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Pa. paramedic acquitted in patient assault case

Jury found the medic not guilty of all charges stemming from altercation with a patient

WEST CHESTER, Pa. — A jury found a paramedic charged with the assault of a patient not guilty following a week-long trial.

Michael Bernard McMahon, 38, was acquitted of charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person following a physical altercation with a female patient that prosecutors claimed led to a traumatic brain injury, Daily Local News reports.

The former Malvern Fire Company paramedic was charged in March 2014, three months after responding to a call for Kathleen Benedict, 52, a patient with diabetes who was known by first responders as a frequent 911 caller who was sometimes combative.

Her mother August Benedict testified that she called 911 on Dec. 10, 2013 because her daughter would not take her insulin. McMahon responded around 3:30 p.m. and told police he stood in a doorway to keep Benedict from running out of the house. She lashed out at a East Whiteland EMT, then tried to hit him in the head. He grabbed her shirt with his right hand, and blocked her blow with his left elbow, striking her in the forehead.

McMahon admitted he “knocked her for a loop,” and said he needed to “defend himself and his crew.”

Benedict did not appear to be hurt, but later complained that her head hurt. At 8 p.m. she collapsed and became unresponsive.

She was brought to Paoli Hospital where she underwent surgery. Neurosurgeon Dr. George Chovanes said her brain was bleeding in the same area where McMahon struck her.

Benedict is under medical care and did not testify at the trial. Prosecutors argued that McMahon’s blow caused the neurological damage she still suffers from. Defense attorneys argued McMahon was acting in self defense, and that because Benedict’s injuries weren’t apparent until several hours later when she became unresponsive, there was not sufficient proof to determine McMahon’s blow caused her injuries.

McMahon’s attorney James Funt said he was satisfied with the jury’s verdict, but that McMahon shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place and it makes other responders fear prosecution for doing their jobs.

“I think that the jury recognized that first responders have the most difficult of jobs,” he said. “But the DA, by criminalizing what was his appropriate behavior, has done more damage in its relationship with first responders than the office understands.”