Dentist convicted in assault of patient

10-year term possible

sentencing set for Nov. 1

August 24, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

An Ellicott City dentist was convicted yesterday of sexual assault and assault charges tied to a patient's claim that he pulled down her pants and rubbed her thighs while she was under the effects of a mild anesthetic.

Dr. Evan C. DePadua, 37, faces a maximum 10-year prison term for misdemeanor assault and fourth-degree sexual offense at his sentencing Nov. 1 -- although state sentencing guidelines recommend a probationary term.

In a case that largely pitted DePadua's word against that of his 22-year-old patient, Howard Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure said that the young woman was "extremely credible," and that DePadua's statements to investigators and during the two-day trial had "many inconsistencies."

DePadua, who practices in the 10300 block of Baltimore National Pike and has been a licensed dentist in Maryland since 1997, never disputed that the young woman's pants had been unzipped and lowered at some point during her dental visit on Jan. 19, Leasure said.

The dentist also admitted to investigators that he touched the woman's thighs but "not in a sexual way," and that he lied when confronted by the woman's husband about the assault and when initially questioned by investigators about his use of nitrous oxide, she said.

Initially, DePadua denied giving the woman the gas, which dulls patients' awareness and makes them compliant, according to testimony.

As Leasure delivered her verdict yesterday, the woman, whom The Sun is not naming because of the nature of the charges, gripped her husband's arm and fought back tears. She later declined to comment.

Lawyer's response

DePadua's lawyer, T. Joseph Touhey, called Leasure's ruling a "catastrophic turn of events" for his client.

"We're obviously not happy with what occurred," he said. "It's just a sad result for this man and his future as a dentist."

During closing arguments yesterday, Touhey said the woman's version of the events could not have happened the way she said, in an unlocked office with "people coming and going."

At worst, DePadua is guilty of poor record-keeping -- he testified that he performed procedures on the woman but did not document them, or his use of nitrous oxide, in her file -- and of being "scared" when confronted by police, Touhey said.

But Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Duclaux said DePadua found a "perfect target" in the 22-year-old, whom the dentist described as a "shy, awkward girl" in his testimony Thursday.

The woman, who testified that DePadua broke a belt loop on her jeans while struggling with her pants and continuously increased the nitrous oxide flow during the incident, "has been unwavering in her account," the prosecutor said.

"He was seeing how far he could go," Duclaux said. "He was seeing how naive she was."

What will happen to DePadua's dental license was unclear yesterday. Touhey said he expects the license, which was restricted after DePadua's arrest -- he can no longer see patients alone, administer nitrous oxide or prescribe drugs -- will be suspended by the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners.

Other complaints

The restrictions were based on the woman's case and complaints by three other patients who accused DePadua of inappropriate touching and comments, and unsafe practices. None of those other allegations has resulted in criminal charges.

Kimberly Cammarata, an assistant attorney general assigned to the dental board, said a copy of Leasure's verdict would be forwarded to the examiners for their consideration.

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