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Surgeon receives maximum sentence
By Noel S. Brady
Reprinted from the King County Journal An eye surgeon from Mercer Island was sentenced to two years in jail and permanently lost his medical license Friday for groping his patients. Richard Toby Sutcliffe, 51, declined an opportunity to speak for himself at his sentencing hearing. After pleading guilty to nine counts of indecent liberties and one count of fourth degree assault, he received the maximum sentence.
Sutcliffe was arrested and charged in May 2004 after 10 women, all his patients, reported to the Health Department and then to police that their doctor repeatedly had commented on their weight and appearance and chatted with them about sex.
At least eight of the women said Sutcliffe touched their breasts, thighs, stomach or pelvic area while they were conscious in his office or under varying degrees of anesthesia.
Each of the offenses occurred in Sutcliffe's Madison Street office in Seattle between November 2000 and January 2003, prosecutors said. "On our first meeting he violated my boundaries and touched me in an unprofessional way," said one of Sutcliffe's victims, identified only as Stephanie. "He victimizes people who are in no position to defend themselves." Before a courtroom full of Sutcliffe supporters and victims, another woman said the doctor touched her while she was under anesthesia. "I was immobilized by anesthesia but alert enough to feel Dr. Sutcliffe assault me," she said. "I forgive Dr. Sutcliffe for the attack. I cannot forgive his lack of compassion for his victims." Her statement referred to Sutcliffe's decision to use an alternative Alford plea of guilt. That means that while he denies committing the crimes, he agrees that a jury likely would find him guilty if he went to trial. The plea has all the legal ramifications of a regular guilty plea. Judge Bruce Hilyer granted a joint recommendation by prosecutors and the defense to allow Sutcliffe to serve his time in the King County Jail on work release. He will be allowed to go to work each day for a company that produces medical equipment, but he must return to jail after work and for the weekends.
In addition to having his medical license permanently revoked, Sutcliffe also must register as a sex offender and serve three years on probation after he completes his jail time.
Sutcliffe was ordered to report to jail Friday evening.