Pittsburgh caretaker sentenced to 17 years for abusing special needs patients
Judge with Gavel (Shutterstock)

A former healthcare worker and caretaker from Pittsburgh has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for a hate crime, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports.

Zachary Dinell admitted to abusing special needs patients, even recording it and bragging about it to other caretakers. Dinell abused at least 13 residents of McGuire Memorial, a residential medical facility. He and another caseworker, Tyler Smith, recorded themselves abusing residents by punching, kicking and choking them.

Dinell pleaded guilty in October to all 12 counts against him, including conspiracy and violating the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Smith still has federal charges pending.

“These victims were non-verbal and thus unable to report the abuse against them,” said Cindy K. Chung, who is the United States Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

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From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: "In several videos recorded in March 2017, Dinell recorded himself throwing a clear substance in one resident’s face while the resident was naked in a bathroom. Dinell texted Smith, according to the charges against them, that he 'got some good things to show you.' They called it 'sanitizing' the residents, according to the indictment. Earlier that year, in reference to the same patient, Dinell wrote to Smith: 'He didn’t ask to be born that way. But here we are sanitizing his eyes and beating him.' Ryan Smith, Dinell’s public defender, called his client a withdrawn young man who struggled with anxiety and had trouble making eye contact."

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.