A judge sentenced a former Casper gynecologist to decades in prison this year for sexually assaulting his patients in the office.
Authorities arrested the doctor, Paul Harnetty, in January 2017 in Minnesota and extradited him to Wyoming. Prosecutors charged him with 12 counts of felony sexual assault and one count of attempted drug possession.
Harnetty had already voluntarily relinquished his Wyoming physician license in October 2016, after the state medical board began an investigation against him for wrongful practice.
A Natrona County Circuit Court judge found later in 2017 that enough probable cause existed for 10 of the sex assault charges to be bound over to district court, where felonies are handled. The drug charge was also bound over and Harnetty pleaded guilty to that charge in separate proceedings.
Midway through Harnetty’s February jury trial, the defense team and prosecutors announced they had discussed issues with charges in the case and come to an agreement to dismiss two of the charges.
Prosecutors portrayed Harnetty as a serial sexual assailant, despite a pre-trial ruling by Judge Thomas Sullins disallowing a large portion of “other acts” evidence that assistant district attorneys Kevin Taheri and Michael Schafer sought to introduce.
The evidence would show that Harnetty sexually harassed a nurse at a Georgia hospital, had to do medical residencies in multiple places due to “improprieties relating to members of the opposite sex” and an allegation that Harnetty raped a boy decades ago, prosecutors said.
Despite Sullins’ ruling, six women testified against Harnetty, saying the gynecologist touched their genitals in a non-medical manner and none of their prior OB/GYNs had performed exams like the ones Harnetty performed.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Don Fuller said his client had acted improperly by engaging in a consensual relationship with a patient. Fuller, however, asked jurors to protect Harnetty from being convicted on charges that he characterized as unproven.
After six hours of deliberation, jurors found Harnetty guilty of two counts of sexual assault pertaining to two different women. He was taken into custody following the court’s adjournment.
“I can sleep tonight,” one of the six women who testified against Harnetty during the five-day trial said following the verdict.
Harnetty spent the next three months in Natrona County Detention Center and in early May the judge sentenced him to 20 to 30 years in prison. Online corrections department records indicate he has begun serving his time in Lincoln County.
He has contested his conviction to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Lawyers in November argued the merits of his appeal before the state’s highest court. The court is expected to issue a ruling in 2019.