Monthly Archives: March 2010

Washington counselor Justin E. Steward gets license revoked for sex with vulnerable adult patient

On January 20, 2010, the Washington Department of Health (DoH) permanently revoked the registration of registered counselor Justin Edward Steward for unprofessional conduct relative to his conduct with a vulnerable adult who was a patient at the residential treatment facility where Steward was employed.

The DoH’s document states that Steward had sexual contact with the patient, including but not limited to the following: Steward requested the patient perform oral sex; the patient performed oral sex on Steward; Steward had sexual intercourse with the patient; Steward requested that the patient masturbate; the patient masturbated in front of Steward; Steward masturbated in front of the patient.  On or about December 11, 2008, the patient was discharged from the facility.

During February 2009, Steward posted electronic messages containing sexual content on the patient’s social networking webpage.

Source: Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Order in the Matter of Justin Edward Steward, Credential Nos. RC60014313, Case No. M2009-1032, State of Washington Department of Health Secretary of Health, filed January 20, 2010.

Washington state suspends license of counselor David E. Eskelin, engaged in personal relationship with former patient

On January 7, 2010, the Washington State Department of Health (DoH) suspended indefinitely the counseling registration of registered counselor and licensed hypnotherapist David E. Eskelin for unprofessional conduct.

According to the DoH’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Order, Eskelin provided hypnotherapy to a female client from approximately July 1997 until approximately April 1998.  The client testified that during that period, Eskelin hugged and kissed her and had sexual relations with her.  The DoH found that there was insufficient evidence to determine if the client’s allegations were true.

The DoH’s document further states that after the conclusion of the professional relationship, Eskelin went to the client’s house multiple times, took her to a gun range, helped her get a car, took her on a motorcycle ride and gave her money.

It further states that during the summer of 2000, Eskelin and the former client entered into a consensual sexual relationship and that ain May 2001, he provided the client a refund of the fees she had paid to him for counseling services.

Eskelin admitted in testimony that he realized that the meetings with the client were a violation of professional ethics.  The document states that Eskelin’s relationship with the client “resulted in pain and anger for [the client] and necessitated psychiatric counseling.”

Source: Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Order in the Matter of David E. Eskelin, Credential Nos. RC00021812 and HP10001642, Master Case Nos. M2009-1 and M2009-2, State of Washington Department of Health Adjudicative Service Unit, filed January 7, 2010.

“Top” UK psychologist Malcolm Cross “offered male colleague sex and threatened to expose himself at meeting”

A distinguished psychologist offered a married male colleague sex and threatened to expose himself during a drunken meal with staff, it was alleged today.

Malcolm Cross confessed his love to Owen Hughes and attempted to put his arm round him as they dined.

When his advances were spurned, Cross touched himself in the crotch and threatened to expose himself, the Health Professions Council hearing was told.

He also flirted with waiters and rubbed the upper thigh of another man as his shocked wife looked on, it was claimed.

Dr Cross, a dean at London’s City University,  makes frequent media appearances on BBC and boasts on his website of his ‘warm, vibrant and understanding personality.’

He also claims to appreciate the real concerns facing people today, especially ‘those affected by issues of sexuality.’

But he faces being struck off the register practitioner psychologists over his alleged behaviour at a meeting he was due to lead to discuss the accreditation of PHD students at the University of West of England in Bristol last June.

A ‘very drunk’ Cross arrived late unsteady on his feet and slurring his speech, the hearing was told.

He showed no interest what was being discussed by his four colleagues and instead urged to them go for a drink.

The meeting ended early because of his state and the group took a taxi to the Glass Boat restaurant where Cross continued to drink.

As Cross got drunker he flirted with waiting staff and launched into a rambling account of his troubled love life, Mr Hughes told the hearing.

‘He said he had been unfaithful to his current partner and admitted to a lot of inappropriate sexual behaviour that he was not proud about.

‘I tried to be understanding, but then he started telling me that he loved me.’

Cross repeatedly asked Mr Hughes to kiss him and eventually stood up and tried to plant a kiss on him from across the table.

Mr Hughes, who is a father, managed to rebuff him, but Cross then offered him oral sex.

‘The way he put it made me in no doubt as to his seriousness about it,’ Mr Hughes said.

‘He had no reason to think that I was anything other than heterosexual. It made me feel very uncomfortable. It was clear that his behaviour was unprofessional and I asked him to stop.’

But Cross also attempted to kiss Mr Perrett and rubbed his inner thigh.

Simon Perrett, another member of their group, attempted to laugh his behaviour off, but his wife who was also at the dinner was ‘not amused’, the hearing was told.

Another diner, Molly Ross from the British Psychological Society, said Cross also threatened to expose himself and asked Mr Hughes to do the same.

Dr Cross also picked on Miss Ross throughout the night accusing her being a ‘spoil sport’ because she was concerned about the amount being drunk.

The following morning, Cross smelt of ‘vomit and stale alcohol,’ but was still able to fulfil his role at the accreditation of students, the hearing was told.

Australian born Cross is chartered as a Counselling Psychologist with the British Psychological Society and is registered as such with the UK Health Professions Council.

He is a regular contributor to radio programmes including BBC London’s Late Show and  BBC 94.9FM’s and has appeared on Radio 4’s Last Word and BBC Radio Five Live.

His page on City University website claims: ‘Malcolm has consistently charmed and advised clients, colleagues and students alike with his sense of humour and ability to translate complicated psychological concepts into easy to understand language.’

Cross denies misconduct or that his fitness to practice is impaired.

The hearing continues.

Washington state suspends mental health couselor Erik N. Bracht; married patient

On January 21, 2010, the Washington Department of Health (DoH) suspended indefinitely counselor Erik N. Bracht for unprofessional conduct.  According to the DoH’s Order, from July 8, 2002 through June 16, 2003, Bracht provided counseling services to a female patient who was married and who received counseling in part to “examine issues arising from that relationship.”  The Order states that on several occasions, the client made it clear to Bracht that she was interested in having a personal relationship with him: on one occasion the client invited Bracht on a social outing and on two occasions, contacted him at home.  While Bracht did resist these advances, reporting them to his supervisor and transferring the client’s therapy to another counselor, he shortly thereafter decided he wanted to have a personal relationship with the client and entered into such in August 2003.  He married the client in June 2004—in full cognizance of the fact that state statutes require that counselors allow two years to pass after the termination of the therapeutic relationship before engaging in social or other relationships with former patients.

Source: Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Agreed Order on Modification in the Matter of Erik N. Bracht, Credential No. MHC.LH.00007519, Docket No. 05-03-B-1014LH, Master Case No. M2005-113570, Washington Department of Health, filed January 21, 2010.

Wisconsin psychiatrist Pastor Colon surrenders license on charges of kissing patient on lips

On February 27, 2010, the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board accepted the surrender of psychiatrist Pastor Colon’s medical license.  According to the Board’s document, Colon, who resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, “hugged and kissed a patient on the lips after a session.  He states that he had no sexual intent.”  Conditions of the surrender require Colon to undergo a mental health assessment should he wish to re-register and to pay $1,400 (the cost of the Board’s proceeding against him).

Source: Final Decision and Order #0000061 in the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Pastor Colon, M.D., Division of Enforcement Case #07 MED 230.

Massachusetts authorities seeking 1959-63 victims of child psychiatrist William Ayres; facing April criminal retrial in California on molestation charges

By Michael Rezendes, from the Boston Globe, March 3, 2010

Joel Silver can still remember his private sessions with child psychiatrist William H. Ayres at a renowned Boston guidance center decades ago. Ayres, then a freshly minted therapist affiliated with Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, would puff on a Sherlock Holmes-style pipe and ask what seemed like the strangest questions.

At their very first meeting, Silver recalled, Ayres asked him to describe an explicit sex act, a request the 17-year-old Silver refused but one that would set the tone for future sessions. “I thought he was going to ask me why I didn’t like school. That’s why I was there. But everything was sexual.’’

Today, nearly 50 years later, Ayres is awaiting trial in the San Francisco Bay area on charges he sexually molested six boys, ranging in age from 9 to 13, while giving them physical exams in his West Coast psychiatric office. And Massachusetts authorities are taking a fresh look at Ayres’s child psychiatry practice in Boston in the early 1960s.

Boston police and the Suffolk district attorney’s office have filed a post on the “William Ayres Watchdog Blog’’: “If there are any victims out there or anyone that can provide any information on incidents that happened in Boston, MA, please contact me and or the Suffolk County DA,’’ wrote Sergeant Detective John Donovan, the head of the department’s Crimes Against Children Unit.

To date, no one has responded to the post, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley. Ayres, who is 78 and a former president of the American Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, insists he is innocent of the charges he is facing. “He has spent almost all his life working with children and being dedicated to the community, so he’s anxious to clear his reputation and his name,’’ said Jonathan D. McDougall, Ayres’s lawyer.

Still, the six West Coast men referred to in the criminal charges, along with four additional men scheduled to testify, represent only a fraction of those who have told authorities they were molested by the once-prominent child psychiatrist. Indeed, more than 40 men have come forward with allegations dating to the 1960s that Ayres abused them, according to a California law enforcement source who asked for anonymity because the total number will not be shared with jurors.

And five years ago, Ayres paid $395,000 to settle a civil suit filed by a California man who was barred from pursuing criminal charges only because his allegations of abuse were too old to prosecute. The settlement did not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Officials at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital acknowledged that Ayres was an instructor at Harvard and a resident child psychiatrist at the Judge Baker Guidance Center, from 1959 to 1963. Since then, the Center has been renamed the Judge Baker Children’s Center, located on Mission Hill.

Officials at Harvard and Children’s also said they have no complaints on file against Ayres.

At the Judge Baker Children’s Center, chief operating officer Stephen Schaffer said the organization does not have personnel records for Ayres because he was an employee of Children’s Hospital when he was working at the Center. He said the same thing about another resident child psychiatrist, Donald L. Rife, who practiced at the Center immediately following Ayres, from 1964 to 1966. Rife has had medical licenses revoked in Massachusetts and Vermont, and has been reprimanded in Florida, because of child sex-abuse allegations.

Schaffer said that the Center has the clinical records of children who were treated by the two child psychiatrists, but that privacy considerations prevent him from examining them without a specific patient request to do so.

Local law enforcement officials are interested in Ayres in part because they might be able to prosecute him on charges of indecent assault and battery, if they can show he committed crimes against children while living in Massachusetts. That’s because the clock in the state’s statute of limitations – the period after a crime during which prosecutors may file charges – would have stopped when Ayres crossed state lines to begin a new life in California.

On the other hand, prosecutors say, it is especially challenging to pursue sex-abuse charges based on decades-old allegations. Often, the circumstances surrounding such cases – the place where the alleged abuse might have taken place, for example – may have changed or disappeared entirely. Physical evidence, in all probability, does not exist. And additional possible victims may be difficult to find or, after so many years of silence, reluctant to testify.

“When you disclose 30 to 35 years later, there isn’t going to be physical evidence,’’ said Leora Joseph, chief of the Child Protection Unit in Conley’s office. “And what do jurors want? They want scientific evidence. They’re all watching CSI.’’

But it is hardly unheard of for prosecutors in the Boston area to win indictments, guilty pleas, and convictions based on decades-old child sex abuse claims. In 2005, for instance, Conley’s office agreed to a guilty plea by the Rev. James F. Talbot after charging the former Boston College High School coach with raping and sexually assaulting two of his students during the 1970s. Conley’s office was able to charge Talbot because he had moved to Maine, which meant the statute of limitations did not apply.

The California case against Ayres, as well as information about his past as a Boston child psychiatrist, sprang from a chance encounter between one of his accusers, Steven Abrams, and a New York freelance writer, Victoria Balfour, who had written a magazine article that mentioned her own experience as a victim of child sex abuse. As Abrams pursued a civil suit against Ayres – one that would eventually be settled with the confidential payment of $395,000 – Balfour researched Ayres’s career, and shared her information with police in San Mateo, Calif. Police, in turn, discovered earlier complaints against the noted child psychiatrist.

“When those allegations occurred, there was not enough evidence to proceed,’’ Deputy Chief Mike Callagy said, explaining why charges had not been previously filed.

When Ayres stands trial in April, it will mark the second time he has been forced to defend himself against the sexual assault charges leveled by the men who say that, as children, they were molested by him during physical exams given during psychiatric sessions. A trial last year resulted in a hung jury – underscoring the difficulty of pursuing old child sex abuse claims – but prosecutors elected to try him a second time.

When he took the stand in his first trial, Ayres testified that he was trained at Yale University and the Judge Baker Guidance Center. And he noted that psychiatrists are also physicians qualified to perform physical exams as part of a patient’s psychiatric therapy. At one point, he testified that he believes physical exams, which include genital exams, “develop a kind of trust’’ between psychiatrist and child.

Although many child psychiatrists would disagree, arguing that psychiatrists should perform physical exams only in unusual circumstances, prosecutors say that Ayres’s testimony seemed to persuade at least some of the jurors that the exams were legitimate.

“Much of the conduct in this case was well-disguised as medical treatment,’’ said Melissa McKowan, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Ayres last year and is scheduled to retry him next month.

Although the work Ayres was doing in California is similar to the work he did in Boston decades ago, it is unclear whether he conducted physical exams during his sessions at the Baker center.

Meanwhile Silver, the man who still recalls Ayres’s strange questions, believes Ayres did not attempt to molest him in part because, at 17, he was older than Ayres’s California patients were when the psychiatrist allegedly assaulted them. Instead, Ayres asked Silver for a description of an oral sex act, and peppered him with questions about masturbation.

Silver also believes he may have been spared physical abuse because he was a lot bigger than Ayres’s other accusers.

“I played football and was a rugged guy,’’ he said, “not the kind of guy the average Joe would fool with.’’