PHOENIX –The former Hacienda nurse accused of raping and impregnating an incapacitated woman under his care entered a not guilty plea Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The arraignment hearing was 36-year-old Nathan Sutherland's first public court appearance since Phoenix police announced they matched his DNA to the child born to a 29-year-old female patient at Hacienda HealthCare last month.
Sutherland, shackled and clad in a Maricopa County jail orange jumpsuit, only spoke to give his name and date of birth to the judge. The hearing lasted no more than two minutes as his attorney, David Gregan, entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client and confirmed upcoming appearances.
"Mr. Sutherland, just as you and I are, is entitled to due process of law," Gregan told the media following the hearing. "Mr. Sutherland is entitled to constitutional protection just as you and I are. And, finally, Mr. Sutherland – just as you and I are – is entitled to a full defense. I intend to make sure he receives all these things."
Sutherland was formally indicted on charges of sexual assault and vulnerable-adult abuse last week. He is being held in a Maricopa County jail on a $500,000 cash-only bail.
He's scheduled to appear in court next on March 19 for an initial pretrial conference.
During the initial appearance, Sutherland's attorney said there was "minimum evidence" his client committed the crime, and they intended to have their own DNA testing performed.
Hacienda staff said they didn't know the female patient was pregnant until she gave birth to a boy on Dec. 29. Court records describe the woman as "not alert" and needing a "maximum level of care." She has since been removed from Hacienda and her parents are taking care of the baby.
Police said Sutherland was primarily responsible for the woman's care at the time of the assault. He began working at Hacienda in 2012 and was promptly fired after the facility learned of his arrest.
He's since voluntarily surrendered his license to the Arizona State Board of Nursing.
Sutherland's wife filed for divorce on Dec. 5 – three weeks before the victim gave birth. Court documents indicate they've been separated since May.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Former Hacienda nurse accused of sexually assaulting, impregnating patient pleads not guilty