In September, a grand jury declined to charge a former West Linn doctor accused of sexual abuse by more than 100 women and children. Now a new release of documents and police reports could provide more insight into why the doctor wasn’t indicted. Holly Bartholomew has been following this story for the West Linn Tidings newspaper. She joins us to talk more about the case, and what the alleged victims would like to see happen next.
Note: This transcript was computer generated and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: From the Gert Boyle studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud. I’m Dave Miller. In September, a grand jury declined to indict a former West Linn doctor accused of sexual abuse by more than 100 women and children. Now, a new release of documents and police reports could provide more insight into why the doctor wasn’t indicted. Holly Bartholomew got access to the records. She’s a reporter for the West Linn Tidings newspaper, and she joins us now. Welcome to Think Out Loud.
Bartholomew: Hi, thanks for having me.
Miller: Thanks for joining us. Can you just first remind us the basics here. What has David Farley been accused of?
Bartholomew: 120 of Farley’s former patients have alleged he sexually abused them in an ongoing lawsuit against Farley and the medical institutions he worked at, predominantly the West Linn Family Health Center, but also Providence Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City, and Legacy Meridian Park in Tualatin. The victims, some of whom are still children, claim Farley conducted all sorts of invasive exams like Pap smears and pelvic exams when they weren’t medically necessary, and often without gloves. They also say he made inappropriate comments about their genitals while doing this, and many of the younger patients claim he did these even at regular sports physicals, which shouldn’t require such invasive procedures.
Some of the patients also say he did some of these invasive procedures, including membrane sweeps to induce labor, at his house. He also admitted to the Oregon medical board that he photographed the breasts and genitals of five underage patients. He claimed he was doing this so he could provide teenagers and parents with adequate materials on the stages of puberty, but doctors in the medical board say this is already well documented and there was really no need for him to try and do this. He was also unable to prove to the medical board that he ever had consent from the parents to do this.
And one part of the allegations that I find disturbing is just the mental manipulation that took place. He was this Harvard educated doctor and knew many of these patients from outside of his role as a doctor through the church. So they really trusted him. But he would also allegedly do things like withhold medications if the patients didn’t agree to his invasive exams, or he would promise to forgive medical bills if they submitted to the exams. He also told many of his patients that he’d had a patient die of cervical cancer, and he used that to justify the frequent Pap smears, but none of his coworkers interviewed by police could recall a patient who’d had cervical cancer.
Miller: How did the District attorney’s office explain the lack of an indictment?
Bartholomew: One of the main things they’ve argued is that he was a doctor, and that by going into the doctor’s office and agreeing to these procedures, the patients were basically consenting to everything that took place. But the patients and their attorneys point out that most doctors don’t abuse their patients like this, and that they say that this type of thinking would basically give doctors a pass to do whatever they want. I think this also ignores the fact that there can’t really be consent when there is an imbalance of power, which seems like the case with the doctor and his patients, especially when some of the patients are just kids.
And then regarding the photos Farley took of the children in the nude, the DA’s office said they would have to prove he used those for sexual gratification, which Wentworth, the DA, said they were unable to do.
Miller: You did a public records request for the police reports on this case, and the West Linn Police department said no initially. What happened after that?
Bartholomew: When a public records request is denied, the requester can appeal to the District Attorney’s office. So normally I would send an appeal of the records denied by West Linn to the Clackamas County DA’s office. But given the DA’s involvement in the case, and everything the victims were saying about the prosecutors, I asked Clackamas County to forward my appeal to another office. So I wrote my appeal arguing the public interest in disclosing the documents, and Clackamas County forwarded it to the Washington County DA’s office. And it took several weeks, but Washington County came back with an advisory opinion that 76 pages of the 1,400 page report could be released.
Miller: Why was the rest withheld, the vast majority of the pages you were asking for? You got 76 of nearly 1,500 pages. What was the reason?
Bartholomew: There are certain exemptions to public records law. And the main one here dealt with personal privacy, and that meant things like medical records and information can’t be released. And since the victims were all talking about things that happened with their doctor in a medical setting, I didn’t receive any of the reports that police made based on interviews with the victims.
The other exemption that came into play had to deal with child abuse. There’s a statute of public records laws that says records relating to abuse of a child can’t be released.
Miller: So, what was released to you?
Bartholomew: The part of the report I received was mostly interviews with Farley’s coworkers at the clinic. But I also requested emails from Tony Christensen, Westland’s lead detective on the case. I received emails between him and some of the other investigators and prosecutors. There were one or two emails in there from victims included, but they were entirely redacted so I’m not actually sure what they contained.
Miller: What were you able to learn from the interviews with people who worked with Farley?
Bartholomew: Several of the employees said Farley saw more female patients than the other doctors at the office, but he always justified this saying he was trying to grow his obstetrics practice and wanted his younger female patients to see him so they would be comfortable coming to him for OBGYN needs when they were older. In hindsight, this kind of seems like maybe he wanted them to get used to his procedures so they would think the way he did things was just normal.
Each of the employees also recalled a time when Farley performed a hymenectomy on a patient, causing the girl to scream so loud that everyone in the office heard. According to the police report, Farley told staff he had an understanding with the girl’s mother to carry out the procedure.
Miller: Some of the correspondence that was released to you was between local, meaning Clackamas County area law enforcement, and leaders of the LDS Church, of which Farley was a member and a local leader. What stood out to you in that correspondence?
Bartholomew: There’s only a couple of emails, and those were to Detective Christensen from an attorney in Utah that represented the church. I didn’t receive any emails that were from Christiansen to the attorney, but the attorney’s initial email stated the church was not aware of sexual misconduct Farley may have engaged in on church property or at church activities.
But the second email, which came about a month later, I thought was interesting. It said “The below statement was true at the time I made it, as we really never had heard any allegation of misconduct having occurred on church property.” And the way this was phrased made me think the church may have learned something about Farley’s conduct at church in between those two emails. But another thing I found concerning is there didn’t seem to be any follow up from Christensen here. I asked [West Linn] Police Chief Mahuna if any of the investigators spoke with anyone from the church locally, but Mahuna said he did not know if anyone did.
Miller: There was also some communication between West Linn police and the Sheriff’s office in St. Anthony, Idaho. Farley moved there after his Oregon medical license was revoked. What did officials in Idaho want to know?
Bartholomew: From the records I have, it looks like someone in St. Anthony learned of the allegations against Farley, and called local police to tell them about the allegations, and that Farley was working as a substitute teacher in the area. So the detective from Fremont County in Idaho called West Linn police to confirm that they were looking into the allegations, and offered their assistance if West Linn Police needed it. Christensen, the lead detective, confirmed with the detective in Idaho that they were investigating. But Mahuna told me they did not end up using the sheriff’s office in Idaho for help.
Miller: Is Farley still a substitute teacher?
Bartholomew: Not that I know of. He was relieved of his substitute role in Idaho after people in the community let the school district know about the investigation against him. He’s actually moved away from Idaho since then, and I believe is now in Utah. When I learned this and learned his wife was working at a middle school in Utah, I called the school district she worked at and they told me he was not on their list of substitutes, but that they didn’t keep track of any volunteers at the school.
Miller: So back to the public records requests overall, when you add up everything that you’ve learned from these police reports that you were able to get access to and these few emails, do you have a clearer sense for why the grand jury didn’t indict Farley?
Bartholomew: Sort of. Ever since the letter to the Attorney General came out, the victims have said police and prosecutors did not do everything they could to bring charges against Farley. And I kind of think some of these records back that up. The fact that there was no follow up with the LDS Church for one, but also the fact that police and prosecutors have claimed that the FBI searched Farley’s iCloud account for evidence of child pornography, but there was no mention or piece of correspondence from the FBI or regarding the iCloud in all of the documents I received. And I think both of these points lend themselves to the victim’s claims.
Some of the emails I received between West Linn police and the prosecutors also made the grand jury process seem somewhat disorganized. There was one in particular from one of the deputy DAs to Christensen, where she was getting on him for not sending her a report she had needed the week prior, and telling him that the grand jury was taking place that day, not the next day. And several of the victims have said that the grand jury process was very hectic, and though only 23 of them testified, they said they were really ill prepared to do so. They said no one really told them what was expected of them in grand jury, but they were just told when to show up, and then they all of a sudden had to go testify.
So of course this case is complicated and there’s a lot going on. But it’s the prosecutor’s job to put all of the evidence together before the grand jury so they can bring charges against this doctor who harmed a lot of people.
Miller: You noted a letter. This was after the indictment, 71 of Farley’s former patients wrote a letter to the Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum asking her to open her own criminal investigation. Has the attorney general responded?
Bartholomew: No. They told me it was going to take a while to go through the case and all of the legalities of taking it on. So no update yet on whether or not they plan to investigate.
Miller: Finally, there is also a large civil suit. Where does that stand right now?
Bartholomew: The lawsuit is ongoing. There aren’t any hearings or anything scheduled for the case right now, but there’s so many parties and it’s such a big case that I expect it will continue to be slow going.
Miller: Holly, thanks very much.
Bartholomew: Thanks a lot.
Miller: Holly Bartholomew is a reporter for the West Linn Tidings. She joined us to talk about David Farley, the former West Linn doctor who was accused of sexual abuse by more than 100 women and children, but so far, has not been charged.
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