State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and his wife, Ellen, filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court this week against AHRC Nassau — a private organization that provides services for more than 2,200 people with special needs — alleging that one of its former employees physically and verbally abused their developmentally disabled son, Ricky, during his stay at a group home.
Weisenberg, a Democrat from Long Beach and a leading advocate for the disabled, filed the suit on Monday against the agency and its former employee, Dwayne Edwards. The Weisenbergs claim that Edwards repeatedly struck Ricky Weisenberg to see him flinch, jump or cry out. The suit also alleges that Edwards verbally abused him, telling him to “Shut the f--- up” and calling him names like “Gurgitator” and “f---ing Jew.”
AHRC Nassau is part of the New York state chapter of Arc Inc., known as the Arc, the country’s largest nonprofit organization that supports people with mental and developmental disabilities. AHRC provides community-based programs, guidance and support for families and residential services.
Ricky Weisenberg, 54, has cerebral palsy and what his father describes as “autistic tendencies,” and cannot speak. He has lived at AHRC Nassau’s residential facility in Plainview since 2002, his father said.
“He’s docile and he’s sweet and he cannot speak or cry,” Weisenberg said. “Ricky loves us with a full and unconditional heart. The thought of someone hurting him is almost unspeakably painful to us.”
He said that he and his wife visit their son regularly. During the summer, Ricky stays at his parents’ home several days a week. Weisenberg said that neither he nor his wife witnessed the alleged abuse.
“We were shocked,” Weisenberg said, adding that the abuse was brought to the agency’s attention by its staff. “[Edwards] just berated him. How can anybody do something like this? These are people who have disabilities.”
According to the lawsuit, three AHRC Nassau staff members said that they saw Edwards flick Ricky in the face and neck to see him flinch. Witnesses also said they saw Edwards verbally abuse Ricky.