Convicted Felon Returns to Work at UCLA Hospital

LOS ANGELES

A 53-year-old surgical technician, who was convicted of firing a gun into an occupied vehicle in November 2008, returned to work a Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, days after being released from jail.

The technician’s return has sparked debate amongst hospital officials, as Los Angeles County officials said they were going to crack down on medical staff who had criminal records, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Norris Smith spent 169 days in jail before he pleaded no contest to a felony charge on Aug. 26. As a result of the plea bargain, Smith was placed on probation and was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment and abstain from alcohol, according to court documents. In addition, a five-year prison sentence was suspended and three other felony charges were dismissed.

According to the news outlet, Smith’s return to work shocked his colleagues, who said they’ve been worried about his behavior since 2005, when he threatened a female doctor. Court documents said witnesses of the incident described Smith as belligerent and smelling of alcohol. He allegedly called the doctor profane names and yelled racial insults at other colleagues. Smith was escorted out of the building by security.

Five days later, he returned to the hospital, where he confronted the doctor for a second time. Records indicate that the doctor reported being uncomfortable at work, scared and worried for her safety.

Smith was suspended without pay for 20 days as a result of the incident, and the doctor later transferred to another hospital.

Additionally, the Times reports that Smith was arrested in 2004 on suspicion of assault with a firearm.

In 1999, county health officials required that all employees undergo criminal background checks when they are hired or receive new assignments; however, according to the news outlet, county health officials said veterans like Smith-who has been employed for 29 years-fall outside of those rules.

Currently, officials for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services said Smith is employed, earning an annual salary of about $45,000.

On Sept. 16, Smith’s attorney said his client was put on administrative leave.

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