Former DHMC patient gets deferred sentence for assaulting guards


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-08-2024 8:00 PM

NORTH HAVERHILL — A 29-year-old former Dartmouth College student who assaulted two security guards at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center where he had been admitted for psychiatric care will avoid jail time, providing he continues to get mental health treatment and abide by other terms.

Felix Nyabuto, who was a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2023, pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of simple assault and was handed down a deferred 11-month sentence in Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill on May 3, according to court records.

The assault at DHMC was part of a disturbing trend in violence around the country against health care workers and was followed a few months later by laws passed in both New Hampshire and Vermont to make it easier to arrest patients who have assaulted their caregiver.

Nyabuto was under psychiatric care at DHMC in 2023 when he became agitated and had to be restrained by security guards. He became violent when they began to apply bed constraints, hitting and kicking one of the guards in the head so hard that he suffered a debilitating head injury. The injury forced the guard, a member of the New Hampshire Legislature, to resign from his House seat because he no longer felt able to conduct duties.

Nyabuto, who attended Dartmouth under a program to send talented Kenyan students to elite American colleges, had been initially charged with three counts of simple assault and second-degree assault, strangulation. Following his arrest, he was held in Grafton County jail for nine days, from where he was subsequently transferred to a facility under state care until at least September of last year, according to court records.

The guard who suffered the head injury, Joshua Adjutant, declined to comment about his recovery or his assailant’s sentence when contacted on Wednesday.

Much of Nyabuto’s court record remains under seal, including motions surrounding a competency evaluation and the outcome of an “alternate dispute resolution” report that was submitted to the court for the judge to consider in sentencing.

But Grafton County Attorney Marcie Hornick said in an interview on Wednesday that both mitigating and aggravating factors are weighed in crafting a plea agreement that takes into account specific circumstances of the defendant and crime.

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Hornick said that Nyabuto had no prior criminal history and the probable cause affidavit indicated that he was was in the hospital for psychiatric care at the time he became violent.

She acknowledged that victims are sometimes frustrated with the outcome of cases and may want to see harsher penalties “but it ultimately comes down to what the judge actually imposes,” Hornick said.

Nyabuto’s sentence takes a carrot-and-sticks approach to reduce the risk he offends again but also ensure consequences are in place in the event he does, Hornick explained. She noted that Nyabuto must comply with the release conditions set by the court as well as satisfy the conditions of his “conditional discharge.” He will be on probation for two years. If he fails to comply with the conditions set out in the court’s orders, he faces substantial time behind bars.

Those conditions include no contact with the victims and completing “any counseling, treatment and educational programs” directed by his probation officer.

“Hopefully he will stay out of trouble,” Hornick said.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Nyabuto declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Margaret Kettles with the Grafton County public defender office. Kettles did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Dartmouth College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said via email that Nyabuto is not enrolled at Dartmouth and has not received a degree.

Nyabuto’s most recent address listed in court documents was in Manchester. A financial disclosure form filed in March in the court docket reported he had no income and zero assets.

The frequency of assaults against health care workers, which had been on the rise, took a leaduring the COVID-19 pandemic. In response state legislatures have been taking up the issue.

Last May, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill to amend the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure that adds three clauses specific to health care workers and health care facilities to the instances when police can arrest people without a warrant.

A few months later in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill which similarly seeks to expand the instances when police can make arrests without warrants in instances involving health care workers and facilities.

Contact John Lippman at