LIMA — The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a former Bluffton doctor convicted in Lima Municipal Court nearly two years ago for groping his female patients.
The Third District Court of Appeals last summer overturned the conviction of Dr. James Gideon, setting up the supreme court challenge. Lima City Law Director Anthony Geiger said Tuesday the high court on Christmas Eve agreed to accept arguments from the city as well as from the defense attorney in the case, both of which contested rulings contained in the appellate court’s decision.
The opinion of the appellate court, written by Judge William Zimmerman and supported by Judges Stephen Shaw and John Willamowski, ordered Gideon’s conviction to be set aside and sent the case back to the lower court.
Gideon, a rheumatology and internal medicine physician, was found guilty by a Lima jury in April 2018 on three counts of sexual imposition, third-degree felonies, for allegedly groping female patients. Three additional sexual imposition charges, each based on similar complaints from other female patients, were dismissed by prosecutors just before the case went to trial.
Gideon was sentenced by Municipal Court Judge Tammie Hursh to 180 days in the Allen County jail and was classified a Tier I sex offender. That conviction was overturned by the appellate court based primarily on the rejection by the municipal court judge of a motion by Gideon’s attorney, Dennis Belli, to suppress statements the physician made to investigator Chad Yoakam of the State Medical Board.
Gideon claimed the statements were involuntary and in violation of his right to due process and the privilege against self- incrimination. Hursh ruled during the trial that Gideon “made voluntary statements during a non-custodial interview” and denied the defense motion to suppress his statements.
The appeals court judges concluded differently, stating that Yoakam “exceeded statutorily permissible collaboration by taking demonstrable steps to coerce Gideon to provide him an incriminating, oral and written statement in reliance on Gideon’s duty to cooperate. … Gideon’s belief that his medical license would be penalized if he did not cooperate with Investigator Yoakam’s investigation was objectively reasonable. Thus, Gideon’s statements were not voluntary,” the higher court ruled.
Geiger said both sides in the case will have the opportunity to file written briefs “over the next several months” and the Ohio Supreme Court will at a later date schedule a time for oral arguments. Assistant Lima City Prosecutor Nicole Smith will present the oral arguments on behalf of the city, Geiger said.
Geiger said he was hopeful the case will be resolved by the end of 2020, but added that it “could spill over int0 2021” by the time the high court renders its ruling.