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A guilty plea, but with 'a clear conscience'

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published January 13, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - One of the three women who were charged in last spring's case of abuse of the elderly and disabled at a local group home pleaded guilty Thursday in court to one count of abuse and seven counts of misdemeanor battery. She was the last of the three to agree to a plea.

Whitney Victory, 27, of Spring Hill was sentenced to two years of house arrest and three years of probation.

She was unrepentant in her hearing and asked Circuit Judge Jack Springstead if she could say something. She read from a piece of paper.

"I stand before this court with a heavy heart," Victory said, "and yet a clear conscience."

Victory was charged in March along with Sherrie Davis and Valary Smith, who were co-workers at the Gondolier home in Spring Hill. The home is run by Arc Nature Coast, a nonprofit organization that helps developmentally disabled adults in Hernando County.

According to court documents, Victory, Davis and Smith locked one resident in a dark garage, squirted another with water when she was trying to sleep and made another strip and then used cold water from a garden hose to wash her off after she had an accident.

The three victims have severe disabilities and can't speak.

Victory, like Smith, was sentenced to two years of house arrest and three years of probation.

Davis got two years of house arrest and one year of probation.

On Thursday, Springstead sentenced Victory to 125 hours of community service, too. She cannot work in the health care field with children, the elderly or the disabled for the length of the sentence. She cannot go to Arc, and she must write a letter of apology to the guardians there.

She said in court that she was a "person of faith" and that it was her "duty to care for those who can't care for themselves." She talked about her "accusers."

"I know the truth," she said. "I am free because of the truth."

Then she didn't want to talk out in the lobby.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.