Victims say better laws needed to protect public from medical professionals convicted of sex crimes
Heather Catallo , Ann Mullen
10:26 AM, Nov 14, 2013
5:30 PM, Nov 20, 2013
(WXYZ) - In 1996, 13-year old Tommy Hill began seeing a therapist because he was having trouble in school. Tommy, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, was suffering from dyslexia and attention deficit disorder and says he fought with other kids.
Tommy's parents sent him to see Dr. Julian Gordon, a licensed psychologist, who was respected in his field and contracted to work with juveniles through Oakland County Probate Court.
But during the many months that Tommy saw Gordon, he molested the boy repeatedly and eventually raped him, according to court records.
Ashamed and frightened, Tommy kept this secret from his parents for months. When he finally told them, police investigated and Gordon was charged. Tommy testified against Gordon at trial.
"He pulled my pants down," testified Tommy, according to a court transcript.
"Was he saying anything to you when this happened?" asked an assistant Oakland County Prosecutor.
"Yeah. He said, ‘Does it feel good?' And I didn't answer," Tommy testified.
A jury convicted Gordon of three counts of criminal sexual conduct, he served 15 years in prison, and the state revoked his psychology license, according to court and state licensing bureau records.
Tommy and his parents believed Gordon would never get his license back or work again as a therapist. They were wrong.
On August 4, 2011— just 18 months after he was released from prison—the state reinstated Gordon's license to practice.
"It makes no sense at all," says Tommy, who spoke to 7 Action News in October.
"I didn't even know there was a chance he could get his license back," says Tommy's mom.
How did Tommy and his mom learn that Gordon got his license back? 7 Action News told them.
"It blew my mind. It's just something I thought was never allowed to happen," says Tommy's mom.
It didn't just happen in Gordon's case.
The 7 Action News Investigators have found 44 state licensed health professionals, who were convicted of a sex crime, and have had their licenses reinstated or could get them back.
In the course of our investigation, we reviewed hundreds of state licenses from 1995 through 2011, for a dozen different health professions, including doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists.
Many were convicted of possessing child pornography, molesting patients and rape.
Now, state legislators are working on a bill that, if passed, would permanently revoke the license of medical professionals convicted of a sex crime.
But the proposed law would do nothing to stop people like Gordon from treating patients – and that has some critics, like Tommy and his family, questioning whether the proposed law goes far enough to protect the public.
Sex assault, drugs and videotapes
For several years, state legislators like Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) have tried to get a law on the books that would permanently revoke the license of any health professional convicted of a sex crime. But they have repeatedly failed.
"These cases bother me as a former police officer," says Jones, "I can't believe this has gone on this long in Michigan."
Neither can Katie Vance, a patient whose dentist sexually assaulted and beat her in 2001, according to court records and police reports. Vance, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, has been working with Jones to push for legislation to protect the public.
In 2011, she testified before legislators about what happened to her when she was Dr. Donald Quinn's dental patient.
"In 2001 my life was changed forever because of the fact I chose Dr. Donald Quinn to perform some dental work on me," she testified. "The dental work was a three-month process and included the use of intravenous sedation."
Quinn prescribed heavy medication to Vance between appointments; she later learned it was highly unusual to prescribe the medications outside of a hospital, according to her testimony.
"Dr. Quinn eventually drugged me, beat me and repeatedly sexually assaulted me," Vance testified. "I do not remember a lot about the assaults since I was heavily drugged and even unconscious."
She also testified that Dr. Quinn videotaped some of the assaults, which included urinating and defecating on Vance, and that police took possession of the tapes.
Quinn was charged with 10 felonies, but Vance agreed to a plea deal because she says she was too emotionally fragile to testify against him. Quinn was convicted of two counts of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct, two drug charges, and a weapons charge, was sentenced to one year in jail, five years probation, and his medical license was suspended, court records show.
But before his criminal probation ended, the state reinstated Quinn's license, with restrictions, in 2007. One of those restrictions was that he had to be supervised by another licensed dentist.
But last year, that restriction was lifted, and Quinn's license has been fully restored, according to state licensing bureau records.
"When I found out the Board of Dentistry gave Dr. Quinn his restricted license back to practice, I was shocked and humiliated," testified Vance.
"To be completely honest, I blamed myself. If I had been strong enough to testify at trial, Dr. Quinn would probably be in prison," Vance also testified. "I do worry about unsuspecting patients who are seeing him now."
According to the sex offender registry, Dr. Quinn lists three work addresses. But 7 Action News did not find the dentist working at any of those locations. We found him at Southfield Dental Care, where a man who said he hired Quinn told us Quinn has been working there for nine months.
He also said Quinn has been doing a good job, but when we pointed out that it is a felony for sex offenders like Quinn to fail to tell the state where they are working, the man said "What's the big deal?"
When we approached Quinn at Southfield Dental Care, he only said, "I really have nothing to say."
In October, Senators Jones and Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Antwerp Twp.) introduced a new bill that, if enacted, would permanently revoke the license of any medical professional who is convicted of a sex crime.
But it won't do anything to stop Gordon or Quinn from practicing.
Senator Jones told 7 Action News that the bill will not apply to licensed medical professionals convicted of a sex crime before the bill is passed.
"I can't legislate retroactively," says Jones.
That doesn't sit well with Tommy, who is now a grown man and a U.S. Marine. But it is not his tour in Iraq that haunts him. It is what Gordon did to him as a boy.
"I feel he should still be being punished for the rest of his life because I am," he says. "I have to think about it every day of my life."
"When you violate your patients' trust, I think that's when you forfeit your right to use whatever medical talents you have," says Jo Ann Naylor, who testified against her former eye doctor, Matthew Burman.
Naylor accused Burman of fondling her during an eye exam. He was convicted of 4th degree criminal sexual conduct in 2008, according to court records. Burman's license was briefly suspended in 2009, after the conviction, but reinstated weeks later with restrictions, state records show. His license was fully restored in 2010, according to state licensing bureau records.
Two other female patients told similar stories about Burman, according to court records. One woman said that he rubbed his penis against her for a couple minutes during an exam. The other said that he grabbed her shirt, looked down it, and then pulled her to him by the collar.
Burman refused to be interviewed for this story, but when we asked him about the three female patients who said he touched them inappropriately, he said, "They made it up."
Burman has his own practice in three metro-Detroit offices.
"I do not think he should be allowed to practice," says Naylor, who insists this was not the first time this had happened with Burman.
Naylor, who had been Burman's patients for decades, told police he did the same thing to her when she was much younger, according to police reports.
"I worked hard trying to forget the first one, but when the second time happened I thought ‘No, I can't do this again'," says Naylor.
Asked why she is willing to talk to 7 Action News about her case, Naylor says, "I want to keep him from practicing."
Proposed law only applies if victim is a patient
In 2010, the Chicago Tribune published a powerful series of reports about 16 doctors who kept their licenses or could get them back after they were convicted of a sex crime.
Consequently, Illinois legislators passed stiff laws to not only revoke future convicted sex offending health professionals' licenses. The laws also were written to apply retroactively.
Some doctors sued the state, arguing that they were being punished twice for the same crime, according to Susan Hofer, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which oversees state licensing. But so far the courts have sided with the state.
"All of our cases have been upheld through the appellate court level but there are still cases pending before the Supreme Court," wrote Hofer in an email to 7 Action News.
She explains that the courts basically have ruled that health professionals are not facing a second punishment, but must now abide by a new licensing requirement.
But legal experts say that Michigan legal precedent prevents lawmakers from making this legislation retroactive because it would violate existing licensee's rights.
That means if Senator Jones's bill becomes law, which he says is likely given there is no opposition, it would not apply to the 45 licensed health professionals who we found were convicted of a sex crime – all of whom can or have applied to have their licenses reinstated.
Albert Norman Bayer was a licensed psychiatrist, who was convicted in 2009 of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct, according to Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry.
He had a sexual relationship with an emotionally vulnerable patient and then offered her $50,000 to not report him, court records show.
In 2008, the state initially put his license on probation with restrictions and then suspended his license in 2011, according to the state licensing bureau. State records also say it is currently suspended and lapsed.
Bayer is required to be a registered sex offender until 2034.
Larry Thomas Sabin was a licensed nurse, who was convicted in 2005 of two counts of 4th degree criminal sexual conduct, and the victim was between the ages of 13 and 16, according to the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry.
He was sentenced to one year in jail, ordered to pay fines and was put on probation for four years, according to licensing bureau records.
The state suspended his license in 2005 and it is currently lapsed-suspended, state licensing bureau records show.
He is required to be registered as a sex offender until 2030.
Thomas Joseph Higgins was a licensed social worker, who was convicted in 2008 of 4th degree criminal sexual conduct, including assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
He voluntarily surrendered his license in 2008, and it expired in 2009, state records show.
Higgins is currently in prison, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Higgins is required to be registered as a sex offender until 2033.
Another criticism of the proposed bill is that, if enacted, the law only applies when the victim of the sex crime is a patient.
"I just can't see how these professional men can be on a pervert… sex offender registry… and be allowed to practice. I don't understand it," says Naylor, who would like to see them stopped from practicing - no matter who they victimize.
"If it were up to me, if you were convicted of sexual assault, you would have no license no matter who the victim was," says Senator Jones. "In politics, sometimes you have to go for the compromise. And this is what I've been able to get passed, and I think this is a start."
Here are several cases 7 Action News uncovered where the victim of a sex crime was not the doctor's patient.
Audberto Cesar Antonini was a licensed medical doctor, who took part in an Internet sex chat with who he thought was a 13-year-old male, which turned out to be a police sting, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
He was convicted of child sexually abusive material/activity, court records show.
His license was suspended in 2009, and also lapsed that same year, according to state licensing bureau records.
Antonini is required to be registered as a sex offender for life.
Ross David Miller was a licensed medical doctor, who was convicted in 2009 of attempted criminal sexual conduct for molesting a relative, who was under 13, according to court records.
State licensing records say that he was sentenced to jail for one year and ordered to pay fines.
The state initially put a summary suspension on his license in 2010, and then revoked it. .
Robert Joseph Moore is a licensed chiropractor, who was convicted of attempted 4th degree criminal sexual conduct, according to state licensing bureau records.
Three females between 18 and 20-years-old accused him of fondling their breasts, during pre-employment interviews, state records show.
The state suspended Moore's license and later put him on probation in 2012.
State records currently show that his license status is "disciplinary limited."
"I am a very repentant, respectful and remorseful man"
When the state suspends or revokes a health worker's license, they can apply to get it back. That is what Gordon, Quinn and Burman did.
They have to meet certain requirements and a board, made up of licensed professionals from their field, reviews their case. If the board denies reinstatement, the health worker can appeal to an administrative judge at a hearing. But the board has to approve the judge's ruling.
Board meetings and hearings are public, but unlike parole boards, the state does not alert victims about them.
When Gordon applied to have his license restored, his victim's parents had no idea. According to state records, Gordon admitted to harming Tommy, and another teen. Here is part of his statement to the board according to state records:
I also am not in denial of how I groomed and coerced both my victims and betrayed my victims and only hope that they eventually found a way to overcome the traumas I inflicted on them and went on with their lives in a positive manner. I hope they know that I, alone, am responsible and that all the problems were all mine NOT theirs.
After years of treatment and contemplation, I feel I understand enough about my offense cycle and deviancy to successfully manage myself and prevent relapse. … I am also confident that I am able to help others, which is my way of atoning for my terrible behavior of the past. I am a very repentant, respectful and remorseful man, who is also fiercely determined to make good in some significant way. Not only by taking care of myself in a healthy and responsible manner for the rest of this life, but also by contributing to alleviating the suffering of others in some meaningful way.
The board and administrative judge believed Dr. Gordon was well enough to return to counseling people and reinstated his license last year.
In her written decision, the judge said, "Dr. Gordon has shown by clear and convincing evidence that it would be in the public interest to reinstate his license."
But she restricted him from treating anyone under 18 for three years. That expires in 2015 when Gordon can apply to have it lifted.
And that is what he plans to do.
Gordon would not agree to an interview, but on the phone said though he has "no interest in working with minors," it is his right to ask that his license be fully restored.
"I will work with adults for the rest of my career. That's something that works well for me," he said.
As for Tommy, he doesn't believe Dr. Gordon should be counseling anyone no matter how old the patient is.
"I believe he's saying what he has to say to get what he wants," says Tommy. "I believe his only way to make up for anything is to move on and get away from this field and find something different."
When Dr. Gordon applies in 2015 to have his license fully reinstated without the age limitation, a public hearing will be held—and Tommy and his family say they plan to be there.