GUILTY: Jury Convicts Former Casper Doctor On 2 Sexual Assault Counts
UPDATE: A jury on Friday found a former Casper doctor guilty of two counts of second-degree sexual assault committed against two different patients.
Each conviction is punishable by at least two years of imprisonment.
The jury, which deliberated for about six hours, acquitted obstetrician/gynecologist Paul Harnetty on five other counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree sexual assault after the five-day trial in Natrona County District Court.
Natrona County Clerk of Court Gen Tuma read the verdict, and Judge Thomas Sullins thanked the jury for its service and dismissed the six men and six women.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Schafer requested, and Sulllins agreed that Harnetty should be held in jail without bond until his sentencing, which probably will be in about three months.
Harnetty's defense attorneys Don Fuller and John Miner objected, saying he has been free on $50,000 bond, has appeared for all scheduled court appearances except one, and was convicted on only two of 10 original counts.
But Sullins expressed concerns that Harnetty poses a flight risk and may be a threat to public safety if he is released.
Likewise, the judge noted findings from an October hearing about prior bad acts not related to this case. They included sexually harassing nurses who worked for him, other instances of improper sexual contact with patients such as anally penetrating women giving birth, and inappropriate sexual while he was practicing medicine in Georgia.
Harnetty, Sullins added, is still scheduled to appear in district court on Feb. 16 for a one-day bench trial on a steroid drug possession charge.
Sullins ordered sheriff's deputies to take Harnetty into custody.
Meanwhile, the courtroom was filled with victims and their friends.
Some appeared dismayed when "not guilty" verdicts were read for the first five counts of second-degree sexual assault.
But the victims and their friends began crying when the "guilty" verdicts were read for the two counts involving two different women. The sole third-degree sexual assault count resulted in a "not guilty" verdict.
One of the patients Harnetty assaulted said after the verdict said justice was done.
"He's not above the law," she said.
"These cases are harder to try and harder to prove; he has an ego bigger than the universe," she said. "We can all sleep safer at night."
This woman said the result shows Casper that justice can happen regardless of social standing and money.
"I hope that this shows other women that if something's happened to you, even if it's by the most powerful person in the city, you can come forward and justice can still be done," she said. "And they can be held to the standards of the law like everybody else, because at the end of the day they are like everybody else."
Assistant District Attorney Mike Schafer said the outcome was bittersweet.
"Well, we're very disappointed in regard to the victims on the counts that weren't convicted," Schafer said.
"But we're also very pleased in the two counts of second-degree sexual assault involving two different victims," he said. "That's very substantial, especially the efforts in regards to prosecuting a doctor."
Schafer also praised the work of Casper Police Detective Sara Nelson in her investigation with interviewing more than 100 witnesses, he said. "Without her, we wouldn't have been successful in this case."
Fuller said he has great respect for the jury, which acquitted Harnetty of six of the eight charges.
Earlier Friday, Taheri said in his closing argument that six women entered a courtroom in the Natrona County Courthouse this week to tell their stories of alleged sexual assault by a former Casper doctor.
"They had prior exams, but these were different," Taheri said to the jury.
The remarks by Taheri and Harnetty's defense attorney Don Fuller were the last comments the jury heard before they filed out to begin their deliberations shortly after noon.
Harnetty was charged with seven counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree sexual assault. Two other counts were dismissed Thursday. If convicted on all counts he could face at least 14 years of imprisonment.
The case began in October 2015 when police received a report of three women who claimed Harnetty conducted himself inappropriately when he spoke to and examined some of them, according to court records. Three more women later came forward and reported similar, according to court records.
Taheri said the exams these women endured were not medical, but were for Harnetty's sexual gratification and for that he deserved a guilty verdict.
Every crime requires intent, he added.
The jurors can't read Harnetty's mind, but Taheri said they can consider circumstances that reveal intent. Alleged victims said he sometimes did not wear gloves during internal exams, and one time inserted two fingers in a patient's anus because he, "'just wanted to see the look on your face.'"
Likewise, Taheri said the law says this crime falls under a category in which the perpetrator must hold some position of authority or influence over a victim.
But Fuller responded these cases are so difficult, because the intrusion has already occurred in ob/gyn exams. "Now to convict, all they have to says it 'that's sexual.'"
The defense is dealing with more than this specific case, Fuller said.
"We're fighting a system," he said. "Your job is to protect him, to protect him as a citizen of the Constitution."
Fuller urged the jurors to keep an open mind, especially because many studies have shown jurors often make up their minds before the final evidence is submitted.
Two witnesses for the defense, he said, were nurses who worked with Harnetty in thousands of exams and they never once saw the alleged behavior of him not wearing gloves or rubbing patients' clitorises for gratification.
Fuller also faulted the work of the initial Casper Police detective who worked the case, saying the detective urged the initial complainants to find other victims to build a stronger case.
He then reviewed the claims of each of the alleged victims and witnesses, calling them "girls." Some of them changed their stories from their initial reports to later interviews with detectives, some witnesses were not credible, and some patients' complaints centered on Harnetty not communicating well with them.
Finally, the patients were not under the authority of Harnetty like children are under the authority of parents because patients voluntarily called to make appointments, Fuller said.
Fuller pleaded with them to acquit Harnetty. "I've tried to save him. I need your help.
Taheri pleaded for the jury to convict.
"We know you'll do your best to find the truth in the jury room," he said.