Ex-physical therapist nets probation, conditions

STEUBENVILLE – Debra Copeland, 60, of Cadiz, a former therapist with the county’s Developmental Disabilities Board program, was given an 18-month suspended sentence and placed on three years of probation Thursday by visiting Retired Stark County Judge Richard D. Reinbold.

Reinbold found Copeland guilty of three counts of child endangering, one felony and two misdemeanors, following a trial to the court.

The former School of Bright Promise physical therapist was arrested last January following an investigation into alleged verbal and physical abuse of two students at the school.

Copeland was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 16 and terminated from her job on Feb. 5.

The guardian of two of the children questioned why Copeland has shown no remorse for her actions.

Copeland claimed personal problems flowed over into her professional life, resulting in the abuse.

The guardian of two of the victims said, “You can’t blame it on having a bad day because it happened on more than one day. You took our trust and threw it back in our face.”

The mother of another victim said their trust was shattered when one of the family’s worst fears happened when their daughter was physically and mentally abused at the hands of someone in whom the family had placed so much trust. The mother said her daughter was pushed to the ground and dragged along the floor.

“There was no way for her to tell us,” the mother said, adding they didn’t know what was going through their daughter’s head when they sent her off to school.

“That will haunt us as parents for the rest of our lives,” the mother said.

Attorney Francesca Carinci represented Copeland during the trial.

But defense attorney Aaron Miller took over for the sentencing. He questioned the trial tactic of having Copeland claim she did nothing wrong. Miller said the case should have been resolved prior to trial because Copeland’s testimony showed she had no remorse.

Copeland claimed she was never told of plea offerings to settle the case.

Miller said it was obvious Copeland needed to have counseling from the first moment he met her.

Copeland told the judge she is truly sorry for was she had done and has accepted responsibility.

“I allowed all the built up frustration and stress to be directed to these children,” she said.

Copeland said she realized she needed to be punished but asked the punishment be tempered with mercy.

Reinbold also questioned the true remorse from Copeland for her actions. He said Copeland was opening up only after her conviction.

Reinbold told the parents and guardian of the victims that he expected them to disagree in not sending Copeland to prison, adding there are levels of abuse and her’s didn’t rise to the level of imprisonment.

The judge also suspended a $7,500 fine but ordered her to pay the cost of her prosecution and the expenses of the victims’ families coming to court.

Copeland also was ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.

The judge also ordered her to continue counseling, with anger management to be part of the therapy.

He also ordered Copeland to meet one on one with the parents and guardian of the victims and apologize. He said Copeland she will answer any questions from the families.

“You will take their abuse. They need answers. You will sit there and listen until they are finished,” the judge said.