- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

LEBANON, Va. (AP) — A judge convicted a former rescue squad worker of involuntary manslaughter for zapping a co-worker with defibrillator paddles in a deadly prank.

Joshua Philip Martin, 25, faces a maximum 10-year term at his sentencing in March. Russell County Circuit Judge Michael Lee Moore found Martin guilty and said Monday he likely will order prison time. Martin pleaded no contest.

Courtney Hilton Rhoton, 23, a mother of two small children, went into cardiac arrest in June seconds after Martin placed the paddles on her chest and shoulder. Three days later she died.

Defibrillators are used to restart a patient’s heart through an electric current.

Martin worked for the Highlands Ambulance Service in Lebanon and had been on the job four days. He was not yet qualified to use the defibrillator and had been told it is not something to play with, county prosecutor Mike Bush said.

Ambulance driver Michael Coleman was at the wheel June 1 when he heard Miss Rhoton tell Martin not to touch her “with that,” Mr. Bush said in court.

Mr. Coleman looked back to see Martin putting the paddles away.

But shortly afterward, Mr. Bush said, Mr. Coleman heard the “sound of a shock” and heard Miss Rhoton yell: “Oh my God, Mike, he shocked me!”

Seconds later she stiffened and then went limp.

Miss Rhoton, who had been an emergency medical technician for one year, never regained consciousness.

Mr. Bush said they were not on an emergency call at the time.

The company was unable to say yesterday how long the training period is for an emergency squad worker or whether the process includes a psychological profiling. It is also unknown what brand of defibrillator the service uses.

Martin’s mother said he meant no harm and “just made a mistake.”

“Everybody plays on the job, even cops,” Diane White said after her son’s court appearance. “But with this one, it caught up. He’s going to pay for it for the rest of his life.”

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