Dentist denies he improperly touched a woman patient

DePadua is being tried in sex offense, assault case

Ellicott City

August 23, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

An Ellicott City dentist denied yesterday that he ever improperly touched a young woman in his care - although he did acknowledge that tests he says he performed on her earlier this year were never recorded in her medical files.

Dr. Evan C. DePadua testified in Howard County Circuit Court that the 22-year-old Pennsylvania woman's version of the events that transpired on Jan. 19 - including allegations that he pulled her pants down and rubbed her thighs while she was mildly anesthetized and unable to react - could not have happened the way she said.

Although a question-and-answer form he filled out at the behest of Howard police investigators includes an admission that he touched the woman's thigh, but "not in a sexual way," DePadua, 37, said a detective pressured him during an interview that lasted several hours to change his answer from his original denial.

"They were threatening me. They were browbeating me," he said during the second day of testimony in his trial on fourth-degree sexual offense and misdemeanor assault charges.

Closing arguments in the case, which is being tried by Judge Diane O. Leasure instead of a jury, are scheduled to begin this morning.

DePadua, a Brazilian native who was first licensed as a Maryland dentist in 1997, was the last person to testify in a case that largely pits his word against that of the 22-year-old woman, who had been a patient of his for more than a year at the time of the incident.

The Sun is not naming the woman because of the nature of the charges.

Statements critical

As a result, DePadua's statements to police - as well as changes he made to his version of events and omissions in the woman's dental files - are expected to be critical as Leasure weighs the evidence.

Both DePadua, who practices in the 10300 block of Baltimore National Pike, and police investigators testified that when confronted, the dentist at first denied ever giving the woman nitrous oxide, then later told officers that he did.

According to testimony, the gas dulls patients and makes them "compliant."

Also, DePadua wrote in the woman's medical file that he only tightened her braces Jan. 19, but he testified that he also performed a test for a jaw disorder and cut around two teeth that day.

The woman said she told her husband and brother what happened not long after the dental visit.

On Wednesday, she broke down after she testified that DePadua at first tried to pull her pants down while she was in the examination chair and then stood her up against a wall - all the while increasing the nitrous oxide flow - lowered her tight jeans and rubbed her thighs.

DePadua broke a belt loop on her jeans during the incident, she said.

The nitrous oxide made her feel "out of it," she said.

"All I could do was stand there," she said, crying. "I was leaning against the wall. I was dizzy."

DePadua's dentistry license has been restricted since the accusation.

Practice restrictions

The Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners declined last month to suspend him while the criminal case was pending but ordered that he not see patients alone, administer nitrous oxide or prescribe drugs.

The order also includes details of complaints made by three other patients of inappropriate touching and comments and of an instance when DePadua is alleged to have left a sedated patient alone in an examination room.

None of those complaints has resulted in criminal charges.

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