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A 23-year-old former nursing assistant at Garden Courte Memory Care Community in Olympia pleaded guilty Friday to a count of second-degree assault for shoving a soapy washcloth in a 90-year-old dementia patient’s mouth in July.

Cameron Malizio pleaded guilty under an “Alford plea,” which means he pleaded guilty, but technically does not admit he committed the crime. In the eyes of the court, an Alford plea counts as a criminal conviction and carries the same penalties.

As part of the plea deal, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Megan Winder agreed to recommend that Malizio be sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Malizio also agreed to give up his nursing assistant’s license and to not be a primary caregiver to any vulnerable adult. The recommendation for a year and a day in prison was also agreed to by Malizio’s defense attorney as part of the plea deal.

Malizio’s sentencing is scheduled for next week. He was supposed to be sentenced on Friday, but Malizio’s attorney asked that his client be allowed to have a week with family, including his two children, before he is taken into custody.

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Malizio has no previous criminal history.

According to court papers:

In July, an employee of the Garden Courte witnessed Malizio and another employee bathing a 90-year-old female dementia patient in a shower at the facility on Lilly Road.

The witness told her employers that she saw Malizio put a soapy washcloth in the dementia patient’s mouth while the victim’s arms were being held behind her back by another former employee of the care center.

A spokeswoman at Garden Courte has said the incident was reported immediately to the Olympia Police Department. Malizio and the second employee who was said to have been involved in the incident were immediately terminated, Garden Courte spokeswoman LaTanya Jules said in October, after the allegations came to light.

The second employee accused of holding the 90-year-old’s arms behind her back, Emily Green, was not initially charged. However, since October, Green has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree assault. Her case is pending.

The Garden Courte employee who reported the incident to police described the 90-year-old victim as “a small, skinny, malnourished dementia patient … too weak to hurt anyone.”

The witness added that during the incident, Malizio and Green placed the 90-year-old in a chair on wheels so they could bathe her. A bar on the chair was placed over the woman’s lap so she couldn’t get out of the chair. She said Green swore at the 90-year-old, and that Malizio then turned on the water and didn’t wait for it to warm up, “dousing” the woman.

The witness said the 90-year-old had a look of fear on her face. Green told detectives she held the 90-year-old’s arms behind her back because the dementia patient had struck Malizio in the face. She also told Olympia police that she did not remember if Malizio stuck a washcloth in the woman’s mouth.

When an Olympia detective interviewed Malizio, he admitted sticking the washcloth in the dementia patient’s mouth, and that he used the shower to direct water into the woman’s mouth to wash the soap out afterward.

In a statement to The Olympian in October, Jules wrote:

“We at Garden Courte strive to provide the best care for our residents. When we were made aware of allegations of this employee’s conduct that did not meet our standard of care, we terminated our employment relationship … We have many wonderful employees that come to work every day and appreciate and love our residents like family members.”

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