Charges: Sexual Battery, Simple Battery
Defendant, a long-time physician who did pre-employment exams, for Hall County, conducted an exam on a female patient in December 2017. The employee complained that Defendant touched her inappropriately when he palpated her femoral artery. The GBI was alerted to the complaint and initiated an investigation.
The Hall County DHR office alerted employees of the complaint so that others could come forward if they felt they had been treated inappropriately too. Despite Defendant conducting hundreds of pre-employment exams and thousands of other types of medical procedures, only eight women came forward. The complaints were either that Defendant touched the patients’ femoral artery or moved breast tissue with his stethoscope hand while listening to the patients’ heart valves. Some of the alleged conduct even occurred over clothing, yet was deemed troubling to the investigating GBI agent. Defendant adamantly contended that all of the alleged conduct was normal medical procedure and done to all patients, both male and female.
Defense counsel immediately reached out to the GBI agent who refused to discuss the investigation in any meaningful way. So defense counsel conducted his own investigation. Counsel and his investigator met with the staff of the Hall County clinic, all of whom were female, in order to get their impressions. To a person, the staff reported nothing but outstanding medical and personal behavior by Defendant. None of the staff were aware of any complaints of inappropriate touching by Defendant, none of the staff witnessed any misdeeds, and all of the staff reported that Defendant always treated them with respect and warmth.
The investigation also revealed that the medical practice where Defendant had been employed for a long time had not received any complaints about Defendant and were very supportive of him and his practice. In short, other than the complaining patients, Defendant was revered in the medical community by his peers, staff, and patients.
Defense counsel attempted to stop the case from being indicted by meeting with the prosecutor and showing her the results of his investigation thus far. The prosecution was dismissive of defense attempts to close the case and proceeded to charge Defendant in a seven-count indictment.
It was apparent that the case was going to trial, but more investigation needed to be done.
Defense counsel retained two experts to review the complaints, and render an opinion as to whether Defendant had acted inappropriately as alleged. Both experts, one a physician, the other a professor of nursing, agreed that palpating the femoral artery as described in the witness statements was a normal medical procedure. They also agreed that it is appropriate for a physician to move breast tissue when listening to a patient’s heart, if the tissue interferes with the exam. One expert provided his medical school textbook to corroborate his opinion.
Defense counsel filed motions challenging the indictment, seeking to keep out uncharged conduct, and seeking admission of the results of a polygraph that Defendant passed. The Court denied the defense motion challenging the indictment, but agreed to keep out the testimony of one patient and agreed to allow the defense to admit the polygraph exam if Defendant testified. It is highly unusual for a judge to admit a polygraph exam over the prosecution objection so this was an important win in the preparation of the case.
The case was set for trial in January 2020. Two months prior to trial, defense counsel met with the prosecution in an attempt to convince the prosecutor to dismiss the case, again showing the prosecutor the results of his investigation and this time explaining what his expert witnesses would say. Fortunately, this time the prosecutor was interested in what defense counsel had to say, but refused to dismiss the charges.
One month before trial, defense counsel asked the prosecutor if he would dismiss the charges if Defendant retired from practicing (which was planned all along) and apologize for making the complaining witnesses uncomfortable (but not admitting misconduct). The prosecutor finally agreed and the case was dismissed just prior to trial.
As a result of the case being dismissed, Defendant can retire in peace, with his medical license unblemished, and his reputation intact.