SAN JOSE -- Charges against one of two former Santa Clara County jail nurses arrested in November on suspicion of stealing inmate medications have been dismissed while the other pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and agreed to a court-approved drug-diversion program.
To their lawyer, the resolutions are in line with his stance that Elmer Alegado and Rodolfo Idian were careless in keeping track of the drugs but had no illicit intent for personal use or gain.
"I look at this case, and it looked more like laziness and negligence than anything criminal," San Jose-based attorney Riccardo Ippolito said.
Alegado, 50, of Lathrop, and Idian, a 54-year-old San Jose resident, were arrested in early November after the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, got a tip that nurses had been secreting away pills intended for inmates. Deputies searched nurses lockers and made the arrests on the allegation that the two had pills "outside the scope of their work duties."
Ippolito argued his clients were adhering to an unspoken practice of keeping on hand a few unused pills -- from instances like when inmates refuse to take their meds -- to make up for marginal shortages when drug inventories are checked.
On Jan. 15, the District Attorney's Office declined to file charges against Idian. Supervising Deputy District Attorney James Sibley said while it was clear wrongdoing occurred with the handling of the medications, the discovery of pills could not be linked to Idian beyond a reasonable doubt because it involved an unsecured locker that he seldom used.
The case was stronger against Alegado, who pleaded guilty to narcotics possession in exchange for prosecutors dropping a more severe embezzlement charge, Ippolito said. If Alegado completes a court-approved drug-diversion program, he would be eligible to have the admission cleared from his record because it was his first criminal offense.
Alegado and Idian's employment with the county had either lapsed or was suspended in light of the arrests. Ippolito said their careers with the county are presumably over but that they should be able to keep their nursing licenses and work elsewhere.
"They're very relieved," Ippolito said. "They acknowledged that they messed up, that they could have done better but got used to the system and got lazy. They're grateful to the (district attorney) for looking at it for what it was, and are happy to put this behind them and move on."
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.