Court proceedings in the case against a former Casper gynecologist charged with molesting six of his patients were delayed again Tuesday at the request of his defense attorney.
Paul Harnetty’s trial will now take place in the winter, though an exact date has not been selected. The trial was originally slated to begin June 26 but was delayed for 60 days during a hearing in June and then delayed another 90 days after Tuesday’s hearing.
Harnetty, 47, faces 10 felonies for allegedly sexually assaulting the women during medical exams at Community Health Center of Central Wyoming in 2014 and 2015. He stopped practicing at the center in October 2015 and voluntarily relinquished his license. Minnesota law enforcement arrested him on a warrant in January.
The delays have been caused by a series of complications with his lawyers.
His first attorney, John Miner, retired in the midst of the case. His new attorney, Don Fuller, asked in a June 16 hearing that the trial and hearings be delayed for 60 days so that he could have time to review the case. Natrona District Court Judge Thomas Sullins granted the postponement.
At Tuesday’s hearing, attorney Ian Sandefer asked Sullins to delay the trial because Fuller had been hospitalized for an undisclosed health condition. Sandefer said he was standing in for Fuller but was not prepared to argue what evidence should be admissible in trial, which was supposed to be the focus of the hearing. Miner, Fuller and Sandefer all work for the same law firm.
“It’s under extreme circumstances that we’re asking for this continuance,” Sandefer said, noting that Harnetty has a right to be represented by an attorney of his choosing.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri said he did not oppose the request to postpone.
“We obviously can’t object with the defense attorney in the hospital,” he said.
Taheri and another prosecutor, Michael Schafer, are taking over the state’s case from Brett Johnson, who is leaving the Natrona County District Attorney’s office.
But for at least one of Harnetty’s alleged victims, the delay is only causing more frustration.
“Harnetty may have waived his right to a speedy trial. However, the victims weren’t given that option,” she said Tuesday after the hearing. “I have waited two years. That is two years of replaying the event every single day, being without closure and stuck in limbo. That takes a very hard toll on his victims.”
Sullins reluctantly granted the request for a postponement. He expressed frustration at the lack of progress in the case and twice having to prepare for a complicated hearing only to delay it for circumstances outside of his control.
Harnetty, who is living out of state, did not appear in court Tuesday, nor did he appear for the June hearing. Sullins reprimanded Sandefer for the absence and ordered that the former doctor appear at all future court hearings — as required by his bond — unless the court specifically excuses him.