Paul Harnetty

Paul Harnetty makes his initial appearance Feb. 17 in Natrona County Circuit Court. Harnetty, a former Casper OB-GYN, faces charges alleging he sexually assaulted multiple female patients.

Three more women told jurors Tuesday that a former Casper doctor sexually assaulted them during medical exams.

The testimony came during the second day of Paul Harnetty’s trial in Natrona County District Court. He is facing 10 felonies: eight counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault. The trial is scheduled to last through Friday.

A total of six female patients are expected to testify that Harnetty 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.

On Monday, another former patient of the doctor testified that he had assaulted her in an exam room.

Tuesday, two of Harnetty’s alleged victims said the doctor did not wear gloves while examining them. One described the doctor’s “cold hands” on her genitals, while another said she “could feel how rough his hands were,” before looking up to see he was not wearing gloves.

One of the women wrote a letter to Harnetty’s clinic shortly after, which she said stated, “I was very uncomfortable with how he performed his job.”

The other woman later reported the exam to medical staff as inappropriate. She said her mother was in the room during the alleged assault but looked away to respect her privacy.

“It seemed like it was forever,” the woman said.

A third woman said she had two consensual sexual encounters with the doctor before she asked him to return to a strictly professional relationship. He did not respect her request and repeatedly grabbed her breasts through her shirt before assaulting her during an exam, she said.

Defense attorney Don Fuller, who cross-examined the women on Harnetty’s behalf, referenced medical records and statements made to police detectives in an attempt to show the women’s stories had changed over time. Fuller said he would continue to cross-examine the third woman for 30 to 45 minutes on Wednesday morning.

Late start

Morning cases in Judge Thomas Sullins’ courtroom ran late, pushing the start of the proceedings back 10 minutes. Sullins then heard a motion from prosecutors asking to amend charges in the case. Sullins said there was a “clear defect” with two of the second-degree counts of sexual assault but did not make a decision on what to do about it.

The jury then entered the courtroom 24 minutes after the proceedings were scheduled to begin.

The woman whose mother was in the room with her for the exam was the first witness to take the stand on Tuesday. She said Harnetty had served as her OB/GYN during a pregnancy because no other clinics in town would accept new patients with her insurance coverage.

“What the heck? Why are you doing that?” the woman said she thought during an October 2014 exam by the doctor. She described the exam as unlike any other gynecological exam she had previously undergone.

The woman said she had attempted to file a civil suit in regards to the alleged assault, but that a lawyer told her federal law prevented her from filing such a suit.

Medical professionals speak

Two nurses who were not present during the alleged assault testified back-to-back and told jurors that the same woman had complained about an inappropriate exam by Harnetty.

The nurses both testified that they told the woman she should report the assault to authorities at the healthcare center where Harnetty worked.

The doctor in charge of taking patient complaints testified next. Dr. Carol Solie said that she had received a complaint about Harnetty from the woman in April 2015. While referencing a contemporaneous report of the incident, Solie said the woman told her the exam was unlike any she had experienced before.

“(The alleged victim) felt violated and molested,” Solie said.

After an hour-and-a-half break for lunch, Frederick Lindberg, a psychologist frequently called upon by prosecutors for expert testimony, took the stand. He said only about 14 percent of all victims of sexual assault report within a year following the assault.

“Disclosure is considered to be a process, not an event,” Lindberg said.

Memory of traumatic events is frequently fragmented and descriptions of the events can be difficult to express, Lindberg said.

During cross-examination, Fuller asked Lindberg about the likelihood of people mis-remembering events due to suggestion by others. Lindberg said that could happen, but was much more likely among children around 5 years old.

When Fuller asked him about “group think,” Lindberg said he was not familiar with the term.

Alleged victims testify

Another woman then took the stand and told jurors she had gone to see Harnetty when she became pregnant with her second child. The woman said he had requested the doctor’s services because her previous doctor was not available.

She described an exam in which she “felt trapped,” while the doctor improperly examined her. She said the doctor continued to touch the same parts of her genitals and asked the same or similar questions repetitively. She then looked down to see the doctor was not wearing gloves, she said.

The woman said she told her husband and mother about the incident but did not immediately report it to authorities, despite her family members’ urging. She wrote a letter to Harnetty’s clinic shortly after the exam, she said, and never was examined by the doctor again.

Under cross-examination, Fuller called upon reports that the woman had given to police detectives that he implied contradicted the account she gave in court.

Fuller then presented the woman with medical records that he said contradicted her testimony that she had only seen the doctor once before the alleged assault. The woman bowed her head and openly cried on the stand before Fuller ceased his questioning.

When Fuller resumed his questioning, Sullins said it was not clear that the woman had ever even seen the document before and said questioning the woman about it was “improper.”

After a 22-minute break, the final witness of the day took the stand. She told the jury she had previously had consensual sex with Harnetty while he was her doctor. The woman confronted Harnetty after his girlfriend told her he had herpes, she said. The doctor confirmed the girlfriend’s account, the alleged victim told the jury.

The woman then told the doctor she wanted to resume a professional relationship only, she said. He did not respect her wishes and frequently groped her through her clothes at office visits, she said. He later touched her vagina and anus in a non-medical fashion during an exam, she told jurors.

The doctor refused to care for her roughly eight weeks from her due date, she testified.

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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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