissing her aggressively. As part of their intent and goal of cover up orchestrated by the facility ‘risk manager’ Joe Rich, this groping was never disclosed and actively hidden.”
But when it came time for Shaw to give her deposition on December 1, the amended complaint alleges that Rich “directed her” to not attend the deposition, and that one of the Fund’s attorney, identified as Attorney 1, came up with a ruse to keep her from being deposed after “recognizing that their fraudulent cover up was about to be exposed by the truthful testimony of Diane Shaw.”
According to the amended complaint, “Attorney 1 falsely asserted that Diane Shaw had pneumonia (and) that she therefore had decided that she was not going to appear at her deposition. This was another known and intentional misstatement of truth by Attorney 1. For the truth was that as Diane Shaw was about to leave her home on her way to the deposition, she received a telephone call from the facility risk manager Joe Rich who directed her to not attend the deposition. In truth of fact Diane Shaw was prepared to and desirous of attending her deposition on December 1st and was directed to not attend by Joe Rich and then this cancellation was misrepresented by Attorney 1 in concert with co-conspirator Joe Rich on behalf of the facility.” This “fraudulent concealment,” the complaint states, “is not only despicable” but is also “ratification” of the alleged cover-up.
“Based on what we know now, Motion Picture & Television Fund appears to have known full well that they were housing a predator and rather than protecting their residents such as Sylvia from this predator they actually laid her as prey,” said Mathes’ attorney Stephen Garcia. “Sylvia sought medical assistance from MPTF and instead, the facility did the opposite of what they were hired and paid to do, failing to take appropriate action to protect Sylvia from the mentally ill man on multiple occasions. In order to promote profit at the expense of residents, the facility refused to provide the necessary staff so at one point, facility employee Diane Shaw was assigned to not only provide one-to-one supervision to the male resident at all times, but was also required to take care of every other resident in the wing of the facility. Unfortunately, not only did Sylvia unnecessarily suffer from multiple sexual assaults at the hands of this predator, but many others did as well.”
In a statement, the MPTF said it “takes all allegations and reported occurrences of sexual assault and harassment seriously, among its employees, residents, and patients in its skilled nursing facility. We investigate and are committed to taking corrective action in all instances. We look forward to telling our side of the story and defending these cases in court in February and May of next year.”
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.