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Paul Harnetty

Paul Harnetty makes his initial appearance Feb. 17 in Natrona County Circuit Court. Harnetty, a former Casper OB-GYN, was arrested in January 2016 on allegations of sexually assaulting female patients while practicing in Casper.

File, Star-Tribune

A judge will consider whether to allow jurors to hear allegations that a former Casper doctor raped a 12-year-old boy decades ago as part of the physician’s trial on sexual assault charges.

Paul Harnetty was never charged with a crime in relation to the new allegation. His attorneys argued that the allegations should not have appeared Friday in open court.

Harnetty appeared in Natrona County District Court for a hearing in which his attorneys argued additional allegations should not be allowed in the sex assault trial, saying it would prejudice potential jurors.

The prosecution argued that the laundry list of allegations it would like to use in the trial will show intent and motive on Harnetty’s part.

Harnetty, who is free on bond, is facing eight counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault in the case. He is also facing one count of attempted possession of a controlled substance in a separate case.

Six female patients have told investigators that Harnetty, a gynecologist, touched them during physical examinations in ways that were unusual and made them feel uncomfortable. The women, who did not know each other previously, said that Harnetty’s exams were different from those they had experienced by other doctors. Some women said he touched their genitals without gloves while others said he rubbed them in ways that didn’t seem to be part of a medical exam, according to court documents.

Unusual start

Friday’s hearing began with District Court judge Thomas Sullins considering a motion by the defense to close the proceeding.

An attorney representing the Casper Star-Tribune petitioned to keep the hearing open.

John Miner, who represented Harnetty in the hearing, argued that if the hearing were allowed to be open, potential jurors would be prejudiced in the case.

Prosecutor Kevin Taheri, meanwhile, argued that the hearing should be open.

“If we close this one, we really gotta close them all,” Taheri said.

Sullins cited the First and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution in making his decision to leave the hearing open.

Defense brings evidence of “motive and intent”

Taheri ran down a number of allegations that were not charged in the case, saying they would show Harnetty had motive and intent in using his position of authority for sexual gratification.

Evidence of those allegations ranged from the accused rape, to allegations of improper sexual behavior toward nurses who he worked with in Georgia, to marking patients’ charts with smiley faces to indicate that they were attractive.

Taheri also attempted to introduce uncharged conduct alleged by the same women in Natrona County, which included Harnetty seeing a patient with alcohol on his breath and not using gloves during an exam.

Miner did not oppose the uncharged allegations from Natrona County, saying that the alleged victims should be able to tell the entirety of their stories.

The defense attorney did oppose the other allegations, most vehemently the allegation of rape.

“This is not going to be a likeable person,” to a jury if the rape allegation were introduced at trial, Miner said. “They’re gonna believe he’s a pedophile, judge.”

Sullins did not make a decision Friday on what allegations he would allow the prosecution to bring at trial, saying he would make a decision in two weeks.

Miner rose one more time to ask that Sullins issue a gag order to media present.

Sullins declined his request.

“How they publish,” Sullins said, “is I think up to them.”

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson


Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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