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Ex-prosecutor to lead health care firm's rape investigation

Rick Romley, the former longtime top county prosecutor for metro Phoenix, speaks during a news conference Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 in Phoenix. Romley was hired by Hacienda HealthCare to conduct an internal review into the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault of patient at a Hacienda facility who has been in a vegetative state and gave birth to a baby in late December. (AP Photo/Jacques Billeaud)

Rick Romley, the former longtime top county prosecutor for metro Phoenix, speaks during a news conference Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 in Phoenix. Romley was hired by Hacienda HealthCare to conduct an internal review into the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault of patient at a Hacienda facility who has been in a vegetative state and gave birth to a baby in late December. (AP Photo/Jacques Billeaud)

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This Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, photo shows Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. The revelation that a Phoenix woman in a vegetative state recently gave birth has prompted Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons to resign, putting a spotlight on the safety of long-term care settings for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) — A former top prosecutor in Phoenix was hired Monday by a health care facility to investigate the circumstances into how a patient in a vegetative state was impregnated in a sexual assault. Police are conducting a separate criminal investigation.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said Monday that his review for Hacienda HealthCare will focus on patient-security procedures and management practices to ensure patients don't suffer harm in the future.

"They gave me assurances that they wanted to not just find out what happened, but they (also) wanted to correct the situation," he said.

The 29-year-old victim has been in incapacitated since age 3 after suffering a near-drowning. She gave birth Dec. 29. The child will be taken in by the mother's family.

The sexual assault has triggered not only a police investigation but reviews by state regulatory agencies.

Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons resigned a week ago after news surfaced of the sexual assault.

A nurse who cared for the victim during her delivery said in a 911 call that she was unaware that the patient was pregnant. Investigators are gathering DNA from all men who worked at the facility.

A lawyer representing the victim's family has said the family was outraged at the "neglect of their daughter."

Unlike police, Romley will not have subpoena power to force employees to give DNA samples. Still, he said he would encourage any employee to cooperate with investigators.

Romley said he made it clear to Hacienda's board that he will not bury any wrongdoing he may uncover. "I call it as I see it, and if not, I walk away," Romley said.

He is known for leading a team of prosecutors who pressed cases against Catholic priests in a sex abuse scandal about 15 years ago.

The Hacienda facility serves infants, children and young adults who are "medically fragile" or have developmental disabilities, according to its website.


Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud.

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