SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A nurse convicted of raping his incapacitated patients earlier this month was previously fired and surrendered his state license after a board investigation found he mishandled high strength painkillers and stashed medical supplies from the Methodist hospital.
Gregory Harms’ prior history of shady conduct as a nurse was revealed through a document released from the state Board of Registered Nursing as part of a public records request.
The document is a stipulation, filed in May of 2021, where Harms agreed to give up his license and cover investigative costs related to several instances where he broke hospital procedure, diverted small amounts of hospital-grade opioids, and was found with hospital equipment in his employee locker.
Harms’ supervisors at the hospital began scrutinizing his conduct in January of 2017 after they found 180 milliliters of fentanyl missing from the IV pump of a patient on a ventilator. Investigators found that Harms had assisted another nurse in taking the patient to get a C.T. scan when the IV pump began to beep. Harms said he would fix it, and some of the fluid was found to be missing from the functional pump during the next shift change.
When Harms’ supervisors went to review his transaction log, they found at least nine instances where he broke hospital policy and procedure. His log showed that he kept keys to narcotic storage units for hours on end, had no explanation for a missing 2 mg from morphine syringes in the course of a month, and delayed wasting fentanyl for hours.
In February, Harms was fired, and the hospital searched his employee locker, discovering equipment including six needles, syringes filled with sodium chloride, and IV extension sets, among other things.
Harms’ negligence in handling the opioids, officials said in his rape trial, is a practice often seen in drug diversion – the rerouting of prescription drugs by medical professionals away from the patient. Harms was never found to have sold the medication on the black market, or used it for himself, but nevertheless acted unprofessionally and in “gross negligence”, according to the nursing board.
Harms was found guilty on all counts by a jury in late March after going to trial for raping several incapacitated patients. Prosecutors said Harms tied a car accident victim down with a soft restraint before penetrating her with his fingers and attempting to do so with his penis. He was later identified after the distraught patient scrawled out what he did to her with a pen and paper.
A detective later took Harms’ phone and found child pornography on it. Those charges were dropped after a judge ruled to suppress the evidence because the investigator violated his fourth amendment rights.
Lawyers for Harms said the detective, Melanie Catanio, had no probable cause to seize his phone and drafted a “bare assertion” of a search warrant with several pages that made “no reference to the specific case facts.”
He returns to court in June for sentencing after it was pushed back by two months at the request of his legal team. He faces a maximum penalty of 29 years to life in prison.