Ex-Everett optometrist pleads guilty to molesting young patient

EVERETT — A former Everett optometrist faces at least 5 1/2 years in prison after admitting Monday that he groped a young patient and took sexually explicit photographs of the 10-year-old while the girl’s father was in the next room.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf plans to argue that John Patrick O’Brien deserves a high-end sentence, which would send the former North Carolina man to prison for 7 1/2 years. Alsdorf was prepared to tack on more charges if O’Brien took the case to trial.

No matter what sentence is imposed, O’Brien will have to convince the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board that he is fit to be released. He faces up to life in prison.

O’Brien pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree child molestation and second-degree child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

O’Brien, 34, has been in jail since his arrest in September. His wife has left the state with the couple’s three young children.

Everett police began investigating O’Brien in August after a girl reported to her mother that during an eye exam the optometrist fondled her and used his cellphone to photograph her while she was half-dressed.

O’Brien was working at Eye Doctors Ltd. in north Everett. The state has since revoked his optometry license.

A different doctor examined the girl’s eyes. Her father and sisters were in the room at the time. The family was taken back to the waiting room while the girl’s eyes dilated. O’Brien came out and told the girl’s father he wasn’t needed for the next part of the appointment.

Once behind closed doors, O’Brien ordered the girl to take off her shirt. When the girl asked why, O’Brien said, “I don’t know.” She questioned him again and he told her he needed to check her symptoms.

The defendant groped the girl and also pulled down her pants. She repeatedly tried to pull up her pants but he held on to the belt loops. The girl said O’Brien told her to pose. He then pulled down her underwear. The girl saw O’Brien with a cellphone that he attempted to hide behind his back, court papers said.

The girl was allowed to pull up her pants. She reported that O’Brien told her she didn’t need glasses and her body was healthy. He brought the girl to her father.

The girl was too scared and nervous to tell her father so she waited until she was home and reported it to her mother. The family took the girl to the hospital immediately.

Everett detectives seized O’Brien’s cellphone and retrieved several images of the victim.

Investigators here later learned that O’Brien was suspected of downloading child pornography at his former workplace in North Carolina in June, about two months before the incident in Snohomish County.

Detectives in Fayetteville received a cyber tip from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in August. By that time, O’Brien already had moved to Washington. It is unclear if O’Brien will face criminal charges in connection with the incident in North Carolina.

Once he’s released from prison O’Brien will have to register as a sex offender.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley

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