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.

Two more women testified in court Wednesday that a former Casper gynecologist sexually assaulted them during medical exams.

The testimony came during the third 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.

A total of six female patients have testified that Harnetty touched them during physical examinations in ways that were unusual and made them feel uncomfortable. The women said that Harnetty’s exams were unlike exams performed 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.

On Wednesday, a woman told jurors that the doctor had acted inappropriately during two exams when she was pregnant. She said the doctor rubbed her genitals in a non-medical manner.

“It was almost like he was just trying to arouse me,” the woman said from the stand.

A second woman testified that she had given birth to three other children before she went to Harnetty’s office, pregnant again. She said none of her prior OB/GYNs had performed exams like the one Harnetty performed. She refused to see the doctor again, she told the jury.

Defense attorney Don Fuller questioned the two women extensively about when they came into contact with other alleged victims in the case and about their prior characterizations of the alleged assaults to Casper police detectives.

A delayed cross-examination

When the morning’s first witness entered the courtroom at 9:16, Fuller began cross-examining her about her testimony on Tuesday, when she said the doctor touched her vagina and anus in a non-medical fashion during an exam.

Fuller did not have an opportunity to cross-examine the woman during Tuesday’s proceedings due to time limitations.

The defense attorney held a stack of papers and flipped through them as the woman told him how frequently she had messaged another alleged victim in the case on social media. She said under questioning that they had “probably” messaged 300 or more times.

Fuller did not enter the papers into evidence and did not say what was printed on them.

The woman said Tuesday that the two did not know each other well.

The defense attorney later accused Detective Sarah Nelson of shaking or nodding her head to indicate how the alleged victim should respond to questions. Judge Thomas Sullins said he had not noticed the detective, who was sitting with prosecutors, doing so.

When prosecutor Mike Schafer questioned the woman, she said Harnetty had characterized her pregnancy as high risk. When she switched doctors, the new doctor told her her pregnancy was normal, she said. The woman said she was once called and asked to come into Harnetty’s office within hours for a medical reason. When she arrived, the doctor told her, “I just wanted to see you,” according to the woman’s testimony.

A medical expert took the stand next, and spent three hours describing how he teaches the administration of gynecological exams and reviewing medical records from three of the alleged victims’ visits to Harnetty’s office.

Dr. Steve Rotholz, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said in response to a description of one of the alleged assaults that defense attorneys have characterized as being part of a medical procedure: “I have never done that. Or heard of it, actually.”

Upon examining medical records of the women’s visits to Harnetty’s office, Rotholz said the record-keeping was likely inaccurate. He did not imply that the faulty record-keeping was deliberate.

The husband of the woman who was cross-examined earlier in the morning spoke briefly to corroborate her Tuesday account of consensual sexual contact with Harnetty. Fuller declined to cross-examine him.

A former employee at Harnetty’s clinic next testified that she had taken complaints about the doctor’s conduct. She passed those complaints on to executives at the clinic but never heard back about them, she said.

Two friends of the first witness of the day then took the stand, and recounted accompanying the woman to doctor’s appointments. One woman said Harnetty had looked down her shirt in his office, while another said Harnetty made a comment about liking to see pregnant women in pain.

Two more alleged victims speak

After a brief recess, a former patient of Harnetty testified the doctor had rubbed her genitals in a non-medical manner. She complained about inappropriate conduct to a person at the clinic responsible for scheduling patients and began seeing another doctor, the woman told jurors.

The woman later was examined by Harnetty after an abnormal ultrasound, she said. During the second exam, which was conducted by Harnetty because her new doctor was unavailable, the woman said a technician’s comments led her to believe the doctor had acted inappropriately with other patients.

The final witness of the day then took the stand, and said she had undergone more than 10 pelvic exams for prior pregnancies before she went to Harnetty. She said no doctor had ever performed an exam like Harnetty.

“He couldn’t be doing this,” the woman said she thought during the exam. “I was pregnant. He was my doctor.”

Harnetty is no longer licensed to practice medicine in Wyoming, having voluntarily relinquished his Wyoming physician license in October 2016, after the state medical board began an investigation against him for wrongful practice.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday and conclude Friday.

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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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