- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Four employees of a Long Island group home have been fired and were charged Thursday with criminal endangerment, accused of encouraging one disabled resident to attack another resident, according to authorities.

All four, who worked at a center run by Independent Group Home Living Program, face felony charges. Three pleaded not guilty and were scheduled to return to court in a month with bail set at $10,000. A bench warrant was issued for the fourth defendant who didn’t appear, a Southampton Town Justice Court clerk said.

State authorities said Southampton police obtained a cellphone video of the attack after it was first reported to the state’s Justice Center hotline. They said the four defendants can all be seen or heard laughing.

Arraigned Thursday were Erin McHenry, 28, of Brookhaven; Justin McDonald, 19, of Lindenhurst; and Stephen Komara, 58, of East Moriches, authorities said. A warrant was issued for Rosemary Vanni, 44, of Eastport.

Independent Group Home Living said it was outraged, fired the accused, was cooperating with police and had notified the families of the residents involved. The nonprofit state contractor, which operates several group homes on Long Island, said it supports “a vigorous prosecution.”

Prosecutor Patricia Gunning said the arrests should serve as a warning that the center won’t hesitate to prosecute behavior “that violates, endangers or causes injuries” to the estimated 1 million disabled New Yorkers in residences and group homes that it was established last summer to protect.

The center recently reported logging more than 41,000 calls to its 24-hour hotline staffed by investigators from the June 30 opening through mid-December. Center officials have declined to say how many of those have been referred to police or for criminal investigations by its own staff and by Gunning, its special prosecutor.

All four defendants face two counts of endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person, punishable by up to four years in prison.

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