Paul Harnetty

Paul Harnetty, a former Casper gynecologist, attends a Natrona County Circuit Court hearing on Feb. 17, 2017 in Casper, Wyoming. A jury convicted Harnetty on Jan. 26, 2018 of sexually assaulting two patients. A total of six female patients testified that Harnetty touched them during exams in ways that were unusual and made them feel uncomfortable.  

A Natrona County District Court judge on Friday denied a motion for a new trial brought by a former Casper gynecologist convicted of sexually assaulting his patients.

Paul Harnetty’s lawyers argued that one of the sexual assault charges that their client was convicted of was brought improperly, denying his right to due process. Harnetty was convicted in January of two counts of sexual assault.

The former gynecologist appeared in court Friday in jail garb, but did not speak during the hour-long hearing. He is being held in Natrona County Detention Center as he awaits sentencing, which is scheduled for May 4.

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In deciding not to approve a new trial for the doctor, Judge Thomas Sullins said granting such a trial would not be in the interest of justice. Sullins said defense attorneys’ arguments failed to satisfy two of the four factors he considered.

Defense attorney Don Fuller argued that Harnetty’s conviction for sexually assaulting a pregnant patient following a sonogram was based on allegations he had not encountered until trial. Because prosecutors did not provide notice about the details of the assault charge, Fuller and co-counsel John Miner were unable to adequately prepare for trial, Fuller said.

“You can’t say we had due process,” Fuller argued. “The notice we got was from a witness stand at jury trial.”

Donna Rosenlieb, a sonographer who worked at Harnetty’s clinic, took the stand to testify that she was in the room when the assault took place. She said she could see Harnetty’s hand and disagreed with the woman’s characterization of events.

Rosenlieb likewise disputed the woman’s testimony at trial, denying that she made a comment about Harnetty being “rough” with patients.

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Fuller said he called Rosenlieb to testify so the judge would know what testimony would have been presented at trial had the defense team been aware of the woman’s characterization of the assault before she presented it.

Prosecutor Kevin Taheri then spoke to disagree with Fuller’s characterization of his handling of the case, saying detectives had not done a complete pre-trial investigation into the woman’s characterization of the assault and were therefore unaware of some of the details of the assault. The allegation was not new, Taheri said, simply more specific than the one detectives had heard.

Rosenlieb’s testimony was purely for the purpose of impeaching another witness’s testimony, Taheri said, which does not grant a defendant the right to a new trial.

“And it’s not even very strong impeachment evidence,” Taheri said.

In handing down his ruling, Sullins said issues brought by Fuller should have been presented at trial. The judge also noted that both parties had agreed to an amended charging document during the trial — an agreement that came after the disputed testimony.

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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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