Plea deal eliminates sexual component of abuse casePosted: Updated:
MESA, Ariz. -- A Valley cardiologist accused of sexually abusing more than a dozen patients won't be required to register as a sex offender.
The victims say former doctor Richard Lewis preyed on his patients during exams, but the Maricopa County Attorney's Office offered the doctor a plea deal that omits the sexual component of the charges. Why? That's what all 18 victims want to know.
In an exclusive interview with 3TV, Kate Wilson said, "I knew there was going to be more victims. I lost sleep over it, definitely. It was always in the back of my mind."
Wilson believes Lewis hid behind his doctor's coat to deliberately and methodically sexually abuse women.
"I think the idea is to make the woman question if what he's doing is appropriate or if it's just accidental," Wilson said.
Six years after Wilson says Lewis sexually abused her, more than a dozen other women have come forward making similar claims, leading to a grand jury indictment 61 counts long.
"We take this very seriously," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. "We understand the degree of harm caused to the victims and that all figures into trying to arrive at what is a just resolution that the victims of these crimes feel is just."
So when the County Attorney's Office began working out a plea deal, which is does in 90 percent of its cases, it was important to get victims' feedback.
"What we heard very clearly from victims was at the end of the day, they wanted this defendant to be a felon and to never be able to practice medicine again," Montgomery said.
With those two goals in mind, a deal was made. Eighteen counts of aggravated assault for all 18 victims, but the sexual nature of the assaults was eliminated.
"It didn't become a necessary part of the agreement for us to be able to safeguard the community," Montgomery said.
A victim's advocate then notified all the women.
"The nature of the call to me about the plea deal was to inform me this is what it is," Wilson said. "That's it. I was not asked do I agree."
But Montgomery points out, "I don't know what the context of the conversation was to know whether or not they were left feeling they couldn't provide any input or any input they provided wasn't going to make a difference. That's not acceptable to me."
What was acceptable to the County Attorney's Office was not requiring Lewis to register as a sex offender.
"Outside the clinical setting, where we had evidence of these crimes being committed, he didn't represent a threat to the community, that he wasn't a sexual predator outside of this clinical setting," Montgomery explained.
Wilson sees it differently.
"He is a sex offender," she said. "Everything that he did to all of these women was of sexual nature. It doesn't add up. It doesn't make any sense."
For now, Wilson is left frustrated.
"It's like saying two plus two is six," she said. "We know that's not correct, everyone would agree that's not correct, but we're being forced to act like it is."
Lewis is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday. He faces up to one year in jail. The county attorney said the prosecutor will recommend jail time.
Members of the Coalition to End Arizona Sexual Exploitation are planning to be in the courtroom. For more information about CEASE AZ, log on to www.CEASEAZ.org or call 602-368-5860.