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Ex-nurse avoids prison for sex with drug rehab patients

LOCKPORT – A former nurse at an inpatient drug rehabilitation center in Wheatfield was placed on probation for 10 years Tuesday for having sex with two patients at the facility last year.

“I failed as a professional,” said Candace A. Seelbinder, 35, of Niagara Falls, who admitted to third-degree rape in the case before Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III.

State law says patients in substance abuse facilities are considered unable to legally consent to sex.

Another nurse at the First Step facility, Jessica Griffin, 39, of Tonawanda, was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and was placed on six years’ probation in December. Seelbinder was offered only a felony plea because there were two men allegedly involved, although defense attorney Brian J. Hutchison said Tuesday that Seelbinder admits to sleeping with only one.

A civil suit filed Feb. 6 against the two nurses and Northpointe Council, the operator of the facility, contends that there actually were three men who had sex with the nurses. The suit contends that between Feb. 18 and March 9, 2016, Griffin and Seelbinder also used to let the patients use drugs, drink, leave the facility, and use phones and computers in violation of the building’s rules.

The suit, filed by Buffalo attorney Brittany Lee Penberthy, seeks an unspecified amount of damages for emotional trauma and negligence, as well as punitive damages.

Meanwhile, a hearing was scheduled for March 31 to determine Seelbinder’s classification as a sex offender. She is a separated mother of four children who now works at a restaurant.


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