Jury acquits ex-Arlington doctor accused of groping new hire

EVERETT — It took less than two hours for a jury to acquit a former Arlington doctor accused of sexually assaulting a new recruit.

Dr James Laurino, now 75, was charged in 2018 with Indecent Liberties by a Healthcare Provider, a felony, for allegedly fondling the breasts of a woman in her 20s, during a pre-employment exam.

A jury of five women and seven men announced their unanimous not-guilty verdict on Friday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court.

After the trial, defense attorney Laura Shaver told the Daily Herald that she believed the woman had exaggerated the incident.

“I’ve been begging the DA’s office to drop this case for years,” she said. “And they wouldn’t for some reason. I don’t think they had proof. I wasn’t at all surprised that the jury came back with a verdict of not guilty.

The charging documents state that Laurino performed the pre-employment exam in question in the summer of 2017 at the Skagit Regional Health Clinic in Arlington.

When he was left alone with the woman, Laurino talked to her for 15 minutes about smallpox, talked for 20 minutes about a book he was writing, and offered her a job to help her finish the book, she reported. He asked her if she wanted to be a millionaire, according to court documents. He gave her his personal cell phone number, handwritten on the back of a business card.

The doctor finally started the exam and told her to bend over and touch her toes. He examined her eyes, ears and mouth. Then he put his hand on her stomach and pushed her breasts up, according to the charges. The woman froze, she later told police.

Then she told her mother, a nurse, what had happened. Her mother told her that it was not normal for a doctor to touch a woman’s breasts for a pre-employment exam. They called a supervisor to file a complaint.

Police confronted Laurino in October 2017. He claimed he had no recollection of the exam out of the hundreds he had taken. He reportedly added that he was not sure what allegation the police were talking about, as he had been placed on paid leave pending four different internal investigations.

Laurino was charged the following year and released without bail pending trial.

Under state law, a person is guilty of indecent assault by a health care provider when they knowingly cause another person to have sexual contact with them or another person, if the victim is a client or patient, and the sexual contact takes place during a treatment session, consultation, interview or examination.

“Sexual contact” is defined by state law as any contact with sexual or intimate parts for the purpose of satisfying sexual desire.

The state had to prove that the contact during the examination was sexually motivated.

In closing arguments on Friday, Assistant District Attorney Bob Langbehn told the jury that the woman underwent several physical exams that were nothing like the one she said Laurino gave her.

“There was no reason to be near her breasts that day,” Langbehn said. “I understand that it’s an important thing to look at an expert in their field – to look at someone who is a doctor, someone you trust so much, and say, ‘What you did was wrong. ‘”

In closing argument, Shaver told the jury it would be “a lot to say” that a 70-year-old doctor who had practiced medicine for 40 years would throw his career away, all of a sudden, to touch a woman’s breasts. a patient.

The defense attorney shared an anecdote of a time when she got her hair cut at a salon and her hairdresser measured her hair.

“His hands were on my breasts,” Shaver told the court. “Did that make it an assault? Or was there some sort of additional sexual innuendo – sexual gratification – that had to be there for me to get him convicted of a crime? In this case, the instructions tell you that there… must be something else.

Laurino had no criminal history.

State records show Laurino voluntarily surrendered his medical license in 2019 as he awaited trial on the criminal charges. He walked out of the courthouse on Friday afternoon relieved to have the case behind him, his lawyer said.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; [email protected]; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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