Mother of vulnerable adult angry over plea deal in assault case | Local News
MANKATO – The mother of a man with severe developmental and physical disabilities is outraged that the caregiver convicted of assaulting her son on Friday will not receive jail time.
Zachary Bostelman, 24, of North Mankato, pleaded guilty to fifth degree assault at the Blue Earth County Justice Center. He received a 90-day suspended prison sentence for one year, a fine of $ 700 and will no longer be able to perform a similar role of guard.
The victim’s mother, Pat Booker of New Ulm, said her family wanted jail time for what she called a “callous disregard” for her son’s well-being.
“It’s a total slap in the face,” she said. “There is no justice at all for him.”
Her son, Keith Booker, 43, has not spoken, has lived in a wheelchair since the age of 25 and has contractures in his legs which cause him pain when touched or moved. Despite seizures dating back to his childhood causing permanent brain damage, his mother described him as a “smiling” guy who is full of life and love for his Minnesota Vikings.
Keith Booker lives in the Autumn Grace assisted living facility in Mankato, where the assault took place in September 2017. Witnesses reported that Bostelman physically and verbally assaulted Booker while he was working there, according to the criminal complaint. They accused him of forcing Booker’s legs open when he changed his panties and moved them aggressively.
Booker’s mother said everyone on the healthcare team would have known her son’s legs were sore to the touch and he needed to be handled with care. A mandatory reporter alerted authorities to the allegations.
The physical nature of the charges shocked Booker’s family, but his mother said Bostelman’s derogatory comments about her son were just as hurtful. The 24-year-old reportedly told witnesses that Booker was a “waste of space” and “ugly.”
“It was so painful to read that,” Pat Booker said. “It took me three times before I could get out of this because I was crying and angry with him.”
Her disgust was on display at the courthouse on Friday, where she told Blue Earth County District Judge Krista Jass that she was not happy with the plea and believed her family’s contribution had failed. not considered by the county attorney’s office. Deputy County District Attorney Christopher Rovney disputed this after the conviction, while saying he understood the Booker’s family’s frustrations.
Bostelman faced two counts of criminal harassment, criminal harassment with intent to injure and criminal abuse by a caregiver of a vulnerable adult, as well as the charge of assault. Rovney said the initial and aggressive accusations were driven by the need to remove Bostelman from his role as a caregiver. Bostelman was put on leave following the incident and has since changed careers.
Rovney said the prosecution would have faced significant challenges securing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a jury trial, the process preferred by the victim’s family. Keith Booker’s inability to testify was a factor, as well as the risk that Bostelman’s actions would be viewed as within the scope of his job. The difficulty, as Rovney put it, would have been proving that Bostelman’s actions intentionally caused harm, as any required contact with Booker could potentially cause pain.
“We have to follow the law and do what we think we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Rovney said.
He also expressed concern that a potential jury might meet their legal obligations after hearing the comments Bostelman allegedly made about Booker. During the hearing, Bostelman’s defense attorney Chris Kennedy called the comments “gallows humor” out of context. Kennedy also noted that the Department of Social Services took no action against Bostelman after an investigation.
A previous plea deal, which provided for a stay of arbitration where Bostelman’s charge would have been dismissed had he complied with the sentencing requirements, failed. Jass pointed out the difference between the pleas on Friday, saying the assault charge will remain on Bostelman’s case as opposed to the previous plea.
“I’m not sure the jail ban is appropriate, but it certainly puts time over your head to comply with probation orders,” she told Bostelman.
The assault conviction will also be improvable, meaning that if he commits a similar crime in the future, the charge may be more serious depending on the past offense. The victim’s family viewed the final plea as lighter than the first, with Pat Booker saying she didn’t believe the jury trial she wanted most had even been considered.
Rovney said the county attorney’s office sent the Bookers a notice asking for comment, but received no response. The wishes of the victim and her family are important considerations when assessing prosecution decisions, he said.
“I would also be upset,” he said. “I totally understand that, but I just wish she had contacted me.”
Bostelman, who had no criminal record, expressed remorse in court while admitting his handling of Booker was overkill. Afterward, Pat Booker said she couldn’t walk away happy with the way the case had been resolved.
“I would rather have a jury trial and lose to a jury trial than the county attorney, for me, downplays everything,” she said.