Former nursing home operator files appeal seeking new trial

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A former nursing home operator sentenced to prison for health care fraud and involuntary manslaughter has asked the court for a new trial.

Martha Bell, 66, who is now being held at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs, filed the post conviction relief act appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel and a claim that the state sentence she received should not have run consecutive to one she was already serving in federal prison.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman heard testimony Wednesday and has ordered both sides to file written briefs in the next 60 days.

Bell, who ran the now-defunct Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Robinson, was convicted in federal court of accepting and spending money from Medicare and Medicaid, and then faking thousands of medical and financial records to conceal their failure to provide appropriate care.

She was sentenced in October 2006 to 5 years in federal prison and completed that term on June 24, 2011.

Bell was later found guilty in state court of involuntary manslaughter for the 2001 death of Mabel Taylor, an Alzheimer's patient who was trapped on an outdoor patio overnight in 40 degree temperatures. Judge Cashman sentenced Bell in February 2007 to 22 to 44 months in prison. After an appeal was filed in 2009, Judge Cashman made the state sentence consecutive to that Bell was serving in federal court.

The Superior Court affirmed the conviction in April 2010.

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