Sexual abuse victim speaks out about plea deal with cardiologist

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 13 at 1:09 PM

PHOENIX -- Several women went to him for heart problems but say when they left Dr. Richard Lewis' office, they were victims of sexual abuse.

3TV took a closer a look at how the case was handled, specifically if many of those women could have been spared victimization.

Kate Wilson remembers thinking, "You're in disbelief. You're denying because you're in there for a heart condition."

Nervous something was wrong with her heart, Wilson went to see former cardiologist Richard Lewis in the fall of 2006. But during her exam at a medical center, she says the cardiologist sexually abused her.

As Wilson explains, "Used his position as a doctor to very methodically be inappropriate."

So Wilson reported it to the Arizona Medical Board. But in May 2007, the board dismissed her case.

"Sometimes even with a really credible witness, we just can't meet that burden of proof," said Lisa Wynn, executive director of the Arizona Medical Board.

"Their hands were tied," Wilson explained. "It was that there was no witness present and that was outlandish to me as well because we don't go to the doctor in groups."

What's worse, Wilson said she felt cut out of the loop during the Medical Board's investigation into Lewis. Turns out, that's by design.

"In our world, unlike law enforcement, we really don't think of it as the victim, it's the complainant," Wynn said. "The complainant is not a party to an administrative proceeding that we do, it's just between the medical board and the physician or the respondent."

By law, the Medical Board is required to turn over criminal complaints to police only if during the course of its investigation, they find violations occurred.

Since Wilson's case was dismissed, that didn't happen.

"And we see how it's played out, there was countless victims after me," Wilson said. "Could have been prevented if something was done in 2006 with me."

While Wynn wasn't the executive director back then, she said, "If they file a complaint with us and if no discipline results, that complaint still becomes part of our file."

So three years went by before Mesa police knew anything about Wilson's case.

The Arizona Medical Board turned over Wilson's complaint only after Mesa police arrested Lewis for allegedly abusing another woman in June 2009.

"I was glad he was caught, I just knew that it was at the price of a whole bunch of women," Wilson said.

By January 2010, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office had a strong case, 18 victims total. The Grand Jury indictment was impressive, 61 counts, including several felonies.

But then news of a plea deal, one that didn't include sexual abuse charges.

Wilson remembers thinking, "What message are we sending to the people of Arizona and other doctors if they can do this and no one is going to charge them for it?"

Coming up Tuesday on 3TV News @ 9, we explore the plea deal the County Attorney's Office brought forth that won't require Lewis to register as a sex offender.

 

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