Sex assault survivor faces ex-hospital worker at sentencing

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former worker of Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital is going to prison for sexually assaulting several patients.

A Grand Rapids judge Wednesday sentenced 40-year-old Francisco Muniz to 21 months to 15 years in prison for third-degree and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct — a punishment beyond the recommended sentence in his plea deal.

Before learning his punishment, the former X-ray technologist heard from one of the women he sexually assaulted.

“This sick and disgusting individual who took advantage of women in their weakest hour needs to be held accountable for what he’s done,” said Jennifer Smith-Bell.

She was one of four patients who came forward, saying Muniz sexually touched her as he prepared to x-ray her at Blodgett Hospital’s emergency room in January.

“This isn’t some regular guy on the street. This is someone who put on a Spectrum Health name tag and went to work violating patients who came there for help in emergency situations,” Smith-Bell said.

She didn’t know then that Muniz was already under police investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting another patient six months earlier — a case Spectrum Health was aware of.

“I came to Blodgett asking for help and someone who was already under investigation for sexual assault was allowed to be alone with me,” she said.

“Absolutely there are several disturbing questions that have been raised,” said James Sterkens, who represented one of the patients.

In a statement, Spectrum Health said it’s taken steps to improve safety by formalizing patient access to chaperones — a service Spectrum Health says it’s always offered. The health system also says it also developed a training program with the YWCA to help leaders identify and know how to handle sexual misconduct.

“We continue to focus ongoing professional development for our team members in this area,” Spectrum Health stated.

None of the survivors have filed a lawsuit against Spectrum Health so far, but Sterkens says they’re investigating what went wrong and who should pay for what happened to the survivors, besides Muniz.

“In a couple years, he’ll be walking free and we’ll still be living with this,” said Smith-Bell.

Smith-Bell said she now battles fear and anxiety every time she has to go to medical appointments.

“I lost some of myself that night,” she said.

Muniz also quietly addressed the court and his victims.

“I accept responsibility for my actions and I was wrong and I’m sorry,” he said.

Smith-Bell believes Muniz assaulted more than the four patients who came forward. She’s urging any additional victims to call East Grand Rapids police at 616.949.7010.

Spectrum Health’s full statement:

“At Spectrum Health, we continue to have zero tolerance for sexual assault or any type of sexual misconduct. We recognize this topic is a difficult and deeply personal one, and we have the utmost respect for the individuals who stepped forward. We have taken additional action to ensure our patients and team members feel safe. For example, patients always had access to chaperones but we have formalized this offering with a policy and comprehensive training for all clinical staff. We also developed training with the YWCA for our leaders to be more aware of situations and behaviors that could involve sexual misconduct and how to handle those sensitive situations. This training is now underway. We continue to focus ongoing professional development for our team members in this area.”

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