FORT EDWARD -- The nursing assistant charged with abusing a nursing home resident in Argyle last week told his boss he was "joking" when he put a pillow over the man's face.

Carole Barnes, assistant director of Pleasant Valley nursing home, testified Tuesday that she asked suspect Andrew B. Thompson of Fort Edward why he had put a pillow on the face of resident Fabian Vega.

"He said he was joking. He said he picked the wrong person to do it to," Barnes testified.

Barnes' testimony came during a brief preliminary hearing in Thompson's case. Fort Edward Village Justice Joseph Malvuccio found there was enough evidence for the case to be forwarded to a grand jury.

A Washington County grand jury is to hear the case in the coming weeks.

Thompson was charged last week with first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony, and the misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of an elderly person for the Nov. 6 incident at the county-run nursing home in Argyle. He was accused of smothering and punching the 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient.

State Police said another employee of the home witnessed the incident and notified her superiors. Police were contacted by Vega's son, Richard Vega of Lake George.

State Police Investigator Joseph Bearor, who arrested Thompson, testified Thompson admitted he put the pillow on Vega's face and "hit him, not hard."

Bearor said the interview ended when he asked Thompson whether he had struck any other patients.

"He said, 'I'm not talking anymore' and he walked out of the room," the investigator testified.

A handful of supporters of Thompson were in court for the hearing, some wearing white-and-blue ribbons adorned with his name.

Afterward, his sister, Mary Lee of Glens Falls, spoke in his defense, saying Thompson was incapable of violence toward the elderly.

She said he "doesn't have it in him" to hurt anyone.

"He couldn't be mean to anyone," she said. "If he did it, he would stand there and say he did it."

She said their mother lives at Pleasant Valley, but he can't visit her because he is banned from the property because of the arrest.

Thompson is being held in Washington County Jail for lack of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bail bond.

Thompson had worked at Fort Hudson Nursing Home in Fort Edward before he was hired at Pleasant Valley about three months ago. He has been suspended from his duties pending the outcome of the criminal case.