It was classic drama in the Albemarle County District Court courtroom on Wednesday as accusers spent hours detailing their experiences with a doctor accused of sexual assault while his lawyers worked hard to undermine their credibility.
Dr. Mark Hormuz Dean was arrested in January 2018 after being accused of sexual assault by several women who were his patients at Albemarle Pain Management Associates. The attacks allegedly took place between 2011 and 2017.
The cases have been separated, which means that Dean will probably face several trials.
At his first trial, Dean faces a single count of object sexual penetration stemming from a May 2017 interaction with one of his patients.
The bulk of Wednesday’s hearing focused on the accuser as she tearfully recounted her experiences and pushed back against accusations of inconsistent defense statements.
According to the accuser, identified by the initials ES, she visited Dean as part of treatment for hip pain from a work accident. After being taken to his examination room alone, ES said the defendant closed the door and proceeded to examine his hips. He pulled down her leggings and underwear and penetrated her with his fingers.
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“I thought of nothing, my mind went blank and I froze,” she said. “I asked him to stop and he covered my mouth and said ‘shh’.”
After he stopped, ES said she tried to leave but was stopped by Dean who slammed her against the wall and kissed her. She said he grabbed her hand and moved it to his crotch so she was forced to feel his erection through his pants.
After she left the office, ES said Dean took her to the checkout at the doctor’s office where she was set up for another appointment. She said she kept the second appointment, as well as two others, because she felt compelled to do so to be allowed to return to work and because Dean’s medical treatments were working.
“He was a good doctor. He was the one who discovered my injuries and found out how to treat them,” ES said. “I had seen a lot of doctors and no one else took me seriously.”
She kept her story to herself for years in an effort to protect her family from the scrutiny and attention directed at sexual assault accusers. However, ES said that when negative feelings piled up and in the fall of 2020, she told her husband about it and then turned herself in to the police, ultimately deciding to pursue criminal action.
Much of the defense’s cross-examination focused on ES’s statements to police, which were made in November 2020, years after the alleged assault. Dean’s attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, pointed out various differences between ES’s initial statement and her second, made a few weeks later.
In her initial statement, ES told an Albemarle County detective that she did not return to Dean’s office after the assault.
“You said that for a reason, didn’t you?” asked Quagliana. “You said that because it doesn’t make sense for you to go back, does it?” Because it makes no sense to go back to see a doctor who you think violently assaulted you.
ES denied the charge. She said she had largely blocked her return visits from her memory, only returning because she felt she had to and always with a companion. As she stopped actively repressing her experiences with Dean, ES said more memories came flooding back, thanks in large part to their closeness to other notable experiences.
“I don’t remember all my dates from five years ago, but I think we all remember major events,” she said. “I clearly remember the assault.”
A second accuser, AS, also testified on Wednesday. Dean faces no charges in this trial related to AS’s experiments. The prosecution’s questions compared the experiences of the women.
Each woman testified that they did not know each other and knew nothing of the other’s claims.
AS said she started seeing Dean in 2017 after another doctor who specializes in pain management was unable to help her with her back and neck pain. Like ES, AS said Dean was a good doctor and that the treatments and medications he prescribed helped improve his pain.
During a September 2017 visit, AS said she walked into Dean’s exam room alone. He gestured to his pants and asked “Can I?” Assuming he was going to perform a physical, AS said she nodded and Dean started penetrating her with his fingers and without her consent.
“I was shocked and embarrassed and didn’t know what to do so I didn’t do anything. I just froze,” AS said. “I looked at him and he was looking at the wall and that’s when I knew it wasn’t about me.”
AS said Dean made various lewd and suggestive statements to her before telling her that the painkillers she was prescribed were a privilege. She said she took it as a threat to take her prescription away if she told anyone what happened.
As a former drug addict, AS said she knew it would be difficult to find another doctor willing to prescribe her drugs and that people would be more likely to trust a doctor than her. Like ES, AS also returned to Dean on several occasions and claimed that on one occasion he made advances to her that she was able to rebuff.
AS came forward in January 2018 after reports of other women accusing Dean of sexual assault. Details of those other cases were not presented to the jury on Wednesday.
Quagliana spent more than an hour going through AS’s various statements to police in detail in an effort to get the accuser to explain why her testimony differed from previous stories. The exchange was at times combative as witness and attorney clashed over wording, timelines, and AS’s reasons for coming back to Dean.
A sticking point for Quagliana was a civil lawsuit filed by AS in 2019 that initially sought $2.5 million from Dean before being amended to seek $5 million. According to a document from a personal injury law firm, AS began filing a lawsuit in January 2018, shortly after approaching police with his story.
Quagliana asked AS why she took this legal action and if she knew a criminal conviction could strengthen her case against Dean. AS denied this account, but admitted that she was seeking to profit financially from her experiences with Dean, which as detailed in the lawsuit include several other instances of sexual misconduct.
“I figured if he couldn’t apologize or get his hands off my pants, the only thing he could do was give me some money,” AS said.
AS also received text messages with her son in which she promised he would “never want anything” if she won her case against Dean.
Dean’s trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday and could stretch beyond its scheduled five-day schedule.