Trial for suspect in hospital sex assaults nears; testimony from deceased victim may be included

A Las Vegas woman was recovering from seizures in May 2008 when a man entered her room at Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center and introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Steve, and I’ve been assigned to you tonight, so I’ll be looking in on you,” she recalled him saying.

The woman said she could not talk or move but was aware of everything going on around her.

She described the incident during courtroom testimony in January 2012. Prosecutors sought and received permission to preserve her story at that time because of her unstable health.

The woman recalled waking up in her hospital bed to find Steve pinching her nipples. She said he then lifted her gown and began sexually assaulting her with his hand.

“I felt pain,” she testified. “I felt a multitude of feeling — one feeling being that there was absolutely nothing I could do. I couldn’t ring the bell. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t — I just had to lay there. I was humiliated. I was embarrassed. I was shocked that I’m in a hospital being taken care of, and I’m having things like this done to me, and at that point in time, I can’t tell anybody.”

In court, the woman pointed to Steven Farmer, who once worked as a certified nursing assistant at Centennial Hills Hospital, and identified him as her assailant.

Farmer, now 61, is accused of victimizing six female patients, including five at Centennial Hills Hospital.

His criminal trial on charges related to those five alleged victims is scheduled to begin Feb. 3 in District Judge Carolyn Ellsworth’s courtroom.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.

The victim who testified in January 2012 will not be there. She killed herself on July 13. She was 56.

Prosecutors hope to play a videotape of her testimony to the jury.

The woman’s estate continues to pursue a civil case that she filed in July 2009 as “Jane Doe.”

She filed the case against Farmer, the hospital and American Nursing Services, Farmer’s employer.

A trial in that case is scheduled to begin May 19 in District Judge Valorie Vega’s courtroom.

“The really sad part of this case is that justice delayed, in my client’s case, is really justice denied,” said civil attorney Robert Murdock, who represented the woman and now represents the estate.

Murdock said he and attorney Marty Keach continue to investigate her suicide.

“She was very ill,” Murdock said. “She had a terrible seizure disorder. And she was haunted by this incident.”

The woman testified that when she was able to talk again, she told her two sons about the assault.

She did not tell anyone else at the hospital.

“You go to a hospital because you need to, and your one expectation is to be safe and to be treated humanly and decently, and that had been taken away,” she said. “And so I didn’t trust this hospital anymore.”

She did not report the incident to police until June 2008, after one of her sons saw Farmer on TV and told her there were other victims.

“I said, ‘I have to do this no matter what my health is doing. I have to do this,’ ” the woman testified. “Of course I didn’t foresee — I didn’t foresee how bad my health would actually get.”

On cross-examination, she further explained the monthlong delay in reporting the sexual assault to authorities.

“My health started deteriorating so fast that that was on the front burner at the time,” she testified. “I started having seizures like every other day. I started experiencing uncontrollable sensory overload, and I had things happening I’ve never experienced before, and my body and health was just going down a sieve, and that was my top priority at that point in time.”

Recently, Jane Doe’s attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment against Farmer in the civil case, based on the fact that he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “to virtually every question” during a deposition on Dec. 17.

According to the motion, which asks the court to enter a judgment against Farmer without a trial, the defendant invoked his Fifth Amendment right when refusing to answer questions that had nothing to do with the criminal case, such as:

■ Have you ever had your deposition taken before?

■ Who are your lawyers here today?

■ Are you paying these lawyers?

“Mr. Farmer had two lawyers flanking him, either of whom could have stopped this silliness at any point in time, but didn’t,” according to the motion.

A transcript reflects that attorney Heather Hall and Deputy Public Defender Ryan Bashor represented Farmer during the deposition. Neither attorney could be reached for comment.

Murdock said he filed the motion for summary judgment against Farmer “because it’s righteous.”

“He can’t hide behind the Fifth and then try to defend himself with the Fifth,” the lawyer argued.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Feb. 19.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth, who is prosecuting the criminal case, said she expects all of the surviving victims to testify at the criminal trial.

Farmer faces sexual assault charges and a potential life prison sentence in connection with two of the alleged victims, including Jane Doe.

The other alleged victim claims she was raped by Farmer in May 2008 at Centennial Hills Hospital, 6900 N. Durango Drive. Like Jane Doe, she had come to the hospital after suffering a seizure.

That woman also filed a lawsuit against the hospital, and the parties reached a confidential settlement in September.

The Review-Journal typically does not publish the names of sexual assault victims.

Bluth said a sixth alleged victim was a patient at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. Farmer is charged with open and gross lewdness, a gross misdemeanor, in that case. A separate trial in that case is scheduled to follow the trial that is set for Feb. 3.

Farmer, who was arrested at his Las Vegas home in May 2008, is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.