New York man pleads guilty in ‘developmentally disabled fight club’ case

By Scott Kaufman
Thursday, May 22, 2014 11:11 EDT
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A former employee at the Independent Group Home Living Program in Southampton, New York pleaded guilty yesterday to charges related to the running of what prosecutors called “a developmentally disabled fight club.”

Justin McDonald pleaded guilty to a felony count of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person. While being questioned by Jacqueline Kagan, deputy special prosecutor for the Albany-based Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, McDonald admitted that he, Stephen Komara, and Rosemary Vanni could have, but chose not to intervene in fights being orchestrated by Erin McHenry.

The case came to Kagan’s attention when one of the defendants emailed her a video of McHenry organizing one of the fights while the others “raucously laughed.” It is not known which of the defendants sent her the video.

McDonald will be sentenced in July, and is expected to serve 90 days in jail and 5 years on probation as part of his plea arrangement. Kagan said that the sentence is appropriate, given that he was new on the job, “extremely remorseful,” and “willing to take responsibility.” However, the terms of his probation will prohibit him from ever working with “vulnerable persons” again.

His former co-workers pleaded not guilty to the same felony count of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.

Watch a report on McDonald’s plea via CBS 2 New York below.

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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