Doctor Abuse Case Continues to Grow Cops Says 20 More Cite Sex Misconduct
By Edwin Garcia
San Jose Mercury News
October 8, 1996
(NAME REMOVED), 17, hastily put on her clothes and darted from the doctor's office, tears streaming down her blue eyes.
She had wanted Dr. Roger Mason Levin to treat her chronic abdominal cramps. Instead, she said, the Palo Alto internist gave her a lengthy rectal exam, insisted on a pelvic exam, then touched her breasts and squeezed her nipples while "telling me how pretty my eyes were."
(NAME REMOVED)'s mother shouted "Oh my God!" upon hearing her daughter's ordeal in October 1993; she suddenly recalled her own, similar appointment 14 years earlier. With the same doctor.
Their complaints, along with others in police reports and court documents, led to the loss of Levin's medical license and the criminal in vestigation that resulted in his Sept. 6 arrest.
Since then, according to police, at least 20 alleged victims have come forward with stories of sexual abuse by Levin that go back more than 20 years. Still, the case against Levin continues to grow, with possibly hundreds of victims, said Palo Alto police Detective Michael Yore.
Levin, 51, of Menlo Park, is free on bail, waiting to enter a plea Friday on eight felony and misdemeanor counts, including charges that he prescribed narcotics when there was no medical need. Through his attorneys, he declined requests for interviews. Levin's attorneys have told police that drugs were stolen from his client's office, Yore said. The attorneys also said, in an interview shortly after Levin's arrest, that Levin merely was accused of possessing child pornography, a felony, not distributing it.
In interviews with the Mercury News and in court statements, a handful of his alleged victims said they kept silent when they should have complained about Levin. Some of these witnesses said they feared no one would believe them; they were frightened that Levin would blackmail them with photographs he secretly took of them naked. Some feared his attorneys and, according to court documents, at least one woman reportedly filed a report around 1975, but Palo Alto police
discouraged her from pursuing the complaint "because Levin was a respected physician."
Faced at least 3 lawsuits
Court records show Levin has faced at least three lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct against women and children since the 1980s, including a former assistant in his Cowper Street office. Other alleged victims told investigators years after being abused that Levin settled their claims before lawsuits were filed.
"His medical license has given him access to people's bodies, their private lives, all of which he penetrates and violates," one victim told the Mercury News. "The license has not only enabled him, but protected him."
Some, like (NAME REMOVED), are eager to testify against Levin, in part because of the outcome of a previous investigation that some say failed to punish him. In 1987, Levin was arrested on suspicion of felony child molestation, including charges that he inserted his finger in boys' rectums. His attorneys negotiated a plea bargain that reduced the charges to a single misdemeanor. He served a work-furlough sentence, and the medical board took no action.
"I just want to make sure this time he lands his butt in jail for the rest of his life," said (Name Removed), 20, who is now married.
Another is a 21-year-old woman who is suing Levin and asking for the doctor to pay for long-term therapy. (NAME REMOVED) is not related to the doctor, but in his quest to manipulation, she said, he urged her to legally change her name.
(NAME REMOVED) met Dr. Levin when she was 19 and he was 49. She claimed the doctor invited her to live with him immediately after her release from a psychiatric hospital. Her suit, scheduled for trial next month, claims Levin got her hooked on drugs and forced her to abort two pregnancies.
After one abortion, according to an investigator's report, Levin had her handle the dismembered body of the fetus.
Her attorney, John Winer of San Francisco, said (NAME REMOVED) was perfect prey for the doctor - attractive, young, fragile, from a broken home and with low self-esteem. She was needy.
(NAME REMOVED) is one of few people who claimed to have seen a private room in his house. The room was "knee deep" with everything from pictures of autopsies to obscene videotapes of children. Yore said police seized computers containing child pornography from the same room. She left him after an emotional breakdown.
One former patient came forward to Palo Alto police to say that she'd been fondled by Levin during an exam 23 years earlier, when the doctor was in a medical practice on Welch Road.
"He was a nice guy," said the woman, who asked that she not be identified. "He paid attention to me; he was very charming, and I was a very lonely 16-year-old girl." Levin would take her to lunch, and even drive her home after appointments.
But then it happened: Levin ordered his nurse to take a lunch break, then he
allegedly fondled the girl's breasts.
The girl told her mother about "strange things going on at the doctor's office," but she wasn't specific. And she didn't tell authorities until she heard of Levin's arrest last month.
"It blew my mind. I thought I was the only one," she said. Her case may or may not hold up in criminal court, depending on how many other victims police find within the three-year statute of limitations.
Police claim pattern
Still, police and prosecutors could use her allegations and those of other victims who have yet to come forward in an attempt to show a pattern they contend Levin established.
Levin's sexual misconduct started well before his medical career, according to court documents.
As a youngster, he placed obscene phone calls, according to a statement filed by his ex-wife in court documents. After graduating from medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, he enrolled in a dermatology residency at Stanford University. But he was thrown out before its completion for taking "inappropriate pictures," according to court documents.
Another former patient, a local health-field professional who requested anonymity, said she wondered about Levin's motivations when she saw him for a physical checkup and he commented on her perfume.
Indeed, court records allege that Levin wrote information about patients' perfume in their medical records.
The former patient's husband, and her father-in-law, told of unusual anecdotes when treated by the same doctor. On separate occasions, after examining them, Levin allegedly said to each: "The good news is, you don't havesyphilis or gonorrhea."
Levin became the subject of a police investigation in February after he reported a robber bolted into his office and held him at gunpoint. Nobody was injured and only petty cash was taken. But during the investigation, police bumped into a medical board investigator looking into sex and drug allegations,
The formal accusation that suspended Levin's license, culminating a two-year
investigation, was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on July 31.
The reported robbery remains unsolved.
Earlier this year, with investigators closing in, Levin hired a psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Levy, to perform an evaluation.
Levy concluded Levin suffered from depression and had become incompetent to practice medicine, according to a summary of Levy's report filed in court. The summary did not specify which, if either of the two traumatic events, were affecting Levin the most: the robbery or the investigation.
Levin offered to surrender the license. The medical board moved to suspend it.
Levin's license will be invalid until he requests a hearing, Deputy Attorney General Ronald Thunen Jr. said. The board could then move to have Levin's license revoked, or Levin could request it be reissued.
Levin likely will await the outcome of his criminal case before deciding whether to request the hearing.
In a June 23 letter he sent to patients, Levin said: "I regret to inform you that I will be discontinuing the practice of internal medicine for the foreseeable future, although I eventually hope to return."