Island eye doctor, surgeon pleads guilty to 9 counts of indecent liberties - Agrees to surrender medical license, register as a sex offender

By Ruth Longoria

You can still find his name listed on the Internet as one of Seattle Magazine's ``top doctors,'' but Mercer Island resident Richard Toby Sutcliffe won't be practicing medicine anymore.

The 51-year-old Seattle eye doctor and plastic surgeon agreed to permanently surrender his medical license when he pleaded guilty Tuesday, July 19, in King County Superior Court to nine counts of indecent liberties. Through the plea agreement, Sutcliffe also must register as a sex offender, continue psychiatric treatment, and have no contact with his previous patients who accused him of improperly touching them.

In accordance with the plea agreement, and the prosecutor's recommendation, Sutcliffe is expected to serve two years of community service through the King County Work/Education Release program, where he will be in jail on weekends and evenings.

Sutcliffe, who has practiced medicine in the state of Washington since 1983, maintains he is innocent of the charges. He agreed to plead guilty because, as he said in the court records, there was a strong probability that some, if not all, of the nine felony charges and one misdemeanor charge would lead to a conviction. ``I think there is a likelihood that I could be convicted of at least one, if not more of these offenses.''

If convicted, each felony charge could have held a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The charges stemmed from allegations beginning in 2000, of sexual contact between Sutcliffe and some of his female patients. The allegations came to light through the media in April, 2003, according to a court documented statement by Det. Debra Brown of the Seattle Police Department. Shortly after the media exposure, Brown was contacted by additional women who said Sutcliffe touched their breasts and other parts of their bodies during and after surgeries and office appointments.

Allegations also surfaced from an anesthesiologist who said she witnessed Sutcliffe touch the breasts of four female patients during surgeries on May 20, 2002. The incidents were alleged to have occurred at Sutcliffe's office, 1229 Madison St. Suite 1190, in Seattle.

After an investigation, the state Department of Health Medical Quality Assurance Commission charged Sutcliffe with unprofessional contact with patients and ordered him to stop seeing female patients. He was previously scheduled to have a hearing with the state in Sept. 2005 concerning his medical license.

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