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Therapist found guilty of sexually assaulting Marlington student

Ed Balint The Repository
Source: Canton Rep

John Sohar, 52, of Lexington Township, reacts to a guilty verdict late Friday afternoon in his sexual battery trial in Stark County Common Pleas Court. Jurors convicted Sohar of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in his job as a school-based therapist at Marlington High in 2019.
Source: Canton Rep
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

CANTON John Sohar bowed his head in visible anguish when he learned jurors had found him guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl during his job as a school-based therapist at Marlington High last year. 

A jury of seven women and five men took roughly 90 minutes to reach the verdict late Friday afternoon on a third-degree felony count of sexual battery.

The charge stemmed from sexual touching and conduct the student said occurred during multiple counseling sessions at the school office Sohar kept while employed as a counselor for an outside agency.

The girl, huddled in the back of the courtroom, and her parents shared hugs and expressed quiet emotion following the verdict in Stark County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Chryssa Hartnett scheduled Sohar’s sentencing for 11 a.m. Tuesday. The 52-year-old Lexington Township man faces up to five years in prison.

Testimony ended earlier Friday with Sohar repeatedly denying he sexually assaulted the girl or convinced her the sexual conduct was part of her therapy.

Defendant’s words

Sohar testified his frequent and sometimes two to three-hour counseling sessions and repeated text messages and phone calls with the girl were an effort to help her cope with depression and mental health issues and not hurt herself.

Sohar’s testimony, coming the day after his accuser took the witness stand, preceded closing arguments.

“My goal was always the same,” Sohar said. “To keep my clients alive.”

And under intense questioning from Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Petricini, Sohar continued his denials.

Petricini had told jurors Thursday that Sohar manipulated a “lonely teenage girl” who had become infatuated with him. 

The girl had pre-existing mental health issues and a strained relationship with her mother prior to enrolling in therapy, he said during closing arguments Friday.

Petricini asked Sohar if it was proper for a therapist to exchange more than 300 text messages over the course of three days with a student client outside of their regular therapy sessions.

The defendant admitted he communicated with the girl “above and beyond” what he did with other patients.

Closing arguments

Following Sohar’s denials, the prosecution and defense made impassioned arguments to jurors.

Citing the earlier testimony of Carrie Schnirring, a mental health professional with Lighthouse Family Center, Petricini said the girl’s testimony was convincing because of details unique to the sexual abuse from Sohar.

Petricini called Schnirring as a witness in making pyschological asessments of children who make allegations of sex abuse. 

He said the details and sequence of events were consistently told by the girl multiple times and were not “the things you would expect from someone making up a story.”

Schnirring testified Friday that following multiple sessions with the girl, she found her account to be credible.

Petricini said that during her testimony on Thursday the girl sometimes took deep breaths, closed her eyes and paused to recall details of the sex abuse as if she was reliving it in her mind.

Petricini said the girl’s testimony, phone call and text records and Schnirring’s testimony combined to give jurors ample evidence to convict.

Defense attorney George Urban, however, told jurors Sohar was a professional, dedicated and caring therapist who didn’t stop trying to help the girl when regular therapy sessions were over.

Urban emphasized the student had twice become upset when Sohar stopped being her therapist, referring to it as “detachment.”

And although the prosecution cited records of more than 300 text messages between the student and Sohar over the course of a few days, Urban said that only about 10 or 12 texts were produced at trial through cellphone screen photos the mother had taken.

“He’s no groomer,” Urban said of Sohar. “He’s trying to help this young girl. As repayment for that — here we are.”

Prosecution questioning

Sohar was not an employee of the Marlington district; at the time of the allegations in the fall of 2019, he was an employee of Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, also referred to during testimony as Child & Adolescent Services.

Asked by Urban about the amount of time he spent texting and talking on the phone with the student outside of scheduled counseling sessions, Sohar responded: “It’s difficult to put a timeline on trying to save someone’s life.”

During testimony, he usually spoke in a firm, direct voice but displayed visible emotion when telling his attorney that three of his clients over the years had committed suicide.

In October 2019, the girl wrote a 12-page letter in which she described Sohar’s sexual misconduct, prompting an investigation by the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.

The girl had given the letter to Sohar at school in front of another counselor, according to testimony. Petricini told the defendant that Sohar had turned over the letter only because the school employee inquired about it.

Sohar denied that was the case.

Urban said in the letter the girl sought revenge because she didn’t want Sohar to stop being her counselor permanently. “She wanted to zing Mr. Sohar,” he said in closing arguments. “This was her way.”

Petricini said that Schnirring found the letter not to be written by someone seeking revenge.

“She blames herself,” the assistant prosecutor said, referring to the writings in the pages of her school notebook as a love letter from a girl infatuated with the adult counselor. “This is a cry for help,” he said.

Petricini told jurors Sohar clearly groomed the girl for his own sexual gratification, playing on her vulnerabilities, gaining her trust and pitting the teenager and mother against one another.

He cited the girl’s testimony of how Sohar began by rubbing her shoulders during a therapy session before fondling and sexually assaulting her at later appointments.

More testimony

Under direct questioning, Sohar described the girl’s letter as “the ramblings of someone with some serious mental health issues.”

He also said he still wanted the girl to receive the mental health help she needed.

The student also testified on Thursday that she had seen two tattoos on Sohar’s body during therapy, a cross on his chest and song lyrics on his stomach area.

The defendant said on Friday that his tattoos would have been known to some of his clients, including high school students.

Petricini countered that the defendant’s explanation was not believable, calling it “totally inappropriate to talk about your body tattoos to relate to your teenage clients.”

Also during his testimony Friday, when explaining his educational background and employment history in counseling, Sohar noted that in addition to having a degree in pastoral counseling, he’s a former councilman and mayor of the village of Marshallville in Wayne County.

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and ebalint@gannett.com

On Twitter @ebaintREP

Would you recognize healthcare abuse and fraud when you see it? What does it look like? What should you do?

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Immigrant Women File Lawsuit Against ICE And Georgia Doctor Alleging Medical Abuse

WOMEN 12/22/2020 03:24 pm ET 
Updated Dec 23, 2020
Source: Huff Post

More than 30 women say they were subject to non-consensual invasive medical procedures.

headshot
By Rowaida Abdelaziz
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

We have people who love us and are waiting on us, is a comment we have often heard from those who have suffered medical abuse, negligence and violence while under forced medical care. After being given a cocktail of medications this particular female patient woke stripped down to her undergarments in the middle of the night with no answers or explanations for medical professionals who seem unconcerned and remove from her situation.

By Rowaida Abdelaziz

More than 30 women filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday against a Georgia gynecologist and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, alleging they were subject to medical abuse and retaliation while in ICE custody.

The women, all of whom were detained at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, allege they underwent non-consensual invasive procedures ― including hysterectomies, birth control shots, and medically unindicated gynecological procedures that amounted to sexual assault ― at the hands of Dr. Mahendra Amin, who was working as an obstetrician-gynecologist authorized by ICE to provide medical services to detainees. The immigrant women also accuse ICE and LaSalle Corrections employees of retaliating against them for speaking out against Amin. (LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company, operates the detention center.)

Amin’s lawyer, who did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, has previously denied any wrongdoing on behalf of his client. An ICE spokesperson told HuffPost that they could not comment on pending litigation but that the agency was “fully cooperating” with the investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

The women filed the 160-page complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia with the help of several organizations and law firms including the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Atlanta’s Dreyer Sterling, and New York’s Morningside Heights Legal Services.

“We are seeking an immediate end to the egregious retaliation against the women who spoke out against the abuse, release of the women who have suffered medical abuse, and compensation for the harms that the survivors suffered,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director at Atlanta-based Project South and co-counsel on the lawsuit. “It is high time for this facility rife with human rights violations to be shut down and for ICE and LaSalle to be held accountable.”

News of ICE detainees receiving unwanted and unnecessary hysterectomies first came out in September after a nurse blew the whistle. More detained women have since spoken out to say they endured medical neglect or were forced to undergo surgeries performed by Amin that they never approved of. An independent inquiry by a team of medical experts in October uncovered a troubling pattern of incorrect diagnoses and failure to secure informed consent for medical surgeries on detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center.

The immigrant women included in Monday’s suit came from a range of countries including Mexico, Bolivia, Senegal and Kenya. Some of the women have since been released while others have been deported. Last month, the Trump administration agreed to freeze the deportations of the women who alleged abuse at the Georgia facility.

In the complaint, women say they faced a range of retaliatory actions after speaking out against Amin, including physical assault, solitary confinement, loss of money from their commissary accounts, limited access to phones, and delayed delivery of medications and medical records. 

At a virtual press conference on Tuesday hosted by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, one of the accounts of abuse came from Elizabeth, a 21-year-old detainee who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and has lived in the U.S. since she was brought to the country at 8 years old. (She is being identified solely by her middle name due to sensitive details of her story.) Elizabeth alleged that she did not receive a six-week postpartum checkup after giving birth and that she sought medical help after experiencing pain. ICE sent her to Amin.

Upon arrival at her appointment, Elizabeth said that she was handcuffed and shackled at her ankles and waist. She alleged that Amin conducted a vaginal ultrasound and gave her a Depo-Provera birth control shot without explaining the procedures. She said that she only found out what the shot entailed after speaking to another immigrant who had received the same shot and that she did not consent to receiving the birth control.

“I just feel like I have no control over my body anymore,” Elizabeth said.

At the doctor’s office, she said she was forced to sign paperwork that she never had the chance to read. And following the visit, she said she bled for two months, gained 15 pounds and was frequently depressed.

“The people that we trust, the medical staff that is here, we can’t trust them anymore,” she said. “We don’t know what they are doing with our bodies.”

Elizabeth said she hopes to receive justice for the medical mistreatment and to be released from the detention center while she pursues her immigration case to stay in the U.S. The young mother couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving and will likely miss out on celebrating Christmas with her newborn daughter. 

“We have kids. We have people that love us that are waiting for us,” she said.

Out of greed or wrath many so called medical professionals commit atrocities to ‘patients’ often never explaining what they have done to their bodies. These people often suffer years with unexplained illnesses. These ‘medical professionals’ following them with no more permission than they had the first time. Looking for bodies they can commit their atrocities to, not to mention the required informed consent — by true medical professionals. They often attempt to cover their tracks by using prisoners, immigrants, fraud, mis-diagnosis, mis-informing, harassing, post voluntary election into medical trails along with many other methods and means. What should be done? What other populations do thee doctors exploit? What other methods and means have you seen?

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Faculty voice: Advocating for human bodies

Dec. 8, 2020
Source: MSU (Michigan State University) Today

Monir Moniruzzaman
Source: MSU (Michigan State University) Today
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Monir Moniruzzaman is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Social Science. His research examines human organ trafficking within the black market, and how to combat this human rights violation. This story is repurposed from the College of Social Science website It was a lifelong goal of mine to become an anthropologist. My bachelor’s and master’s degrees are also in anthropology. When I was a master’s student, I read an article about the global market of human organ trafficking, which is the buying and selling of human body parts on the black market. Before I read that article, I had never thought that such kind of dehumanization and exploitation could happen in human history. I couldn’t believe it. So, I decided to do my Ph.D. in medical anthropology, and write my dissertation on human organ trafficking. I’ve been doing this work for nearly two decades, and I’ve established myself as one of the experts in this field.

As a Ph.D. student, I went to Bangladesh and conducted yearlong ethnographic fieldwork to investigate the illicit trade in human organs, including kidneys, livers and corneas. Before doing my fieldwork, I found that a handful of research came out about the recipients of these organs, most of whom lived in the West. But I wanted to look at the other side of the story — people who are selling their body parts. Who they are, what is the process of selling an organ and how they are living in their damaged bodies. I was drawn into that.

For the first four months, I couldn’t find anyone to talk to. Not even doctors or recipients involved in the trade would disclose who sold them the organs. The sellers were extremely hidden. 

I tried talking to four organ brokers, which was very risky. I was being followed, and I couldn’t go outside after dark. It was a frightening experience. However, with one broker’s help, I was able to interview 33 kidney sellers who sold their kidneys on the black market. These are live people, not cadavers. I learned from them what kind of deception, manipulation, coercion and breach of consent led them to make such a decision.

The brokers basically entrap them, promising them a large amount of money (which they never get in the end),  and lure them in with a story about the “sleeping kidney.” This is a common lie told by brokers, that one kidney sleeps while the other one works, so in the operating room, the doctor can turn on the sleeping kidney and give the other one to another patient who needs one. The brokers present it as a win-win, no-risk situation and a noble way to help other people.

The kidney was the first organ that doctors started performing because the human body has two. That’s why kidneys became the dominant organ we can see in the black market. Recently, however, I published an article about liver trading, as a lobe of liver can be cut off and be transplanted into another body. For that article, I talked to two liver sellers.

They are both young people, still in their twenties. One didn’t know what “liver” meant in English, nor its function in the body. The operation took 20 hours, and he doesn’t have enough money to pay off his post-operative care, and his body doesn’t allow him to do any physically demanding jobs. So, he’s living much worse than before.

I also found that there are cornea sales. I talked to one woman who wanted to sell her cornea because she says she doesn’t need two eyes to see the world. She’s a single mother and works as a housemaid, so she wants to sell a part of her eye to get by. 

I believe that academia is not just for knowledge production: We need to translate our work to enact meaningful changes. For example, I am a member of a task force on organ transplantation at the World Health Organization. We monitor the situation and try to combat this practice worldwide. I was invited by the Vatican and we crafted a resolution that was signed by Pope Francis and distributed around the world. I also gave a talk to the U.S. Congress Human Rights Commission and U.S. Senate Foreign Relation Committee. It’s challenging to curb such an egregious human rights violation. It’s not going to happen overnight, but persistent work can improve the situation.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all humans on this planet are entitled to certain necessities to live, such as food, water, shelter… We have made some progress towards political rights, but if you look at economic rights, we have failed completely. Most people in the world live in poverty and 10% of world populations live on less than $2 a day or in constant hunger. This has some tragic consequences and that led to human organ trafficking around the world.

We cannot live in a world where human bodies are bought and sold on the market place. It’s dehumanizing, like slavery. As economic inequality increases at an unprecedented level, including in the United States, we cannot create a world where certain populations need to sell their body parts for their physical survival. The poor have every right to keep their body parts intact. In this context, we must think of human rights as bodily rights as well.

Media Contacts

Liz Schondelmayer

The reality of the situation is that not everyone sales their organs voluntarily some organs are stolen and others agree to sell their organs, sharing horror stories of waking up in a tub of ice. While others who do decide to sale their organs wake up to everyone missing and no pay. In some cases perfectly health organs are stolen out of patients bodies in the midst of medical fraud. What should be done to address this market and fraud? Why? Why not?

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‘Must raise voice against forced organ harvesting’

Rasika Bhale MUMBAI
NOVEMBER 04, 2019 01:35 IST
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 04, 2019 01:35 IST

Dr. Torsten Trey at the Mother Teresa Memorial Awards for Social Justice in Mumbai on Sunday.  

Winner of social justice award asks world to take a stand

An organisation that has been fearlessly highlighting the forced organ harvesting in China has been conferred with this year’s Mother Teresa Memorial Awards for Social Justice. The award was presented to Dr. Torsten Trey, founder, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), in Mumbai on Sunday.

Other winners of the award included Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan; Hasina Khabhih, founder of a non-profit organisation called Impulse; and Rob Williams, CEO of an NGO called War Child, U.K.

DAFOH has been working to create awareness on organ trafficking, primarily about mass killings for organ harvesting. Founded in 2006, DAFOH is a network of independent doctors across the globe. It has been raising its voice against the brutal practice of forced organ harvesting in China, which targets a religious minority called Falun Gong. The community follows the teachings of Master Li Hongzhi, who emphasised on meditation and self-cultivation for spiritual perfection.

‘Tortured minority’

“The Chinese government has been involved in mass persecution of the members of Falun Gong for over two decades. It has deemed them as a superstitious foreign-driven dangerous group of people and sent them to labour camps where they are starved, tortured, brainwashed and made targets of organ harvesting,” Dr. Trey told The Hindu.

Speaking about the origin of DAFOH, he said, “It was in 2006 that I came across the organ trafficking in the Falun Gong community. It was horrible. I was shaken and felt the need to do something. It was then that I came up with DAFOH. I received tremendous support from the medical community.”

DAFOH has a strong network of doctors in Taiwan from where it garners statistical information on forced organ harvesting in China. “The government says that around 10,000-15,000 organ transplants occur every year. However, according to a team of on-field researchers, the number is as high as 60,000. Meanwhile, the estimate for legal organ donations in the country is as less as 130 in six years,” he said.

‘Raise a voice’

Dr. Trey believes that people across the world should raise a voice against this. “It should concern you as a citizen of the world. If we just sit and watch it happen, saying it’s not my country, we are all being complicit in the crime. We need a shift in our thinking. We should discuss it and create awareness to bring about a change.”

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From diseased to transgenders there are several people with interest in organs. In the midst of a pandemic where many people’s loved one have died in the hospital alone, gives organ harvesting, theft and over all black market a close look. How can minority communities be protected? How does organ harvesting happen right here in the United States?

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