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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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McKinsey to pay $573 million to settle claims over opioid crisis role: source

FEBRUARY 3, 20218:33 PM
By Nate Raymond
Source: Reuters

(Reuters) – Consulting firm McKinsey & Co has agreed to pay at least $573 million to resolve claims by 40-plus U.S. states related to its role in the opioid epidemic and advice it gave to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, according to a person familiar with the matter.Slideshow ( 2 images )

The settlement is with 43 states, the District of Columbia and three territories, the person said on Wednesday. Several attorneys general said they planned announcements on the opioid epidemic on Thursday.

They included Vermont’s attorney general, T.J. Donovan, whose office said it would announce its participation in the first multi-state opioid settlement “to result in substantial payment to the states to address the epidemic.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he had reached a separate, $13 million settlement with McKinsey that was on top of the reported multi-state agreement.

McKinsey did not respond to requests for comment.

McKinsey previously came under scrutiny for its role advising Purdue Pharma and the wealth Sackler family that owns the drugmaker.

A lawsuit by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleged McKinsey advised the Sacklers on how to “turbocharge” opioid sales.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 as part of a proposed settlement it valued at $10 billion to resolve lawsuits alleging its painkiller marketing helped fuel the epidemic.

More than 3,200 lawsuits are pending, seeking to hold drug makers, distributors and pharmacies responsible for an opioid addiction epidemic that according to U.S. government data resulted in 450,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2018.

The lawsuits accuse drugmakers of deceptively marketing opioids and distributors of ignoring red flags indicating the prescription painkillers were being diverted for improper uses. They deny wrongdoing.

The states and local governments have been also in negotiations for settlements with drug distributors Cardinal Health Inc, McKesson Corp and Amerisourcebergen Corp and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

Reporting by Nate Raymond, Rama Venkat and Eric Beech; Editing by Leslie Adler and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Indeed we have heard many stories of patients being mis-prescribed and over-prescribed leading to poor health outcomes and in this case a crisis of addiction and the surrounding poor health outcomes that ensue often because of health care fraud. Do you know someone struggling with an addition? How did they become addicted? What are your perceptions and why? Would you recognize health care fraud if you saw it?

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Four Fired SUNY Downstate Surgeons Sue, Claim Retaliation for Whistleblowing

BY VIRGINIA BREENVBREEN@THECITY.NYC  AUG 26, 2020, 7:35PM EDT
Source: The City NYC

SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, Aug. 21, 2020.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, Aug. 21, 2020.
Source: The City NYC
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

A heart surgeon who worked at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn charges in a lawsuit he was fired after warning hospital brass about “significant shortfalls” in patient care that led to deaths.

Dr. Robert Poston’s suit, filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court on July 28, follows three other whistleblower lawsuits against the hospital by two cardiac surgeons and a transplant specialist in December, January and February that allege a pattern of retaliation.

Together, the four lawsuits paint an unsettling portrait of a taxpayer-funded teaching hospital ill-equipped to handle cardiac and transplant surgeries for the immigrant Brooklyn communities of East Flatbush, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights.

The suits describe alleged conditions before Downstate was slammed by the coronavirus crisis, temporarily transitioning to a COVID-only hospital in April.

In the two earliest suits, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Rainer Gruessner, 63, and Dr. John Renz, 55, accused hospital management of negligence leading to “at least three inpatient deaths within a one-year period” characterized by chronic staff shortages and “a lack of actual patient care.”

The lawsuits detail instances of a surgeon “abandoning” a transplant patient on the operating table and an attending physician going AWOL.

“In one such alarming instance, in or about June 2019, a patient ‘coded’ (i.e. went into cardiopulmonary arrest) and died on his way to a rehabilitation facility,” Gruessner’s suit claims. “This occurred at a time when there was not a single attending present, and the resident responsible for intubating the patient was so inexperienced that he was almost shocked by the defibrillator during the code.”

The third lawsuit, filed by Dr. Frederic Joyce on Feb. 13, alleges Downstate unlawfully fired the 68-year-old surgeon, citing budgetary constraints.

“The real reason for SUNY Downstate’s decision to terminate Dr. Joyce’s employment,” the suit maintains, “was that he was vocal and active, together with Drs. Gruessner, Poston, Renz and others, in identifying to senior administration various issues affecting patient health and safety in the cardiothoracic and transplant divisions.”

‘Among the Worst’

In the most recent filing, Poston cites a similar litany of unsound practices that he argues threatened patient safety.

According to court documents, Downstate hired Poston, a 52-year-old specialist in robotic heart surgery, “to help turn around the division of cardiothoracic surgery, which had been among the worst-performing divisions in the country, based on national database statistics, with a history of poor outcomes resulting from clinical and administrative failures.”

Backing up that claim, a 2019 state Department of Health report noted that Downstate patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgeries, valve replacements or joint bypass/valve-replacement surgeries between 2014 and 2016 had “a significantly worse survival rate” and higher readmission rate than the statewide average of 37 hospitals.

Last year, according to Renz’s suit, the transplant surgeon “advised senior leadership on multiple occasions that a scheduled data release in July 2019 by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients would reveal the worst clinical outcomes in the history of SUNY Downstate.”

Among the registry’s findings in that report, SUNY Downstate data indicate a “97% higher risk of graft failure compared to an average program” after three years for those receiving deceased-donor organ transplants performedbetween July 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2015.

Poston’s suit further alleges that a patient died on May 26, 2019 “at least in part as a result of no in-house cardiothoracic trained Physician Assistant.”

In a statement to THE CITY, Dawn Skeete-Walker, a SUNY Downstate spokesperson, declined to comment on pending litigation. But she acknowledged the hospital had voluntarily and temporarily inactivated both the heart and kidney transplant programs after outside consultants identified troubling issues “with the leadership.”

“We reactivated our kidney transplant program, and we continue to refine the reorganization of the heart transplant program,” she said. “If we uncover misconduct, policies, procedures, practices of any kind, or substandard care and issues of lack of professionalism that threaten patients’ safety or our learners, as an operational matter, we will move swiftly and firmly to investigate and take appropriate actions to ensure institutional integrity.

“We make no apologies about our commitment to upholding the highest standards in our hospital and within our university community,” she continued. “Our compassion and commitment to the patients we serve are unwavering.”

‘Campaign to Retaliate’

Beginning in August, 2019, Poston’s suit charges, Downstate’s senior administration “embarked on an unlawful campaign to retaliate against the surgeons” for speaking out.

In 2014, he was suspended from the University of Arizona Medical Center, causing ailing cardiac patients to delay needed surgeries. Poston sued the Tucson hospital, but the details and disposition of the case were not immediately clear.

Poston’s total compensation for each of his first three years at Downstate, according to his term of employment letter, was to be $600,000. Renz was supposed to have earned $495,000; Joyce, $700,000; and Gruessner, a maximum of $850,000.

All insist in court filings that they actually earned far less as the hospital did a “bait and switch” to lure them to relocate, then significantly decreased their pay.

The four Downstate docs are seeking lost pay, a reinstatement of their position, and compensatory damages to be determined. Lawyers for the surgeons did not return calls seeking comment.

In an embarrassing coda to their termination ordeals, the surgeons point out in their suits that they were unceremoniously escorted from the building.

In an Aug. 27, 2019, letter to Downstate President Wayne Riley written after his termination, Renz wrote, “As I left the building, I did not feel sorry for myself; my concern was for the patients at Downstate and the people of Brooklyn.

“Who will be there for these patients?”

Medical fraud often leads to poor health outcomes and death. Why did they retaliate against these whistle blowers? Why are patients dying and receiving poor health care out comes becoming more common? Why are doctors retaliating against their patients?

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Inside The Pharmaceutical Industry – Deceptive Marketing Schemes

INSIDE THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY – Deceptive Marketing Schemes

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Source: Inside Exclusive
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Which medicines do you take? Who manufactured them? Are they health and life supporting?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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