LIMA — Opening arguments were held Wednesday in Lima Municipal Court as jurors began to hear testimony in the sexual imposition trial of Pandora resident Dr. James Gideon.
Gideon, a rheumatology and internal medicine physician who operated an office in Bluffton, is charged with six third-degree misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition — one count for each of the six women who approached Bluffton police with their stories of being fondled and inappropriately touched during otherwise routine visits to Gideon’s office in the spring and summer of 2017.
A jury of four men and four women was seated early Wednesday afternoon. The court has set aside three days for the trial, although jurors were forewarned that testimony and deliberations could extend into Saturday and even into Sunday, if necessary.
Prior to opening statements and outside the ears of jurors, prosecutors dismissed one of the original seven counts against Gideon after indicating to the court that one of the alleged victims had failed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nicole Smith told jurors the case boils down to “a doctor abusing his authority” by inappropriately touching the victims for the expressed intent of sexual gratification.
Smith gave thumbnail versions of the testimony jurors will hear from each of the alleged victims, including tales of being forced to undress with Gideon present in the examination room; that the doctor grabbed one woman’s vaginal area and thigh as part of an exam; and that several of the women were forced to remove their brassieres and expose their breasts, even though they had come to Gideon’s office in some instances for pain in their wrists or ankles.
Smith said one of the victims will testify that she was rendered unconscious in Gideon’s office, only to regain consciousness to find Gideon’s kissing her on the mouth while massaging her breast.
The prosecutor also said jurors would hear from a State Medical Board examiner, whose investigation led the board to suspend Gideon’s medical license last year.
Smith said the 71-year-old Gideon “violated the trust of these six women. He was doing it for his own sexual gratification.”
Defense Attorney Dennis Belli said testimony in the case will show a drastically different set of facts. He claimed Gideon did massage some of the women after conducting “literary research on the therapeutic effects of massage” in treating some medical conditions.
Belli also said his client removed some of the women’s bras as part of his studies that found traditional brassieres “create pressure on the neck and shoulders” of some women and contribute to unnecessary pain.
The attorney admitted Gideon had made mistakes in not better informing his patients about some of his procedures. But Belli told jurors, “You are not here to determine malpractice. These are criminal charges that Dr. Gideon improperly touched patients for the purpose of sexual gratification. And the evidence will fall well short of that.”
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.