A former Casper doctor has been arrested in Minnesota on a Natrona County warrant charging him with 12 counts of sexual assault and attempted drug possession.
Paul Harnetty, 46, was arrested by Minnesota law enforcement on Jan. 20 and booked into jail in Hennepin County on a warrant for nine counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and a count of attempted possession of a controlled substance, according to court documents.
A warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 13, but further details about the sexual assault charges were not immediately available. An affidavit related to the drug charge alleges Harnetty attempted to buy 3.6 grams of Nandrolone, a synthetic steroid that is listed as a schedule three controlled substance, from a business in China via email. Law enforcement searched Harnetty’s home after the package was delivered in April and found the steroid.
Harnetty moved to Maple Grove in Hennepin County, Minnesota, sometime between April and September. Court documents allege he fled Wyoming to avoid prosecution.
Harnetty specialized in obstetrics and gynecology and previously worked at the Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming and had privileges with the Wyoming Medical Center, documents from the Wyoming Board of Medicine show. He stopped practicing at Community Health Centers in October 2015 and resigned his privileges at the medical center in November 2015, documents show.
In February, Harnetty filed a petition for a protective order against a woman who claimed he had sexually assaulted her and other women, court documents show. Natrona County Circuit Court Judge Michael Patchen granted the request.
In his petition, Harnetty wrote that the woman alleged he had done “inappropriate things to my patients, that she was a victim, and that there was a police investigation.” He wrote he had experienced “ridicule and emotional distress” and hadn’t been able to find work because of the allegations and denied any wrongdoing.
“I can state without equivocation none of what (the woman) says about me is true,” he wrote. “If this harassment is allowed to continue I will continue to suffer substantial emotional distress.”
Harnetty voluntarily relinquished his Wyoming physician license in October after the state medical board began an “investigation against him for wrongful practice,” according to the board’s website. The board filed the original complaint against Harnetty in February 2016 after receiving several complaints alleging the doctor violated the Wyoming Medical Practice Act and the board’s rules, documents show.
One of the complaints alleged that Harnetty began drinking alcohol the night of Feb. 5, 2015, and banged on his neighbor’s door with a baseball bat because they were being too loud. Casper police arrested the doctor on suspicion of public intoxication.
Harnetty was on call that night for Wyoming Medical Center and could have been called to work had there been an emergency. After his arrest, Harnetty took a leave of absence from the hospital, which was also investigating Harnetty at the time. The hospital required he undergo screening for substance abuse and mental illness.
A spokeswoman for the Wyoming Medical Center said the hospital had no comment on Harnetty’s arrest Monday, though she confirmed he had privileges at the hospital that allowed him to practice there. He was not employed by the hospital.
Kodi Merschat, director of development at Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming, said in an emailed statement Monday that the health care facility follows the credentialing and privileging policies set by the Wyoming Medical Center and uses three national databases to review a doctor’s history.
“CHCCW does its best to vet employees and providers to ensure patients receive quality healthcare in a safe environment,” Merschat said.
The Georgia Composite Medical Board also investigated Harnetty in 2010 when he was working at a hospital in Macon, Georgia. Two of his patients filed complaints alleging the doctor didn’t tell them he couldn’t deliver their babies because he didn’t have the right hospital privileges until late in their pregnancies, according to The Macon Telegraph.
Prosecutors will now extradite Harnetty from Minnesota to Casper. On Jan. 25, Harnetty waived his right to challenge the pending extradition and voluntarily agreed to return to Wyoming in the custody of a law enforcement officer, court documents show.
Casper police Sgt. Mike Ogden said the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office handles the extradition process. He declined to comment further on the case.
District Attorney Mike Blonigen said he could not comment on Harnetty’s case specifically because Wyoming law prohibits public employees from discussing people involved in sexual assault cases better the proceedings reach district court.
If a person is arrested in a different state on a Natrona County warrant, the district attorney’s office must decide whether to request the person be extradited back to Wyoming, Blonigen said. While people charged with misdemeanors aren’t often extradited, the office almost always requests the extradition of a person charged with violent felonies. The defendant can’t argue whether he or she is innocent during the extradition process, Blonigen said.
The county sheriff’s office bears the cost of the defendant’s transportation. The sheriff’s office either sends deputies to collect the defendant from the other state or contracts with another law enforcement agency, like the U.S. marshals, to bring them back to Wyoming. Generally, the sheriff’s office has 10 days to bring back the defendant after he or she waives the right to contest the extradition — like Harnetty did on Jan. 25 — or a judge orders the accused be sent back to Wyoming.