Monthly Archives: June 2010

Daniel Lerom, Florida psychologist who surrendered license in May ’10, still practicing

TAMPA — When Carole Lenhart went to see Daniel R. Lerom in late May, she says she received the same kind of family counseling she’d gotten a half-dozen times or so in the past from the Tampa psychologist.

But Lerom had been banned from practicing psychology since January, after state regulators concluded he’d had sex with another patient, billed her insurance company for those sessions and took her prescription pain medications.

To avoid further prosecution by the state, in mid May Lerom voluntarily relinquished his license and promised to “cease practicing psychology.” But Lerom still has his office open.

State regulators said Thursday that Lerom should have closed his office and stopped seeing patients as a result of the disciplinary action.

“I was horrified,” said Lenhart, who learned about the state’s actions against Lerom through a friend after her late May session with him. “This man should have an obligation to tell me he could no longer do family therapy and he never said a word to me about it.”

Lerom, whose office still bears the sign “Plaza Therapy Associates, Daniel R. Lerom, Psy., D,” declined comment this week. (Psy. D refers to his doctorate in psychology.)

After Lenhart demanded her $95 payment back, Lerom left her a voice mail in which he explained why he hadn’t mentioned he had lost his license.

Describing his affair as a “fatal attraction situation,” Lerom said he was “under the assumption” that everyone knew of his troubles, which had been widely reported in the local media.

“I can’t explain every single thing that was discussed in the paper, uh, 80 percent of which was not true, but to protect my family I relinquished my license and not put them through that,” he said in the phone message.

Lerom, 49, insisted he acted legally in treating Lenhart.

“I am still qualified to do relationship coaching and personal life coaching, um, under the contract that we discussed,” Lerom said. “It’s just not, um, I’m not allowed to call it professional clinical psychology.”

A spokeswoman for the Health Department said Thursday that while Lerom does not need a license for relationship coaching, “what may have been occurring may well be unlicensed activity.”

Though state law prohibits the department from acknowledging an ongoing investigation, she said the department is “diligent” in looking into any complaints.

Lenhart said Lerom never mentioned any “contract” for coaching during the May session.

“I didn’t need to be coached,” said Lenhart, a certified public accountant who lives on Treasure Island. “And if he had said we were having a ‘coaching’ session instead of a family counseling session, I would have caught on that something was different. But it was absolutely the same as counseling sessions we’d had in the past.”

Lenhart, 53, initially sent one of her children to see Lerom following Lenhart’s divorce a few years ago. Though the teen stopped seeing Lerom last year after a few sessions, calling them worthless, the mother got the child’s permission to continue discussing their issues with Lerom.

Lenhart said she stopped going to Lerom earlier this year because she was too busy. When she happened to run into Lerom in the lobby of his office building on West Kennedy Boulevard in early May when he still had his license, Lenhart agreed to an appointment.

“I felt backed into a corner,” she said of the pressure from Lerom, whose license had been suspended by the state at the time of the encounter. “He’s the one who really pushed for the appointment.”

By the time she went in to see Lerom on May 26, 11 days had passed since the state accepted his offer to relinquish his license.

Lerom promised to never reapply for a license to practice any kind of health care profession in Florida. He also can no longer call himself a psychologist. However, he is not restricted from continuing to use the title of “doctor” because he holds a doctorate from Florida Institute of Technology.

Lerom’s legal troubles began with a complaint from an unnamed patient in November. The woman, who has a civil suit pending against Lerom, started seeing the psychologist in 1995 for marriage counseling.

The state’s investigation said Lerom stopped providing therapy in early February 2009 and the two started a sexual relationship. Under Florida law, it is a felony for a licensed health care professional to have sex with a patient or former patient, though there is no record of criminal charges against Lerom.

In one text message during the three-month affair Lerom wrote, “If I were there i would rub u all over and kiss u all over!!! thats the dr. dan cure!!! XOXOXO.” Other messages in the state report show that he asked her to share prescription pain pills.

In March 2009, he texted her, “needing more percocet or oxycodone for my back! wantf to know if u could get some for torrmw?!?”

The relationship ended abruptly when Lerom’s wife discovered a text message between the two. Shortly after, the woman was hospitalized for depression and anxiety which her psychiatrist said were due to the breakup.

The state said Lerom charged the woman’s insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, more than $1,170 for therapy on 10 occasions when the pair met for sex.

In his voice mail to Lenhart on June 14, Lerom said he could not speak publicly about his situation because, “I’ve been advised to not respond to anything in hopes, um, to get issues resolved as quickly as possible. So I apologize for the, obviously, for the lack of understanding there.”

Though Lerom told Lenhart he believed she had paid only $60 to $80 “coaching charges” for their session on May 26, he refunded her credit card $95, the hourly fee he had charged as a psychologist. Lenhart said her canceled check shows she paid $95 for the May appointment.

Source: Kris Hundley, “Former psychologist who had sex with a patient still open for business,” St. Petersburg Times, June 25, 2010.

Georgia psychotherapist James “Cliff” Tillery sentenced to two years prison for sex assault on patient

LAWRENCEVILLE — A former Lilburn psychotherapist entered a surprise guilty plea this week to sexual assault charges involving a patient, costing him two years in prison and his professional license.

Cliff Tillery, 46, pleaded guilty in Gwinnett Superior Court on Monday to two counts of sexual assault by a practitioner of psychotherapy, just as jury selection in a retrial of the case was scheduled to begin, said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Taylor.

Tillery will serve eight years, probation following his prison stint, said Taylor.

“I’m very pleased that he finally admitted that what he did to the victim was wrong,” Taylor said.

Tillery, 46, admitted to coercing the victim — a Gwinnett preschool teacher with a history of alcohol and sexual abuse — into sexual activity more than 20 times at his Norcross office in 2007. She paid $85 per hour for most sessions.

Tillery was originally tried in March, when a judge declared a mistrial after jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision after deliberating for nearly two days.

The charges carried a possible 60-year prison term, Taylor said.

Tillery’s defense attorney, Dylan Wilbanks, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. Taylor said she’d been contacted by the defense Friday with word that Tillery was considering a plea deal.

Special conditions of Tillery’s sentencing will require him to register as a sex offender, avoid the victim and her family, and undergo psychosexual evaluations, Taylor said.

Tillery surrendered his professional license Monday and won’t be allowed to treat patients in any capacity while on probation, she said.

Tillery had spent more than 20 years in the field before his July 2008 arrest. He worked with drug addicts, sex addicts and alcoholics.

Both parties were married with children at the time.

The 32-year-old victim told the Daily Post on Wednesday she felt the sentencing was “a little lenient” but sends “a huge message for anybody in a position of power.” She feels that Tillery brainwashed her into acts she wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

The Daily Post does not identify victims of sex abuse.

“I think he knew he couldn’t win at trial,” she said of Tillery.

As for going forward, she said, “I will continue to advocate for victims. I feel like I have a whole new purpose now.”

Prior to sentencing, Tillery apologized to the victim and her family, Taylor said.

Source: Josh Green, “Therapist admits to sex assaults, gets two years,” June 23, 2010.

Georgia psychotherapist Cliff Tillery sex assault retrial begins today

LAWRENCEVILLE — After a jury stalemate led to a mistrial in March, the sexual assault trial of Lilburn psychotherapist Cliff Tillery will begin round two on Monday.

Tillery, the owner of Bright Horizons Inc., is accused of coercing the alleged female victim — a Gwinnett preschool teacher with a history of alcohol and sexual abuse, she testified in March — into sexual activity more than 20 times at his Norcross office in 2007.

The 46-year-old, a 20-year veteran of psychotherapy, was arrested in July 2008 before being released on $55,200 bond.

A hung jury led Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner to declare a mistrial after 11⁄2 days of deliberation on March 14.

The case hinges on the determination of the boundary between therapists and patients.

The prosecution believes that Tillery preyed on the 32-year-old alleged victim’s psychological wounds to benefit sexually during sessions for which she typically paid $85 an hour.

The defense contends that she flirted with and seduced Tillery.

In the days leading up to the trial, the alleged victim told the Daily Post that she felt brainwashed by Tillery and wouldn’t have considered him as a sexual partner in another situation.

Both Tillery and the former patient were married with children at the time of the alleged abuse.

According to Georgia statute, a conviction of sexual assault by a psychotherapist could result in a prison sentence of between 10 and 30 years. Consent cannot be used as a defense, the law says.

Source: Tyler Estep, “Sexual assault trial of local therapist to resume Monday,” Gwinnett Daily Post, June 19, 2010.

Psychiatrist Graham Craig struck off after sex with patient

A PSYCHIATRIST who had a two-year sex romp with a patient almost four decades younger than him has been struck off the medical register, the Sunday Sun can reveal.

Dr Graham Craig was 61 when he had the affair with the 23-year-old woman – known as Patient A – who had been admitted to his clinic for severe depression.

It is not the first time Dr Craig, now 72 – whose area of practice is Newcastle – had an “inappropriate relationship” with a patient. He was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for an affair with a woman 10 years ago.

Now after a week-long hearing, a General Medical Council panel has erased his name from the medical register and suspended his registration.

A statement issued by the GMC said: “The Panel is of the view that Dr Craig continues to pose a risk to patient safety.”

The affair first started in 1999 when Dr Craig was working in Adelaide, Australia, when Patient A went to his clinic.

It ended two years later when he moved to the UK after being suspended over the relationship with the second patient.

It wasn’t until 2006 that the woman reported Dr Craig, who is understood to have been a locum for the Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland Mental Health Trust until five years ago.

The Manchester hearing heard how Dr Craig kissed Patient A, brushed her hair and massaged her shoulders during an appointment before embarking on an affair, with the pair often having sex in the counselling room twice a week.

Source: Coreena Ford, “Psychiatrist struck off after sex with patient,” Sunday Sun, June 20, 2010.

Mental health counselor George Kyle pleads guilty to promoting prostitution; brave client reported his “secret sex therapy” to police

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 7:30 PM EST

George Kyle (Source: McCracken County Jail)
George Kyle (Source: McCracken County Jail)

PADUCAH, KY – A Kentucky mental health counselor is accused of trying to get one of his clients to take part in prostitution.

According to Paducah Police, a woman came to them claiming 70-year-old George Kyle made sexual advances toward her, including fondling her.

The woman said Kyle told her he was running a secret, alternative “sex therapy” counseling business and that he wanted her to participate.

The woman claims Kyle wanted her to take part in various sexual activities with other patients of his who needed sex therapy.

The woman says Kyle told her she would be paid $1,000 per encounter to provide the service.

Kyle allegedly told the woman she would need special training and that he would provide that.  He also allegedly invited her to meet him at a local hotel for a training session.

On Monday the woman got in touch with police and agreed to work as a confidential witness.

Police say Kyle set up an appointment with the woman at a local hotel for Tuesday afternoon, and investigators were able to record conversations between the two.

Investigators say the recordings include Kyle telling the woman that she would be paid $1,000 per session to have sexual encounters with his clients.

Police said Kyle told the woman those clients would be screened for violent tendencies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Police say Kyle paid the woman another $100, and at that point they busted in and arrested Kyle.

Wednesday morning Kyle pleaded guilty to a charge of promoting prostitution.

Source: “Counselor accused of trying to get client involved in prostitution,” KFVS Heartland News, Cape Girardeau, Missouri,  June 16, 2010.

State disciplines counselor Kelly Shanley-Johnson for sex with client

On February 5, 2010, the Washington Department of Health (DoH) issued a Statement of Charges on registered counselor Kelly Shanley-Johnson, alleging sexual misconduct.

According to the document, Shanley-Johnson was employed at an out-patient clinic providing chemical dependency treatment. “Client A” began court-ordered chemical dependency treatment at the clinic in early 2007, as a condition of a receiving a deferred prosecution on a DUI charge.

After “A” left the clinic in April 2008, Shanley-Johnson met him socially and their relationship soon included sexual contact and she continued their sexual relationship until December 2008.

Source: Statement of Charges In the Matter of Kelly S. Shanley-Johnson, Credential No. RC00058575, Case No. M2009-980, State of Washington Department of Health, February 5, 2010.