WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A woman seen in a photo at a Long Island nursing home being sued after workers allegedly hired a male stripper to put on a show for residents is speaking out.
June Legister is the woman who appears to be smiling in the photo next to 86-year-old Bernice Youngblood, a resident of the East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in West Babylon, owned by Cassena Care.
“That was not a smile,” she said. “It was not a smile.”
Legister, a salesperson for Mary Kay Cosmetics, says she often sells products at the nursing home and was there on business when the stripper arrived.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I can’t believe that they actually have a real stripper with no clothes in this place,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
For eight years, Legister has been the girlfriend of Franklin Youngblood, Bernice Youngblood’s son, who is now suing the nursing home over the strip show.
According to the lawsuit, the 86-year-old Youngblood, who has partial dementia, was subjected to an unwanted performance by the male stripper and “photographed by nursing home staff as a muscular, almost nude male dancer gyrated in front of her.”
Youngblood said staff at the facility made her stuff cash into the nearly naked stripper’s underwear.
“I felt terrible,” she told reporters Tuesday. “I was shaking and going on and he told me what to do.”
The lawsuit claims Franklin Youngblood found the racy photograph in his mother’s belongings in January 2013. When he tried to ask the head nurse about the picture, she lunged at him and tried to snatch the photograph out of his hand, according to the lawsuit.
“There’s too much sex and craziness that’s going on. Now they’re bringing it to the nursing home, and it don’t belong here,” he said, adding that his mother was forced to tip with her own personal cash, which is supposed to be kept under lock and key by staff.
His brother, Darrell Youngblood, then called and spoke to another nurse who told him the performance was part of an “entertainment event” at the nursing home that was “planned, scheduled and executed by the facility, its agents and employees and that it was done in ‘good faith,’” the lawsuit stated.
“She told me it was all in good fun, like this is something normal,” he said Tuesday. “I said, ‘What if this was your mother?’”
Darrell Youngblood said Tuesday the woman sitting next to the elder Youngblood in the picture was a staff member.
“If you look at the picture, it’s clear she’s a staff member,” he said.
But the attorney representing the nursing home quickly disputed that Tuesday, saying the woman was a member of Youngblood’s extended family.
“She happens to be the live-in girlfriend, who holds herself out as the wife of Mr. Youngblood,” Howard Fensterman, an attorney representing the facility, said.
The nursing home said Legister brought Youngblood to the strip show, a claim she denies.
“I had no right to move her,” she said. “The event was not my event.”
The family’s lawyer, John Ray, said it doesn’t matter who else was in the room. He said a strip show should never have happened inside the nursing home in the first place.
“The management has a responsibility and solemn obligation to say, ‘No, you can’t do that because there may be some residents who are offended by it,'” he said.
Fensterman said a 16-member panel of residents voted unanimously to have the stripper perform and the nursing home approved the activity and paid the $250 fee.
“They requested it, and they approved it,” he said. “They wanted the activity.”
The nursing home said the show was optional and held in a public recreation room and said it was advertised with signs several days before the event.
Fensterman said the nursing home “did not view this kind of entertainment as being deleterious to the patients’ health.”
Attorneys for the Youngblood family called the strip show “grotesque” and claim employees did it “for their own sick amusement.”
The lawsuit claims Youngblood suffered extreme emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, shame, a diminished sense of self-worth and loss of dignity. The family is suing for several million dollars.
A spokesperson for the state Health Department says it is investigating the incident.
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