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Doctor's trial on sexual assault charges begins
By Elise Banducci
Mercury News

Originally Posted at:

A family physician at Kaiser Permanente used his position of trust to sexually assault six women during pelvic examinations, a prosecutor alleged during emotional and graphic opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of Dr. Raul Ixtlahuac.

One of the women found a discarded condom in an examination room trash can, the prosecutor said.

The defense attorney strenuously argued that Ixtlahuac, 41, who works out of the Gilroy facility, was a dedicated professional not guilty of any crime. He was caught up in a difficult set of circumstances, including overly eager investigators and agitated women who were not familiar with proper examination procedures.

"This is a very intrusive procedure,'' said defense attorney Doron Weinberg. He said it was "not surprising'' that the 24-year-old woman who testified Tuesday, who had never had a pelvic exam performed by a male doctor before, would find the experience uncomfortable.''

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Chuck Gillingham, however, said the women, two of whom were pregnant, knew their experiences, in 2000 and 2001, were not normal gynecological exams.

"These ladies don't misinterpret a thing,'' Gillingham said later. "The victims know what the defendant did to them.''

If convicted of all six felony charges, including sexual penetration and sexual battery, Ixtlahuac will face up to 14 years in prison.

The first witness testified Tuesday with her family and Ixtlahuac's wife watching anxiously in the San Jose courtroom.

Examination recounted

The woman said she "knew something wasn't right'' about halfway through her September 2000 examination. She was lying back with a drape covering her from her abdomen to her knees that also blocked her view. No nurse was present.

She said that after Ixtlahuac conducted what she considered a normal examination with a speculum, he became nervous, was sweating and asked her questions about her life that she had already answered. Then his right arm started to move back and forth rapidly.

""I didn't know if he was masturbating or not,'' she said. "After his arm was shaking, he inserted something that felt like a penis.''

She said she then heard him "fumbling around'' and what sounded like the opening of a garbage can.

When Ixtlahuac left the examination room, the woman said she looked in the can and picked up what she said was a condom. She showed the condom to a medical assistant, who testified that she saw it.

While Weinberg pointed out in his opening statement that the condom was never found, the medical assistant later testified Tuesday that she saw Ixtlahuac re-enter the exam room before officials began searching for it.

On cross-examination Weinberg repeatedly asked the alleged victim why she didn't ask Ixtlahuac what he was doing or move away. She said she was too scared and shocked.

In opening statements and throughout the day Weinberg argued that initially the woman only said that something "weird'' had happened that felt like intercourse.

Weinberg said that the woman was interviewed later that day by a police officer who told her of a similar complaint about the doctor recently. That information bolstered the woman's belief that she had been sexually penetrated, the defense attorney said.

Previous complaint

Weinberg said the woman who made the earlier complaint arrived nearly "hysterical'' and was treated by Ixtlahuac for an allergic reaction to a latex glove used by other medical personnel during a routine Pap smear. The woman left happy, but the idea that she was penetrated by Ixtlahuac came "in her agitated mind sometime after.''

At that point, a process was started that "spun completely out of control,'' Weinberg said, with the other women coming forward after being contacted by police and reading about Ixtlahuac's arrest in the news media.

Weinberg described Ixtlahuac as a dedicated doctor with a spotless record. The son of Mexican immigrants rose from poverty to become the first in his family to complete college. He attended medical school at the University of Washington and was a resident at Stanford.

Weinberg said evidence will show that one woman returned to Ixtlahuac three times after the alleged incident. The defense attorney said, "None of this could have happened'' and implied that the alleged victims, who have filed civil suits against the doctor and Kaiser, may be testifying for financial gain.

But Gillingham said, "It sounds as though he wants to pat them on the head and send them on their way because they're hysterical females. And I just don't think that's going to fly because it's not the case.''

Contact Elise Banducci at or (408) 295-3983.  



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