PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Officials at the Lifespan hospital group knowingly allowed a convicted sex offender to work as a full-time electrician at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital, a Target 12 Investigation has discovered.
Jose Moitoso, 56, of East Providence, pleaded no contest to second degree sexual assault last year. His victim told police she was repeatedly molested beginning when she was 13. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop two additional sexual assault charges against him.
Moitoso was deemed a Level II sex offender by the Rhode Island Sex Offender Board of Review in June 2012, meaning he is a “moderate risk to reoffend.” His picture is on the parole board’s website and notifications will be distributed by police in East Providence, where he currently lives.
Throughout the month of October, Rhode Island Hospital spokeswoman Ellen Slingsby defended the hospital’s decision to keep Moitoso on its payroll. But on Tuesday, she contacted Target 12 and announced he had been terminated after “an internal review.”
Moitoso’s termination came just two daysafter Target 12 went public with its findings.
‘Afraid to come forward’
Court records show Moitoso’s victim went to police when she was 18 years old, telling them the sexual assaults had been going on for five years. According to court documents, she told investigators she was “afraid to come forward” and that Moitoso “touched her so many times … [that] the incidents seemed to blend together.”
Moitoso was arrested in 2011 by police in North Providence, where he lived at the time. Records show that at Moitoso’s bail hearing, a judge ordered him to stay away from the victim and to have no contact with children 16 years or younger.
Moitoso pleaded nolo contendre – or no contest – to 2nd-degree sexual assault on Feb. 17, 2012. According to an audio transcript of the hearing, Moitoso tearfully apologized for his actions that day.
“I’m very sorry for what I put a lot of people through,” Moitoso told the court.
Magistrate Judge Patrick Burke spared Moitoso prison time, instead sentencing him to seven years probation and ordering him to enter a sex offender treatment program.
Remained on the job
On Oct. 7, Target 12 reached out to Lifespan – the $1.8-billion nonprofit that owns Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital – to ask about Moitoso’s employment. Spokeswoman Slingsby repeatedly denied requests to interview a member of the hospital’s administration.
On Oct. 8 Slingsby emailed an initial statement, which stated Moitoso had been a full-time hospital employee since 1999 and that he had informed hospital officials in 2012 that he planned to “plead nolo contendre to the charges for personal reasons.”
Moitoso “had no prior performance issues documented in his personnel record, and after a discussion and extensive review of his duties and the situation as a whole, it was determined that safety would not be compromised by his continued employment,” Slingsby wrote.
“Rhode Island Hospital takes the safety of its patients, visitors and staff very seriously, and we are confident, after assessing this situation, that safety has never been compromised by Moitoso’s continued employment,” she added.
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At the time, Slingsby emphasized that Moitoso’s job duties as an electrician “do not involve any direct patient care.”
But a hospital employee – who spoke to Target 12 on the condition of anonymity – called that “a play on words.”
“The only people that have direct patient care are nurses and doctors, but there are other people that go in and out of the rooms,” the employee said.
The employee alleged Moitoso had “24-hour access” to Hasbro Children’s Hospital – which describes itself as Rhode Island Hospital’s pediatric division – because using the “badge that he’s issued from human resources, he’s able to get into any locked door at any time.”
In subsequent emails, Slingsby did not deny that Moitoso had access to Hasbro, saying “there are times when he is called on to test the high voltage switch gear in the mechanical room at Hasbro, which is not on a patient care floor.”
The hospital employee said Moitoso “doesn’t have to be on the clock or on an assignment to get into Hasbro.”
“If you have a badge you can get right in without seeing anybody get in an elevator and go right up to the patient floor,” he said.
In an Oct. 11 email, Slingsby acknowledged the hospital would never consider hiring a convicted sex offender for a position, but again denied requests for an interview to explain why an employee was allowed to keep his job after a sexual offense conviction.
Just two and a half weeks later, on Oct. 29, Slingsby emailed a new statement announcing that the hospital had terminated Moitoso, “effective immediately.” The move came two days after Target 12 began to go public with its findings, but 20 months after Moitoso’s conviction.
“While the Moitoso case was the subject of an investigative piece by WPRI, hospital administrators were conducting an internal review of the case and learned that Moitoso’s appeal to have his level two sex offender status reduced had been denied,” Slingsby wrote.
She continued: “He was recently listed on the Sex Offender Registry. After review of all known and recently identified circumstances, we have decided to terminate Moitoso.”
The Rhode Island Parole Board posted Moitoso’s information online on Oct. 10, more than three weeks ago. Officials there said the Sex Offender Board of Review deemed Moitoso a Level II sex offender in a unanimous decision more than a year ago, in June 2012.
According to the attorney general’s office, Moitoso first appealed the Level II classification to a magistrate judge, who upheld the board’s decision last December. He then appealed to Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear, who in August also agreed with the board’s findings, and ordered that Moitoso’s information appear on the state’s website.
However, this week hospital officials again denied requests for an interview to discuss the Moitoso case. Slingsby refused to answer additional questions about why the failure of Moitoso’s second appeal, rather than his original conviction, was the deciding factor that led to his termination.
Sex offender legislation
Rhode Island law prevents convicted sex offenders from living within 300 feet of a school, but there are no laws limiting where they can work. That is left up to their employers.
Moitoso’s lawyer, Richard Corley, echoed the hospital’s statement that his client did not engage in any direct patient care. He also said Moitoso voluntarily entered a sex offender treatment program even before a judge ordered him to do so.
“He has been in counseling and he has been under strict supervision,” Corley said. “He has not had any problems at all with his supervision.”