Doctor charged with groping during exam at Arlington clinic

Dr. James Laurino, 71, had four pending investigations when he was put on leave in 2017, charges say.

ARLINGTON — A former doctor at a Skagit Regional Health clinic pleaded not guilty this week to sexually assaulting a new hire in Arlington.

Dr. James Laurino, 71, is charged with groping the breasts of a woman in her 20s, at a pre-employment exam in summer 2017. Other medical staff had explained to the woman that the exam would include no touching, only blood work, a vaccine review and basic tests of body mechanics.

Once he was alone with her, Laurino lectured the woman for 15 minutes about smallpox, spoke for 20 minutes about a book he was writing and offered her a job helping him to finish the book, she reported. He asked if she wanted to be a millionaire, court papers say. He gave her his personal cell phone number, handwritten on the back of a business card.

The doctor eventually began the checkup. He told her to bend over and touch her toes. He examined her eyes, ears and mouth. Then he put his hand on her stomach and pushed up on her breasts, according to the charges. The woman froze, she later told police.

Afterward she told her mother, a nurse, what happened. Her mother told her it wasn’t normal for a doctor to touch a woman’s breasts for a pre-hire screening. They called a supervisor to file a complaint.

Police confronted Laurino in October 2017. He claimed he didn’t recall the exam out of the hundreds he has done. He reportedly added that he wasn’t sure what allegation police were talking about, because he had been put on paid leave pending four different internal investigations.

Search warrants turned up the other complaints: an insurance vendor reported Laurino kept trying to ask her out to dinner; medical assistants complained about sexual harassment, discrimination and vulgar language; and patients told Skagit Regional Health about Laurino’s “inappropriate behavior while examining them.”

Records from the Idaho State Board of Medicine show Laurino was reprimanded for violating standards of care in the late 1990s. He had been accused of falsifying records and mistreating nine patients. Only two of those violations — failing to perform a rectal exam in one case, and failing to monitor oxygen levels in another — were upheld by the Idaho Supreme Court in the early 2000s.

The Idaho medical board approved an agreement with Laurino in 2003, to resolve the case. He was publicly admonished for “minimal misconduct.” He was allowed to keep his license. The doctor had no criminal record, other than traffic tickets. He has held a license to practice medicine since the 1980s, in both Washington and Idaho.

Laurino, of Marysville, was charged this month with indecent liberties by a health care provider, a felony. He was released without bail at his arraignment Wednesday. His medical license was listed as active Friday by the state Department of Health.

Skagit Regional Health runs a network of hospitals, urgent care centers and clinics in Skagit, Snohomish and Island counties. The organization released a brief statement Friday.

“We take concerns and complaints very seriously and respond appropriately,” the statement said. “The individual referenced is no longer associated with Skagit Regional Health.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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