Two Niagara County women have been indicted on felony rape counts for sexually abusing men in their care while employed by Northpointe Council’s First Step Chemical Dependency Crisis Center in Niagara Falls.
New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Special Prosecutor Patricia Gunning announced the indictments of Candace Seelbinder of Niagara Falls and Jessica Griffin of Tonawanda. Gunning said Seelbinder, a Licensed Practical Nurse, and Griffin, a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor, have been terminated from their positions.
They were arraigned before Judge Sara Sheldon of Niagara County Court. Bail was set at $15,000 for Seelbinder and $5,000 for Griffin. Both defendants are due back in court on July 13.
The Northpointe Council, formerly the Alcoholism Council in Niagara County, is a 17-bed residential facility offering non-medical detoxification and a sober environment for recovery to individuals who do not need hospitalization. Gunning said the defendants were arrested after an investigation conducted by the Justice Center and Niagara Falls Police found the women allegedly had sexual intercourse with and committed sexual abuse against males at the facility.
“All workers at treatment facilities, in particular licensed professionals, who violate their obligations to their patients by engaging in sexual behavior with them, not only commit criminal conduct, but their actions can also be detrimental to the success of treatment,” said Gunning.
In announcing the indictments, Gunning noted that the Justice Center and its statewide hotline and incident reporting system is available to receive reports of allegations of abuse and neglect of people with special needs. Serious cases of abuse or neglect are assigned to the Justice Center’s investigation team or, when appropriate, to a local law enforcement agency for follow-up.
The Justice Center also maintains a statewide registry of all persons who have been found to be responsible for serious or repeated acts of abuse and neglect. Once placed on the registry, known as the “Staff Exclusion List,” they are prohibited by law from ever working again with people with disabilities or special needs.