The case of Charlotte Reilly has been described as nothing short of “extraordinary.” The nurse was accused of swapping medications at a nursing home in North Dakota in 2017, but she recently landed a plea deal that will keep her out of jail.
Prosecutors say Reilly stole prescription medications from residents during her time at Borg Pioneer Memorial Home in Mountain, ND and replaced them with over-the-counter medications. In one case, they allege Reilly gave one of her residents medication that she was allergic to.
“The substitutions of those medications could have caused a wide variety of very severe illnesses including death,” said North Dakota Assistant Attorney General Marina Spahr. The nurse ended up losing her job at Borg Pioneer, but only lost her license for a year.
Reilly denied the allegations and started working as a nurse after regaining her license. Her lawyer defended her by saying the state licensing board for nurses reviewed the case and chose to reinstate her license a year after her termination.
“On one hand she is being prosecuted by the AGs office and the state of North Dakota, and on the second hand, she is being hired as a nurse by a state-run facility,” Reilly’s lawyer, Blake Hankey, said in court.
After several years of negotiations, the state attorney general and Reilly’s lawyer have finally agreed to a plea deal. Last Thursday, North Dakota District Court Judge Donovan Foughty sentenced Reilly to two years of supervised probation. The convictions will also remain on her record as misdemeanors. The judge also sentenced her to 360 days in jail but that part of her punishment was later scrapped, and Reilly will remain a free woman.
North Dakota became the last state in the country to implement a Medicaid fraud control unit in 2019. Reilly’s was the first case the unit investigated, and it was finally closed over four years later.
Many people from throughout the region and within the healthcare community have come to Reilly’s defense.
“I’ve been on the bench for many years, and I’ve never seen this kind of outpouring,” Foughty said.
Her current boss, Dawn Bunn, also sung her praises in court.
“She has honesty and integrity, and she is someone who I would entrust my family to,” Bunn said.
Reilly said she was worried she might have to go to prison as part of the plea deal, but that is all behind her now. The agreement forced her to plead guilty to two felony charges, including one count of reckless endangerment and one count of theft.
While prosecutors say that they have enough evidence to convict her in court, Reilly has always maintained her innocence.
They urged the court to increase her punishment to two years of supervised probation. “This is already the deal of a lifetime,” Spahr said.
Reilly’s lawyer asked for unsupervised probation and for the charges to be wiped from her record at the end of the two years.
“Miss Reilly has jumped through every hoop that has ever been asked of her to do, and I don’t know what else the court can impose on her that she is not already doing, we want to quality people like Charlotte Reilly, we want quality nurses to practice in under-served areas,” Hankey said.
The judge acknowledged Reilly’s misconduct before laying down the sentence. “I do believe people suffered due to your actions, Miss Reilly,” said Foughty, who said he cited his decision on the factual basis and guilty pleas. “For those who feel that this court has not done justice, you may well be correct,” Foughty said.
The outcome will affect Reilly’s ability to work in federally funded facilities but not private and state-run facilities.