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In this June 14 file photo, James Rellihan, right, talks with his attorney, Brendan Bukalski, in a courtroom of the McLean County Law and Justice Center, Bloomington, after he pleaded guilty in connection with the theft of opioid patches from nursing home residents. 

BLOOMINGTON — A former Bloomington nurse was sentenced to four years in prison Friday for what a prosecutor termed a "cold, calculated" crime that involved stealing opioid patches from two terminally ill nursing home residents.

Costigan recommended drug treatment for Rellihan in the Department of Corrections but denied a request for consideration for Impact Incarceration, also known as boot camp.

The camp is designed for young inmates who are able to complete the physically challenging program that lasts several months.

The judge noted that the 31-year-old dropped out of drug treatment several times before walking into two nursing homes in Bloomington and Normal on Feb. 24, including the Bloomington facility where he worked as registered nurse, and a second nursing home that previously employed him.

Rellihan has surrendered his nursing license.

The judge also pointed to gaps in information from Rellihan's medical records that could explain how he became addicted to opioids four years after his 2012 discharge from the Army. Rellihan also had a previous substance abuse problem before his military service, according to court records. 

Rellihan pleaded guilty to residential burglary in June involving one of the nursing home incidents.  

In asking for a prison term for Rellihan, Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Horve argued that Rellihan sneaked into the rooms of a 71-year-old cancer patient and a 98-year-old dementia patient and removed the pain patches.

The patients were targeted by Rellihan, said Horve, "because he knew these victims couldn't speak for themselves."

Defense lawyer Brendan Bukalski said a specialized probation program, combined with veterans court, would allow Rellihan to address his addiction and stay with his family that includes two small children.

The defense argued against what it considered "warehousing a first offender veteran in prison for seven years."

In a statement to the court, Rellihan apologized to the family members of one of the victims who were in court, and his own family.

If I could go back and do it over, I'd change a million things," said Rellihan. 

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Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny


McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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