It was classic courtroom drama in Albemarle County District Court Wednesday as accusers spent hours detailing their experiences with a doctor charged of sexual assault while his attorneys worked hard to undermine their credibility.
Dr. Mark Hormuz Dean was arrested in January 2018 after being accused of sexual assault by several women who were his patients at Albemarle Pain Management Associates. The assaults were reported to have happened between 2011 and 2017.
The cases have been separated, meaning Dean will likely face multiple trials.
In his first trial, Dean is facing a single count of object sexual penetration stemming from a May 2017 interaction with one of his female patients.
The bulk of Wednesday’s hearing centered around the accuser as she tearfully recounted her experiences and fended off accusations of inconsistent statements from the defense.
According to the accuser, identified by the initials ES, she visited Dean as part of a treatment for hip pain from a workplace injury. After being taken alone into his exam room, ES said the defendant closed the door and proceeded to examine her hips. He pulled down her leggings and underwear and penetrated her with his fingers.
“I wasn’t thinking anything, my mind just went blank and I froze,” she said. “I asked him to stop and he covered my mouth and said ‘shhhh.’”
After he stopped, ES said she tried to leave but was stopped by Dean who pinned her against the wall and kissed her. She said he grabbed her hand and moved it to his crotch so she was forced to feel his erection through his pants.
After leaving the office, ES said Dean took her to the medical office’s checkout where she was set up for another appointment. She said she kept the second appointment, along with two others, because she said she felt like she had to in order to be cleared to return to work and because Dean’s medical treatments were effective.
“He was a good doctor. He was the one who found my injuries and figured out how to treat them,” ES said. “I had seen lots of over doctors and no one else took me seriously.”
She kept her story to herself for years in a bid to protect her family from the scrutiny and attention directed at sexual assault accusers. However, ES said that when negative feelings built up and in the fall of 2020, she told her husband and then went to the police, eventually deciding to pursue criminal action.
Much of the defense cross-examination focused on ES’s statements to the police, which were made in November 2020, years after the alleged assault. Dean’s attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, pointed to various differences between ES’s initial statement and her second one, made a couple weeks later.
In her initial statement, ES told an Albemarle County detective that she had not returned to Dean’s office after the assault.
“You said that for a reason, didn’t you?” Quagliana questioned. “You said that because it doesn’t make sense for you to go back, didn’t you? Because it doesn’t make sense to return to a doctor who you claim violently assaulted you.”
ES denied the accusation. She said she had largely blocked her return visits from her memory, only returning because she felt that she had to and always with a companion. As she stopped actively repressing her experiences with Dean, ES said other memories returned, thanks largely to their proximity to other notable experiences.
“I don’t remember all of my appointments from five years ago, but I think we all remember major events,” she said. “I can clearly remember the assault.”
A second accuser, AS, also testified Wednesday. Dean is not facing any charges in this trial related to AS’s experiences. The prosecution’s questions compared the women’s experiences.
Each woman testified that they do not know the other and do not know anything about each other’s claims.
AS said she began seeing Dean in 2017 after a different pain management physician was unable to help her with her back and neck pains. Like ES, AS said Dean was a good doctor and that the treatments and medication he prescribed helped her pain improve.
During a September 2017 visit, AS said she entered Dean’s exam room alone. He motioned to her pants and asked “May I?” Assuming he was going to perform a physical exam, AS said she nodded and Dean proceeded to penetrate her with his fingers and without her consent.
“I was shocked and embarrassed and I didn’t know what to do so I didn’t do anything. I just froze,” AS said. “I looked at him and he was staring at the wall and that was when I knew this wasn’t about me.”
AS said Dean made various lewd and suggestive statements to her before telling her that the pain medication she was prescribed was a privilege. She said she took this to be a threat that he would take away her prescription if she told anyone what happened.
As a former drug addict, AS said she knew it would be difficult to find another doctor willing to prescribe her medication and that people would be more likely to believe a doctor than her. Like ES, AS also returned to Dean several times and claimed that on one occasion he made advances on her that she was able to rebuff.
AS came forward in January 2018 after news reports of other women accusing Dean of sexual assault. Details of those other cases were not presented to the jury Wednesday.
Quagliana spent more than an hour examining AS’s various statements to police in great detail in an effort to get the accuser to explain why her testimony differed from earlier stories. The exchange was occasionally combative as the witness and attorney clashed over phrasing, timelines and AS’s reasons for returning to Dean.
A sticking point for Quagliana was a civil lawsuit filed by AS in 2019 that initially sought $2.5 million from Dean before being amended to seek $5 million. According to a document from a personal injury law firm, AS first began seeking this lawsuit in January 2018, soon after she approached the police with her story.
Quagliana asked AS why she filed this lawsuit and if she knew that a criminal conviction might strengthen her case against Dean. AS denied this narrative but did admit that she sought to gain financially from her experiences with Dean, which as detailed in the lawsuit, include several other instances of sexual misconduct.
“I figured if he can’t say sorry or take his hands out of my pants then the only thing he could do is give me money,” AS said.
AS was also presented with text message exchanges with her son in which she promised he would never “want for anything” if she won her lawsuit against Dean.
Dean’s trial is expected to resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday and could stretch past its five-day scheduled timeline.