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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Jerusalem judge believes girl’s story - yet acquits doctor of molesting her

A Jerusalem judge recently acquitted a doctor charged with sexually molesting a teenage girl, although the judge believed the girl’s story.

“The complainant’s account of the event, her police interviews and testimony in court all left a positive and reliable impression,” wrote Judge Jacob Zaban, deputy president of Jerusalem’s District Court in the verdict he released last week.

Despite this, the judge acquitted the doctor on reasonable doubt, stating he found it “hard to assume” that the doctor, a respectable family man, would sexually molest a girl in a public clinic in broad daylight.

On December 9, 2012, an ultra-Orthodox 13-year-old girl with an ear ache came to see Dr. Alexander Rotnemer at the Meuhedet clinic at Tel Zion.

When the girl returned home she called her mother in tears and asked her to come home right away. She told her mother, after much cajoling, that the doctor not only checked her ears but touched her stomach close to her groin.

She said the doctor then told her to lie on her back, put his hand under her skirt, tights and underpants, touched her private parts and asked “does this tickle? Does it hurt? Are you having fun?”

The girl said she answered with embarrassment, that she was “having fun.”

“You come to the clinic to have fun, too,” the doctor told her, continuing to touch her for several minutes.

While he was touching her private parts, the doctor said, according to the complainant: “If you come with your mother, I won’t be able to do this to you, she’ll go crazy. Don’t tell her I did this, don’t tell anyone. Nobody needs to know about it. If you want more, tell your mother you’re sick and come. It’s up to you, no obligation.”

On the day of the examination, the doctor called the complainant at home several times and told her the medication he had prescribed for her was unavailable at the pharmacy and he wanted to change it.

The girl’s mother lodged a police complaint against the doctor, who admitted in his investigation that he had touched the girl’s lower stomach but denied touching her private parts for a prolonged period. The doctor was indicted and tried soon afterward.

Asked what the connection between the patient’s earache and stomach was, the doctor told the court that since it was the girl’s first visit to his clinic, he gave her a “preventive medicine” examination.

The prosecution said the doctor’s telephone calls to the girl after the examination corroborated her story - that he intended to check whether the girl had told her mother anything.

“The complainant’s story to the police, court and her mother about what happened and the main details were consistent and almost identical. Her testimony and watching her interviews with the police’s child investigator create the impression that this is an intelligent, decent girl who testifies confidently and eloquently,” the judge wrote in his summary.

Nonetheless, Zaban said he acquitted the doctor “because the version he gave about the goings-on was reliable and his testimony left a favorable impression.”

Zaban believed the doctor’s explanation that he had called the girl at home several times to tell her the medication he prescribed was missing, because it transpired that the prescribed drug was indeed unavailable at the pharmacy at the time.

Finally, the judge said “it’s hard to assume the defendant, a family man and respected doctor in his community, would take such a great risk and molest a 13-year-old girl sexually while having a conversation of a sexual nature with her in broad daylight in a bustling, public clinic.”

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