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Appeals Court Affirms Doctor’s Conviction

HARTFORD (CN) - A family doctor who sexually assaulted a patient could not persuade a minister to buy her silence, a Connecticut appeals court ruled this week in rejecting the doctor's appeal.

The 15-page ruling in State of Connecticut v. Edwin Njoku includes explicit details of the sexual assault and the doctor's attempt to blame his victim.

The three-judge appeals court panel affirmed the Hartford Superior Court jury's conviction of fourth-degree sexual assault and tampering with a witness.

Dr. Njoku's arguments on appeal were "(1) denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal on the charge of tampering with a witness, (2) admitting evidence of prior acts of sexual misconduct of the defendant, and (3) refusing to admit evidence of a prior false allegation of sexual assault by the victim and prior sexual acts of the victim."

The victim, who is not identified in the ruling, needed her medical records from a back injury and a subsequent slip and fall lawsuit, according to the appeals court summary. Njoku told her to pick up the records on Saturday afternoon, and when she arrived only Njoku was there. After feeling her breast and telling her he was checking for breast cancer, "The victim told the defendant that she felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave," the court wrote.

The ruling continues: "The defendant apologized for making her feel uncomfortable but told her to let him finish examining her. He asked the victim to lie on her back on the examining table. The defendant applied pressure to the victim's chest with his left hand and then walked around her and unbuttoned her pants and zipper and pulled her pants down to her knees. The defendant then climbed on top of the victim. The victim was unsuccessful in pushing the defendant's hands away from her chest and he was able to put his penis into her vagina. The defendant also pulled up the victim's shirt and sports bra and put his mouth on her breast. He then removed his penis and ejaculated on her."

The young woman told her mother what had happened when she got home and was taken to a hospital, where a rape kit was administered, which found Njoku's DNA "consistent with the defendant being a source of DNA from the genital swab," the ruling states.

Not quite two weeks later, Njoku called the victim's father, a longtime patient, and asked why he had missed an appointment. Njoku, who "sounded worried or nervous," told the father "'all human beings make mistakes,'" and "'everything has a solution and we can fix it,'" and asked "not to do anything against him because the victim's father would destroy the defendant's life if he said anything," according to the ruling.

East Hartford police searched Njoku's office on Nov. 10, 2011, with a warrant, and obtained his DNA with a cheek swab.

A week later, Njoku called an unemployed minister, Jesus Ruiz, who was one of his patients, and "asked Ruiz to go to the victim's family to try to reach an agreement with them," the appeals court wrote. "The defendant explained that he was being accused of touching the victim and that the victim's family wanted to destroy everything he had built. He told Ruiz that the victim went to her appointment with the defendant wearing a miniskirt and no underwear and that his mistake was seeing her alone. The defendant then asked Ruiz if he would 'go to the family's house and try to convince them so that they can reach an agreement outside the court with him, that he wasn't rich and didn't have a lot of money but he could reach an agreement outside of court.'"

Ruiz did go to see the family and heard their story, told them not to accept the doctor's offer of money, then returned home and called Njoku "to tell him that the defendant had deceived him."

After a weeklong jury trial Njoku was sentenced 10 years in prison, to be suspended after 5 years, and five years probation.

The Hartford Courant reported that the victim said she was "satisfied with the sentence, but she can never forgive him."

Njoku appealed the witness tampering conviction claiming there was no evidence that he or the minister had direct contact with the victim.

He also asked that the court throw out testimonies of two other patients who claimed he had been sexually inappropriate during offices visits.

And he cited protections of the rape shield statute by presenting a 14-year-old police report created when the victim was found kissing a boy in a middle school bathroom.

Appeals Court Judges Keller, Mullins and Kahn rejected all of his arguments.

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