Jury acquits former Arlington doctor accused of groping new hire

James Laurino, now 75, was charged for alleged misconduct in a pre-employment physical exam he performed on a woman in her 20s.

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EVERETT — It took a jury less than two hours to acquit a former Arlington doctor charged with sexually assaulting a new hire.

Dr. James Laurino, now 75, was charged in 2018 with indecent liberties by a health care provider, a felony, for allegedly groping the breasts of a woman in her 20s, at a pre-employment exam.

A jury of five women and seven men announced their unanimous not guilty verdict Friday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court.

After the trial, defense attorney Laura Shaver told The Daily Herald she believes the woman blew the incident out of proportion.

“I’ve been begging for the prosecutor’s office to dismiss this case for years,” she said. “And they wouldn’t for whatever reason. I don’t think they had the evidence. I wasn’t at all surprised the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.”

Charging papers indicate Laurino performed the pre-employment exam in question in the summer 2017 at Skagit Regional Health clinic in Arlington.

When left alone with the woman, Laurino lectured her 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 and 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.

Laurino was charged the following year and released without bail pending trial.

Under state law, a person is guilty of indecent liberties by a health care provider when he or she knowingly causes another person to have sexual contact with him or her or another, if the victim is a client or patient, and the sexual contact occurs during a treatment session, consultation, interview or examination.

“Sexual contact” is defined by state law to mean any touching of sexual or intimate parts for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire.

The state needed to prove the contact in the exam had sexual motivation.

In his closing argument Friday, deputy prosecutor Bob Langbehn told the jury the woman has had multiple physical exams that looked nothing like the one she said Laurino performed on her.

“There was no reason to be anywhere near her breasts that day,” Langbehn said. “I understand that it is a weighty thing to look at an expert in their field — to look at somebody who is a doctor, somebody who you put so much trust in, and say, ‘What you did was wrong.’”

In her closing argument, Shaver told the jury it would be “saying a lot” that a doctor in his 70s who had been practicing medicine for 40 years would throw his career down the drain, all of a sudden, to touch a patient’s breasts.

The defense attorney shared an anecdote of a time she got her hair cut in a salon and her hairdresser measured her hair.

“His hands were on my boobs,” Shaver told the court. “Did that make it an assault? Or was there some extra sort of sexual innuendo — sexual gratification — that needed to be there for me to have him convicted of a crime? In this case, the instructions tell you that there … has to be something else.”

Laurino had no prior felony record.

State records show Laurino voluntarily surrendered his medical license in 2019, as he awaited trial on the criminal charges. He walked out of the courthouse Friday afternoon, relieved to have the case behind him, his defense attorney said.

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

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