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Former drug counselor admits to sex with patient

LOCKPORT – A former counselor at a drug abuse rehabilitation center pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Wednesday as she admitted having sex with a male patient.

Jessica Griffin, 38, of Tonawanda, admitted to attempted third-degree rape and was scheduled for sentencing Dec. 7 by Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III. The maximum sentence is a year in the County Jail.

Griffin was an alcoholism and substance abuse counselor at First Step, an inpatient facility in Wheatfield, operated by Northpointe Council. A licensed practical nurse at the same facility, Candace A. Seelbinder, 35, of Niagara Falls, is charged with having sex with two male patients, on Feb. 28 and March 8. Griffin also had sex with one of those men.

Seelbinder’s attorney, Brian J. Hutchison, said his client has been offered a felony plea and he is trying to get that reduced to a misdemeanor.

Both women were fired after the charges were lodged by the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, a state agency.

Under state law, patients in drug rehab facilities, regardless of their age, are considered unable to legally consent to sex, meaning such incidents are deemed statutory rape.

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