Kenneth Parker listens as his sentence is handed down Friday at the Snohomish County Superior Courthouse in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Kenneth Parker listens as his sentence is handed down Friday at the Snohomish County Superior Courthouse in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ex-chiropractor gets 2½ years for sexually touching patients

Kenneth Parker, 62, who practiced in Snohomish, abused women under the guise of medical treatment.

EVERETT — A former Snohomish chiropractor convicted of sexually touching female patients was sentenced Friday to 2½ years in prison.

Last year, over 20 women accused Kenneth Parker, 62, of sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment. In court Friday, Parker asked for forgiveness from his former patients and referred to the case as a “misunderstanding.”

“I am a healer with a healer’s heart of compassion and love for my fellow human being,” he said. “I care for each and every one of my patients sincerely, and I strove to be the best doctor that I could for them. I’m not a monster full of lust and evil compulsions, but a doctor of compassion who cares for the human person.”

Following a stipulated bench trial in January, during which the judge reviewed court papers in lieu of a jury trial, Superior Court Judge Karen Moore formally found the ex-chiropractor guilty of four counts of indecent liberties Friday. Four other counts were dropped in an agreement with the prosecutor’s office to present the case as a stipulated trial.

Moore overruled a recommended sentence of one year in prison. Credit for time served would have effectively meant no more time behind bars for Parker. It was suggested by the deputy prosecutor and the defense attorney.

Parker, of Mount Vernon, was licensed to become a chiropractor in 2001. Public records show the state Department of Health suspended his license in late 2019, when three women reported he “inappropriately” touched their breasts during visits to his clinic from 2016 to 2018. He did not face criminal charges at the time, but he signed an order agreeing to a nine-month suspension to begin Feb. 25, 2021.

Yet he continued to see patients at the Chiropractic Health & Wellness Center at 127 Avenue C in Snohomish, both while the suspension was pending and after it went into effect, according to charging papers written by deputy prosecutor Bob Langbehn.

Last year, the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office charged Parker with eight counts of felony sexual misconduct by a health care provider.

One woman, who identified herself as a victim, spoke at the hearing Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court. The woman said she was family friends with Parker through church. She had known him over 20 years.

“I started to see Dr. Parker in a professional manner as my chiropractor in 2006,” she told the courtroom. “I had absolutely no reason to ever entertain the thought of Dr. Parker doing anything inappropriate to me. Dr. Parker not only used his authority as a doctor to violate me, he also took advantage of the relationships outside the practice.”

The woman said the trauma sent her into a deep depression.

“I have and continue to have panic attacks that frighten me,” she said. “As of right now, I personally see no end to the emotional, physical and medical care I need.”

Parker reportedly told one woman, in her 30s, that his license was suspended but that he was still willing to hold “free” appointments for friends and family, the criminal charges said. She said he groped her at an appointment.

In a pre-sentence report, defense attorney Brad Meryhew wrote that Parker consistently denied he touched patients for “his own sexual gratification.”

“Dr. Parker also concedes that he proceeded in a clumsy way with the exploration of his newly discovered techniques,” the attorney wrote.

Parker was not a physician.

In a six-page letter to the judge, he claimed “with countless hours of study and research, I developed a method that drastically improved my patients’ quality of life through (physical) manipulation.”

“We would discuss how the rib cage and spine needed to be moved for correction,” he claimed, “and the difficulty in doing so for the female patient due to the overlying position of the breast tissue being in the way.”

Police seized “waivers” in which women acknowledged their breasts may be touched during the exam — though other staff members said they were unaware such waivers existed, according to charging papers.

Under state guidelines, Parker faced between zero to 365 days in jail.

Moore handed down a sentence outside of that range, known as an exceptional sentence. She said she had the authority to deviate from guidelines because the recommended sentence was “simply too lenient,” noting Parker continued to provide inappropriate treatment even after state Department of Health suspended his license.

“It did not become clumsy after that point,” she said. “It became intentional.”

The deputy prosecutor said he had never seen a judge find an “aggravating” factor at a sentencing hearing. Those are usually found by a jury in the trial phase of a case.

The defense made a motion to reconsider the exceptional sentence, and a followup hearing was set for April 22. In the meantime, Parker was remanded to jail on Friday.

The judge noted reports indicated Parker did not perform the same type of “skin-to-skin adjustments” on male patients. She said Parker’s actions were a gross abuse of power, because people go to doctors trusting they will take care of them, not take advantage of them.

“Frankly,” Moore said, “I have concerns that your idea of what is helping people is so skewed at this point that I would be derelict in my duties to allow you to not have further time in custody to reflect upon your actions.”

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

Need help?

If you or someone you know needs a safe place to talk about sexual violence, you can call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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