A jury agreed that a former Houston doctor raped a heavily sedated patient. But the jury decided that Shafeeq Sheikh, a former Baylor College of Medicine resident, should be sentenced to 10 years’ probation and register as a sex offender but not face any time behind bars. The sentence, which visiting Senior District Judge Terry L. Flenniken was required to follow by law, sparked outrage among rape victims advocacy groups and defense attorneys.
In 2013, a woman who has been identified as Laura by local media, was admitted to Ben Taub Hospital in Houston with shortness of breath and wheezing. She was sedated and kept overnight. The 46-year-old former doctor admitted during the trial he had sexual contact with the woman during the night, but insisted it was consensual. In fact, Sheikh testified that the woman was the one who made the initial approach.
Both Sheikh and the victim took the stand during the eight-day trial and provided very different accounts of what happened that night. The victim said the doctor started touching her breasts and later raped her without using a condom. Sheikh insists the patient was the one who touched his genitals and made it clear she wanted to have sex with him. The woman said she was unable to call for help but reported the incident in the morning. It took investigators two years to charge Sheikh.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reeder called on jurors to keep in mind that Sheikh abused his access to a vulnerable person. “He sought her out. He chose her to prey on,” Reeder said. “You know he’s the type of man who would go in multiple times, testing the waters, seeing how far he could go and get back to his normal business after that.”
In an interview with local CBS affiliate KHOU, Laura said she believes she wasn’t Sheik’s only victim. “Of course, yes, and the reason I think so is because this person had everything very organized,” she said.
Sheikh’s attorneys, however, defended the jury’s decision saying the issue isn’t as clear cut as it may seem. “The 12 members of the jury who sat there and heard evidence for two solid weeks were in the best position to make that call … And when you’re not there and you haven’t heard the evidence, people should not jump to conclusions about facts they didn’t hear,” defense attorney Lisa Andrews told the Washington Post. “The facts are not black and white.”
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