AUGUSTA — A judge on Wednesday cleared a former mental health worker at Riverview Psychiatric Center of a theft by deception charge involving $11,000 in workers’ compensation payments he received after being shoved by a patient.

Ahmad Khansari Nejad, 61, formerly of Lewiston, was found not guilty Wednesday, the second day of his nonjury trial at the Capital Judicial Center.

Justice William Stokes, in delivering his verdict, said, “I cannot find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with intention to defraud or deceive the state.”

Nejad had been shoved in the back Jan. 5 by “Patient W” on the hospital’s Lower Saco forensic unit.

“It’s a huge relief for everyone,” said Allan Lobozzo, the attorney representing Nejad.

Nejad, in a statement written about 15 minutes after he was shoved, said the blow forced him to the ground, and he landed largely on his left side. He told a series of health care providers that he suffered severe pain as a result of the incident, as well as tingling and swelling in two fingers on the left hand.

A video surveillance system at Riverview captured the event, and several clips from that video were played in the court.

In one of them, Nejad is seen coming through double doors toward a semicircular nurse’s station when a white-shirted man comes from behind and pushes Nejad’s left shoulder blade, shoving him forward and causing him to stumble and bend toward the ground. Nejad, however, never hits the floor.

“To me that is a very forceful shove,” Stokes said in delivering the verdict. “He’s taken by surprise. I certainly don’t think he anticipated this coming. Hands are laid on him. It’s a very quick movement. He stumbles across the floor. He is headed toward the floor and is able to get himself upright and turns around.”

Nejad himself testified on Tuesday, saying that he believed he had fallen to the ground right up until the time he was shown the video.

“His first words when he sees video are, ‘That’s what was in my mind,'” Stokes said. “I think he’s trying to say, ‘That’s my memory of what happened.'”

Stokes said he was taking into account the fact that English was not Nejad’s first language, and that Nejad would have had only about 12 minutes after the incident to decide to concoct a scheme to defraud the state. Stokes also noted that four other people witnessed the shoving incident.

Nejad testified he was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and spent about three years imprisoned and being tortured after being arrested as a political activist. He said the clergyman who presided at his brief trial concluded that Nejad was no longer Muslim and under Sharia law had to be sentenced to death.

Nejad said his father’s cousin, whom he described as an ayatollah at the same level as Ayatollah Khomeini, intervened and Nejad was given a second hearing and was spared.

He said he was imprisoned again after his family fled to Turkey, and he was released only after promising to bring them back.

Eventually he came to the United Stated with his family as political refugees. They settled initially in Portland with the assistance of Catholic Charities Maine.

He said he and his wife — who was a fully trained nurse in Iraq and eventually retrained in the United States — landed jobs within about six months at Portland-area businesses.

“In my entire life I worked,” he testified.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, questioned Nejad about his telling health care providers that he found it hard to brush his teeth, put on a coat and drive.

“I said it was painful, not impossible,” Nejad responded.

He said he obtained a license as a certified nurse’s aide and was hired as a mental health worker at Riverview; his wife was a nurse manager at Riverview. Nejad testified that at the direction of Riverview personnel, he saw a health care provider the afternoon of the assault, and followed up with several other providers. He also testified he reported to work the day after he was shoved, but was told he was cleared only for light duty and none was available.

He was notified by letter March 16 that the incident was being investigated.

After the verdict, Nejad said he planned to speak with officials of AFSCME Council 93, the union that represents Riverview mental health workers, about his situation.

He also said his family moved to Niagara Falls, New York, after he was charged. Nejad said his wife had resigned her post at Riverview, saying she felt pressured to do so.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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