This nurse admitted groping a Richland patient. He says he didn’t mean to hurt her

A registered nurse told a judge he didn’t mean to harm a wheelchair-bound patient though he groped her over several weeks.

In a deal that Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra called “heavily negotiated,” Taewoo Khang, 41, of Kennewick, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.

Along with five days of work release, Petra and defense attorney John Jensen recommended an evaluation and possible sex offender treatment. If Khang doesn’t follow through, he faces spending a year in the county jail.

“We support this resolution and given the circumstances of the case, I feel this is the best resolution,” Petra said.

Khang was treating the woman for a bone infection at the Life Care Center of Richland last year, according to court documents.

He started with overly affectionate hugs, then he asked personal questions and began touching her inappropriately, court documents said.

Then in May 2017, she woke up to find Khang on top of her, kissing and groping her, said court documents.

At the time, Khang had been a nurse for more than seven years. The state Department of Health has charged Khang with unprofessional conduct. He no longer works at the center.

Khang faces losing a career and will have to start over again, Jensen said.

While Khang speaks English, his attorney said he was raised in South Korea so a cultural gap may have led to a misunderstanding with the woman.

“Clearly the victim in this case had said nice things to him, maybe just appreciating his nursing abilities, but because of that he ended up developing feelings for her,” Jensen said. “I think his heart was in the right place, and by that I mean he didn’t intend to make the victim feel uncomfortable.”

Khang apologized for his behavior.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.